Building a great team is not easy. Then everyone is fine.
For the past decade, Geelong seems to have cracked the code.
In the 11 years since they won their last flag, the Cats have finished in the top 4 eight times and failed to reach the finals only once.
It’s hard to win a premiership. Injuries and form can derail any team, much like a soccer player’s bounce. Like the Bulldog in 2016, lightning can strike at just the right moment.
The Cats have spent the last three seasons alongside perhaps the most talented team in the competition on paper. However, for reasons of fate, they fell just short of retaining the Premiership Cup.
As the years go by, the 2011 team and the ties that bind them, and the 2007 and 2009 flags, fade. The 2011 squad has just three players left, with the addition of coach Chris Scott.
Despite having one of the oldest teams in VFL/AFL history, most Cats have never tasted premiership glory while wearing blue and white hoops .
The Cats stepped into the decider with a 15-game winning streak, the second longest in the VFL/AFL.
Standing in their way is the Sydney Swans who are hot at the right time. The Cats advance to the Grand Finals with talent and style that can beat any team.
This is how the Cats will clinch the 2022 AFL premiership.
hold the line
Despite all the advancements in defensive positioning, spacing, and movement in football history, contests still remain central to the game.
A ball stop-to-scrap contest after a spilled mark can be a reason for difference or dominance in a tight game.
Coming up with balance, cohesion, and approach in contests is an art. Although it is choreographed, it is highly improvisational, with rules that guide the players’ natural instincts and bring the ball to their side.
Sometimes it’s not the sheer talent that matters, but how you fit in with others. Throughout the final, Scott regularly spoke about the depth of the side and how impressive it was.
“I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again. This is not a ranking of the best players,” said Scott.
“Very important is the role and mix of the team. A couple of such people [missing] It will be in the top 10 or 15 on your list. ”
A good example is the Cats center bounce setup. That initial grouping often shapes the arrangement and structure of subsequent passages of play.
Earlier in the year, the core center bounce combination included more attacking players such as Patrick Dangerfield, Brandan Parfitt, Joel Selwood and Cam Guthrie.
Despite the star power, the results didn’t always follow.
Midway through the season, Tom Atkins (conceptually a defender) was thrown into the mix. Atkins thrived in midfield, combining his physical presence to keep opposing midfielders out of midfield and his ability to steal the ball.
The final evolution came in Round 17, when utility Mark Blicavs was introduced into the group not only as a relief rack but also as an inside midfielder.
This shifts Cats to a more defensive focus inside the suspension, limiting damage in other directions.
Blicavs has the strength to keep opponents out of play and deny them the ability to compete at their pace.
The contest becomes a near one-on-one battle between Dangerfield, Guthrie, or Selwood, with Atkins and Bricab teaming up to take their opponents out of consideration.
In the era of super-sized midfielders, Blicavs overwhelm them all.
Combining a high level of athleticism, innate defensive understanding, and enormous size, the Blicavs present a problem for their opponents to solve.
Geelong are the best center bounce team in the league since their introduction into the mix.
This use of Blicavs also helps them set up interception games, which is their greatest strength. The Blicavs often ruck contest around the ground and extra free his Thor back into the defense.
Geelong have been the strongest side in attacking from turnovers this year and one of the best at blocking opponent counterattacks from anywhere on the ground.
A big part of this success is how the Cats like to set up off the ball.
Like most teams, they try to block the corridor in the middle of the ground, but drop two backup defenders to protect the most valuable real estate on the ground.
That’s why we often see Cats players like Tom Stewart clearing kicks to make room. This positioning drives the opposing team insane, either playing extremely conservatively or attempting an almost impossible kick to advance the ball.
They also don’t stick strictly to quotas. Jack Henry touched on this flexibility when speaking to the media this week.
“I don’t usually take the biggest, but I play with a handful of guys and try to make it,” Henry said.
“Whether it’s (Isaac) Heaney or a dangerous forward, anyone who stays in the deep. You try to stick to what you know.”
When they get a loose ball, they tear the sides apart and make them pay for the mistake. The Swans have a great sense of balance when moving the ball and will need to maintain that sense if they are to have any chances on Saturday.
Given their abilities at a higher level, Geelong forwards are often overlooked when considering their strengths.
That’s despite boasting three All-Australians this year and probably the best two key position forwards in the game.
Cats are not only talented, but they also have the ability to work together effectively.
Forwards know how to work together without cramping the space. Cameron knows how to give Hawkins space and vice versa. The likes of Tyson Stengl, Brad Close and Gary Lohan provide critical support on the ground without attracting additional defenders to either corner.
The result is an almost unstoppable aerial attack within 50.
That is exacerbated by the sheer number of times Geelong puts the ball forward. The Cats are making his 50-point margin the largest of any team this year. When it comes to keeping the ball within his 50s, Geelong has 25% more than his opponents.
The Swans are one of the few teams with a defensive arsenal to counter Geelong’s front line, with the ability to really hurt them on the counterattack. A cat’s ability to mark up in front may be the deciding factor in the game.
do better – again
Geelong has been here before. They know the stakes and they know what it means to play this deep in the year.
Their captain has appeared in more finals than any other player, and their coach has three flags as a player and one flag as a coach.
After the win over Brisbane, the players in the room talked about treating it like any other game. Close, like the rest of the week, was preparing for a round of golf on Thursday at his Heads of Barwon. The rules of the game change only for one week.
Nevertheless, questions always creep in.
“There’s always a level of anxiety when the stakes are so high. Our team’s execution over the past three or four months has been really good, but we have to keep doing it in the moment.” After the Cats’ qualifying final victory, Scott said.
There is one match between Geelong and Scott’s crowning achievement. Like any other match, but more important than all of them combined.
The 2022 Cats may be close to cementing their place in Geelong’s rich football history, if all goes as usual.
How the Geelong Cats beat the Sydney Swans in the 2022 AFL Grand Final
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