A bolder, braver Geelong emerged in Round 1, but will it be enough to break the club’s finals curse?
Since the 2011 premiership win in Chris Scott’s first year in charge, the Cats have missed the finals just once – but have nothing to show for it.
Four preliminary final losses in six seasons has seen experts doubt whether Geelong’s premiership window is still open, given their ageing list.
But Saturday’s dominant 66-point win over Essendon showed there’s still life in the Cats’ premiership window, thanks to a new game plan.
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“The change for Geelong was stark,” Fox Footy analyst Nick Riewoldt said On The Couch.
“Geelong have been a controlled team, they’ve been a possession team and they’ve been conservative with the ball. That’s allowed them to defend really strongly.
“They took the game on. The biggest one for me was the difference in marks.
“They took the contest on, they were not afraid to kick the ball to a contest and back their players to win it at ground level.”
Riewoldt said the more confident Cats style was similar to the successful plan used by recent premiership winners Melbourne and Richmond.
“I think it took bit of courage from Chris Scott to make this adjustment. What they were doing had served them very, very well for a long period,” he said.
“They were the most impressive out of round one,” Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon added.
Geelong swung the changes to their coaching structure over the off-season, adding former Cats James Kelly, Matt Egan and Harry Taylor, along with AFL great Eddie Betts after his retirement from Carlton.
Scott said having a “fresh set of eyes” had helped the Cats tinker with their style.
“Having a fresh set of eyes, in some ways, has rejuvenated us all,” he said pre-game on Saturday.
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“We just went through a process of saying, ‘Hey what are we good at?’. Let’s trying to maximise that stuff as much as possible… We’re going to double down on what we’re good at.”
On The Couch panellist Jason Dunstall agreed the Cats had been impressive in the opening round, but warned it was the wrong time of year to be concerned with Geelong.
“Criticism for the Cats has been great home and away, and not getting it done in finals,” he said.
The Cats will be handed a big test in Round 2, heading to the SCG to play Sydney in what could b star Lance Franklin’s 1000-goal milestone match.