And so Geelong returns to the top of the Power Rankings again, as I rather suspected they might. It is the first time they have been at the top since Round 22 2013. What is remarkable to me about Geelong’s return to premiership contention is that they have done it without ‘bottoming out’ and getting high draft picks. In that time the lowest they have been ranked is #11. Over the past few years many players of their multi-flag winning ‘golden generation’ have retired. But somewhat sneakily, over the same period the Cats brought in some of the young players that are leading them to success now.
See below the average per game SuperCoach scores of each Geelong player from 2009 to 2016. Apart from the big loss of Gary Ablett in 2011 – a year in which the Cats nonetheless won the premiership – Geelong started to lose a few of their ‘golden generation’ players in 2012 and 2013, losing Darren Milburn, Cameron Ling, Brad Ottens, Cameron Mooney, and David Wojcinski during that period. Their replacements were not always nearly as productive. However, the Cats still had enough players from their flag-winning teams – Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel, Steve Johnson, Corey Enright, Paul Chapman, Harry Taylor, James Kelly, Tom Hawkins, etc. – to keep them contesting finals.
Last year though, some of those stars started to fade, in particular Bartel, Johnson, Kelly, and even Selwood to some extent. But in the meantime some of their younger players have kept improving. Improvements in the play of Steven Motlop, Cameron Guthrie, Mitch Duncan, Josh Caddy, Mark Blicavs, Shane Kersten, Jed Bews, and Daniel Menzel have now filled some of the gaps left by the declines and departures of those older players. And recruiting Patrick Dangerfield – one of the most productive players in the game – has helped as well. On what they have displayed in the first eight rounds of this season the Cats are as every bit as good as they were from 2007 to 2011. Can they keep it up?