Geelong coach left to wonder after big three fail to fire
DANGERFIELD let you down, Cats fans.
Re-adding Gary Ablett, arguably the greatest player of all time, to a Geelong midfield that already housed superstars Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield was supposed to be coach Chris Scott's ticket back to the top.
Instead the Cats mentor is searching for answers after Friday night's 29-point loss to Melbourne moved his finals record to 3-9 since the 2011 flag.
But that was perhaps not even the ugliest statistic Geelong produced on a forgettable night at the MCG.
Dangerfield took that honour with a finals record 12 clangers in a game where he gave away six free kicks and had a disposal efficiency of 52 per cent. Ablett also produced his share of turnovers, adding six clangers of his own.
But it was Selwood who had the most fingers pointed his way after his third-quarter brain fade cost the Cats dearly at a time when they were fighting their way back into the match.
As Tom Hawkins lined up for a goal that would have reduced the deficit to 15 points, Selwood engaged in a stoush with James Harmes off the ball and was penalised for making high contact with Jake Melksham as he joined the fray.
"It definitely changed the momentum of the game, I think. They were lining up for goal and coming," Harmes told AFL.com.au post-match.
"It was a little bit of argy and bargy in one of the contests and a little bit of words between each other.
"I don't think there was too much in it. Melky got a free kick out of it so it worked out well."
While all three were among Geelong's more solid contributors, all three were below their normally high standards - and it left former Dees fan favourite Jeff Farmer celebrating in the stands.
Scott admits the Cats have some flaws, but he's not so sure the elimination final loss to Melbourne has ended an era of relative success.
The seventh finals campaign in eight years under Scott was over before it really started as the Demons launched out of the blocks in a 10.15 (75) to 6.10 (46) win at the MCG.
After welcoming back two-time Brownlow Medal winner Ablett and adding classy first-year midfielder Tim Kelly to the mix in the off-season, the Cats, who made it to a preliminary final last year, have gone backwards.
The coach was at pains not to make emotive statements about his list in the aftermath of the disappointing loss, but conceded there was work to be done.
"Clearly we've got some holes that have proved a little bit difficult to plug," Scott said.
"But we're still optimistic. I can't work out when our era started and if it's finished or not. I'm not a really big believer in that … I think every year is a year in its own right.
"Next year, I'm not sitting here thinking 'Gee, it's going to be hard for us.' I'm optimistic about what can be achieved."
Most of those holes the coach spoke of would appear to be in the forward half. Geelong finished the home-and-away season with the No.1 defence in the league and Mitch Duncan and Kelly showed they could offer support in the midfield.
But the Cats' fortunes in attack can rely too heavily on the broad shoulders of Tom Hawkins, as was the case against the Demons. He kicked two of the team's season-low six goals.
Scott is determined to let the dust settle on Geelong's 2018 campaign before drawing up his recruiting wish list.
"I think the time for us to make those assessments is going to come a little bit down the track," he said.
"It's not appropriate in my mind to answer that question expansively 30 minutes after our season is over. But in short, we're always trying to improve our list while we transition.
"If you actually take some time to look through the data, it would suggest that we've been OK for a reasonable period of time. In contention, give or take - not quite good enough in the end - while simultaneously transforming our list.
"At the end of the year, there's only one team that's happy with the way they've gone. But there's enough room for optimism in our future."
- with AAP