It seems almost forever since that day in September last year when Geelong consolidated themselves as one of the greatest sides in football since the Lions of the new millennium.
The hunger, the drive, the ferocious attack on the ball is second to none in modern football. Even more importantly, wiser heads dominate the team; with an unstoppable midfield, potent forward-line and sturdy defense have seen them not only have near perfect records in the last few seasons of football, but been able to win 8 of their last 10 in Perth.
The Dockers have a new era and a new day to look forward to. Endless youth, a new coach, a new game plan and a hope that they can finally push for a spot not only in the finals, but to maybe crack the Top 4.
WHY YOU SHOULD TUNE IN:
Fremantle: Young guns. Fyfe, Broughton, Hill, Ballantyne.
Midfielders left right and centre for the Dockers. The key to victory for these boys?
Out-Geelong, Geelong. At every opportunity, play on through the middle, run in waves and hit forward targets running into space wide.
Geelong will be susceptible missing Ling, Milburn and Wojincski creating drive off the half-back flank. If the Dockers can push Matthew Pavlich forward to take Taylor to the goal square, Jack Anthony and Kepler Bradley can benefit from the space and lack of tall defenders double-teaming the leading forwards.
Of course, the Dockers defense is depleted without McPharlin, but if the midfield can push back with Ross Lyon’s predictable ‘defensive zoning’, the Dockers may be able to keep the Cats from scoring heavily.
First use is also critical in the midfield in preventing Geelong from scoring; but, this will be difficult while missing Sandilands in the ruck, so reading Trent West and Orran Stephenson’s ruck-work around the ground will be critical.
Geelong: How they’ll defend they’re title. The last few contests between the Cats and Fremantle have given Geelong an almighty fright, with the Dockers even stealing one of the last three encounters.
Geelong must exploit McPharlin’s absence with Hawkins playing out his skin. The boy came of age in the Grand Final last year, and must start exerting the presence of a footballer who can influence a game. Anything short of 5/6 shots on goal a match from the Big Cat from now on is considered failing to live up to his potential.
It will be interesting to see if Billy Smedts can gel with the side as well as Menzel and Christensen did last season.
With absences opening up with retirements, its time now for those who have been on the outer to find a way in to the best 22.
Geelong to win need to play as they usually do: Pressure the ball carrier, move the ball fast through the middle, spread the goals and get the midfielders back in numbers to help out an already solid defense.
They are fundamentals for a reason; they have been the cornerstone and catalyst for Geelong’s successes over the past 5 years.
Who Will Win?
Too much class and even in enemy territory, Geelong will have the edge. They have a flag to defend, and what better way to begin that campaign with knocking off a hungry opposition in a hostile arena?
Geelong spread the goals better, move the ball cleaner and Freo are yet to adapt to the structural changes brought by Ross Lyon over the summer.
Cats by 15.