They’re Back! But Did They Ever Really Leave?

Wasn’t this supposed to be all over?

Weren’t Geelong supposed to fade into the sunset, wave goodbye to their ageing champions, and spend a few years at the tail end of the ladder, rebuilding like a good little team?

It happens to everyone, right?

Empires crumble and new ones rise. History tells us that from the ashes of once powerful civilisations, new powers rise and assume control. It’s the way of the world, and the AFL has structured their competition to replicate that. It’s supposed to take time – years! For some teams, decades!

And yet, after six rounds of footy, look who sits atop the AFL Ladder, unbeaten, and just about assured of yet another finals series in 2024.

That’s right, those bloody Cats, who have just completed the road trip most teams in the league dread – a trip to the Gabba to face the Lions. And they returned with the four points, yet again.

Perhaps the Gabba is no longer what it once was? After all, the Lions are 0-3 there this season, right? Perhaps the Cats have had a bit of a charmed run with the fixture, knocking over just one team that resides inside the top eight, currently.

Or perhaps… just perhaps, people are looking for excuses to talk their accomplishments down. Many, myself included, have made the mistake of writing the Cats off a little too prematurely, but as aure as the sun rises in the East, the Geelong Dynasty looks set to continue this season.

And what of this Geelong Dynasty? What do they have to show for it?

Well, whilst other clubs have climbed to power and claimed premierships in a rush – Brisbane just after the turn of the century, Hawthorn through the middle of the last decade, and Richmond more recently, the Cats have been thereabouts through it all. They have been the constant as others have risen and fallen around them.

The Cats won the flag in 2007 – how long ago it feels now. However, that wasn’t the start of this stretch. The argument is that the Cats could have, and perhaps should have, played in a Grand Final in 2005 is valid. It was the “Nick Davis, Nick Davis” finish that robbed them that year, after making the Preliminary Final the season before in 2004.

So, since 2004, the Cats have made finals in all but three seasons. They missed in 2006, 2015, and 2023. So, once every seven or so years, the Cats have a bit of a hiccup, only to bounce back and get straight back into the mix for a flag. And in that same period, they’ve captured four premierships (2007, 2009, 2011, 2022).

More flags than the times they’ve missed finals. Ridiculous.

They have bucked the system the AFL implemented to equalise the competition. All teams are created equal, and all are supposed to spend time at the top and bottom equally. In terms of success, some clubs are just more equal than others, I guess.

Some of you may know I am a Hawks man. And whilst I have great affection from that Hawthorn period of 2008-2015, in comparison to the Cats’ run, our time at the top was brief. The Hawks’ run at the top lasted eight seasons, and even then, we missed finals in 2009 and were dropped out of the finals in the first week in 2010. The highs were great, but the lows came back soon enough. And they are enduring even now.

Brisbane was similar. Their run was spectacular, with the three flags on the trot, but the fall was sudden, and after a Grand Final loss as they chased a four-peat in 2004, they were done and dusted by 2005, missing finals for a number of years.

And then there are the Tigers. Coming from nowhere in 2017, they were the best team in the game for four-straight years, resulting in three flags before it came to an end. They are now coming off three seasons where their best result was making finals and being ousted in the first week. They won’t be playing finals this season, either. The cliff is steep, the fall sudden. The landing, hard.

And yet, aa others have crashed back to earth, the Cats have continued to soldier on, always a fixture, always a threat.

Geelong supporters must be pinching themselves in 2024. Or maybe they have become accustomed to the success that now follows this club? They watched as the club retooled for the 2023 season, owning the 2022 Trade Period to acquire Ollie Henry, Jack Bowes, and Tanner Bruhn. Oh, and Gold Coast threw in the pick to secure Jhye Clark, as well – the gift that keeps on giving, are Gold Coast. Although the trades did not pay immediate dividends, the Cats are now reaping the rewards.

One season in the wilderness, and they have returned with a vengeance.

Ollie Henry looks like a future number one forward. He manages to find the footy in the same way Jack Gunston did over the course of his career. Bowes has moved into the guts this season and demonstrated his potential with back-to-back games of 20+ disposals in the last two games, and Tanner Bruhn has made himself an integral part of the new generation coming through the Geelong midfield. He has the potential to be The Man in the guts for the Cats.

Yes, Tom Hawkins is playing out the late stages of his career. Patrick Dangerfield, as well. Joel Selwood (hallowed be thy name) and Isaac Smith have hung the boots up. Zach Tuohy and Rhys Stanley will likely follow after 2024. gary Rohan is another. And yet, there are the Cats, with names such as Shannon Neale, Ollie Dempsey, and Max Holmes ready to take the reins and ride this team into the next era of success.

I should hate this Geelong team. I should look at the success they continue to enjoy and screw my face up. As a Hawthorn supporter, it is whats expected of me. However, I cannot help respect what this club has done, and continues to do. They are the team that others should aspire to emulate. They are the AFL standard bearers.

Sustained success in the AFL is not supposed to occur. Teams are not supposed to “up” for this long. And on the off-chance they are, they should not be sitting atop the ladder at this point of the season. It just shouldn’t be able to happen.

And yet, here we are.

Some celebrated the end of the Geelong era following the 2023 season. The Cats fell from contention and looked as though their time was definitely at an end.

Regardless of how it looked, Geelong are far from done. They are giving their supporters every reason to pack the Joel Selwood stand and be proud of their team. And as they head into a Round Seven clash against the Blues, their detractors must be sitting down, head in hands, wondering when the hell this team is going to fall over?

And the truth is, it might not.

Why would it?

This is Geelong we’re talking about after all. AFL logic seemingly does not apply to them.



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