Welcome to Look Back/Look Ahead, a series where every team is analysed in-depth, and their temperature taken. The plan here is to figure out where a team is at with their on-field style and overall list health before transitioning to their most pressing issue, and whether they can solve it over the off-season.
15 years of sustained, top-level success, culminating in both an unlikely and rightful premiership.
Unlikely, because week after week Geelong broke their own record for oldest team ever to play an AFL match, setting off on a course no other team had ever attempted before.
Rightful, because from the point of their last loss in Round 9, Geelong peeled off 16 wins in a row to coast to a flag, winning the preliminary final by 71 points and Grand Final by 81 points.
Posts in the Look Back/Look Ahead series have normally finished with a key 2023 style question, but applying that same lens to the premier feels out of place.
Instead it’ll be a two-topic focus – contract statuses and why Geelong is unique in that area, followed by list demographic and why Geelong is also unique in that area.
The very last post of the Look Back/Look Ahead series. It’s been a journey.
$10 Patrons have (had?) exclusive access to these posts for the first 24 hours after publishing, and they’ll be free for all after that. If you’ve missed any of the posts analysing this year’s finalists:
This contract layout is intriguing to me.
Some of it is a natural by-product of an older list – no-one’s giving three and four year deals to 32 and 33 year olds.
Only having three players contracted until 2025 – fewer than every team bar Hawthorn – and no-one beyond that means Geelong have incredible flexibility to pivot on a dime if need be.
The remaining out of contract players this year should be dealt with in the near future, and teams will surely come hard for De Koning next year. He’ll likely be offered more elsewhere than he’d make in Geelong’s salary structure too, which will make his future a talking point from week to week.
That’s where said flexibility comes into play. When the Cats see all the offers De Koning has at his disposal, they have room to move internally and ensure a key part of their backline for the rest of the decade stays put.
It’s also why Jack Bowes (and the #7 pick) is a feasible option. There’s surely enough room to absorb his salary, possibly smooth it out over another year as well, and also hold another key towards replenishing their younger stocks. Speaking of which…
Posts continue to come thick and fast. If you’ve missed anything recently, here are links to catch up:
Wednesday 28th: Look Back/Ahead: Sydney
Sunday 25th: 2022 Grand Final: A stoppage domination
Friday 23rd: Look Back/Ahead: Collingwood
Wednesday 21st: Look Back/Ahead: Brisbane
Tuesday 20th: Look Back/Ahead: Fremantle
Given the 2021 version of this ended up as catnip for Geelong fans, I couldn’t possibly refrain from posting 2022’s list.
How about another way to highlight Geelong’s unique approach. Here’s their 2022 minutes played, divided by age:
Or here’s another one, showing the team-by-team minutes handed to those in their age 29 year and older:
It’s funny how the narrative changes. Last year everyone (me included!) thought Geelong had done a great job staying near the top for so long, but had fallen just short of the ultimate goal.
Now it’s met with acceptance. Results-based industry.
There have already been seven departures from Geelong’s list this year, with reports suggesting Dahlhaus is on the verge of making it eight.
But if Bowes and pick 7, Ollie Henry, and Tanner Bruhn are potentially all heading down the highway*, it goes a long way towards filling those spots with a younger look.
Currently Geelong have their own pick in each of the first and second round, and then three third rounders – theirs, Carlton’s, and Brisbane’s.
Does a premiership shift their list management mode ever so slightly, focusing on stockpiling younger players with these selections? Or is it full steam ahead as usual, looking for experience? Only time will tell.
(*a very long highway for Bowes, to be fair)
With free agency and trades just a few days away, a reminder that the plan is to have a post for every move that involves a player.
As it stands, the plan is to post each day’s pieces at 7pm EST. First access goes to $7.50 & $10 Patrons for 24 hours from publishing and after that they’re free for all.