Geelong veteran Zach Tuohy believes there’s a different feeling about his playing group in 2022 compared to past seasons after the Cats claimed their 11th straight win on Saturday night.
But while seven-time All-Australian Nathan Buckley believes the Cats are “primed at the right time of the year and on top of the ladder for a reason”, he holds some concerns about how “hardened” the Cats could be come September, with clashes against two bottom-10 opponents to come over the final two home and away rounds.
The Cats on Saturday cemented their spot inside the top four with a 45-point win over St Kilda at GMHBA Stadium. It means the Cats will earn a double chance in finals for a fourth straight season – and the ninth time in 12 seasons under coach Chris Scott.
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The narrative around Geelong at this time of the year in recent seasons has been whether they’re able to translate their home and away form into a finals campaign, consistently reaching the preliminary final stage since 2013 but falling short of a flag.
Speaking on Fox Footy’s Best On Ground on Saturday night, Tuohy said there was something different about the 2022 Cats.
“We’ve certainly always felt we’re in with a big shout coming to the pointy end of the year, but this year kind of does have a different smell to it,” Tuohy told Fox Footy.
“I’m not sure you can shut down one or two of our players and think it’s going to effect the result too much, which is a great problem to have.”
Asked if the Cats were the clear No. 1 seed heading into finals, triple premiership Lion Jonathan Brown told Best On Ground: “I think so. They’re building something nicely, they just seem to be very complete.
“I just have more confidence in the game style they play. I think it’ll stack up better in September.”
Saints champion Nick Riewoldt added Roo: “That style they played that brought them unstuck – in finals in particular under the fierce pressure – that control game, they can flick to it and still go to it, but they’re less inclined to start games like it
“I think they’re just far more potent on offense than they have been in recent times and they haven’t given up much defensively.”
After a tough five-game run against finals contenders, the Cats now face Gold Coast (11th) and West Coast (17th) to finish their home and away game.
Buckley suggested it’s “not the best way to finish the home and away season”.
“You want to be hardened because you get that week off between home and away and finals, so if there’s anything that’s not working for Geelong, it might be those couple of games,” he told Best On Ground. “But they’ve taken it all before them.”
But Buckley said the changes the Cats had made personnel-wise over the past 12 months would put them in good stead for a shot at this year’s flag.
“Sam De Koning down back, Tyson Stengle up forward, Jeremy Cameron’s up and about, Zach Guthrie played a really good game tonight and Tom Atkins through the midfield – five players they’ve found this year they didn’t have last year,” he said.
“They’ve always had a deep squad and players that can come in and play the roles, but they just seem to be deeper again this year.
“The other two are Max Holmes, who’s a young player that’s getting it done, and at the other end of the spectrum is Isaac Smith – those two are running players getting up and down the ground in front of the ball. Brad Close is another … I mean Sam Menegola wasn’t even in the 22 and he comes in and he’s a legitimate AFL player.
“They’re really well placed and that depth of squad they’ve been able to put together with shrewd trading and recruiting, salary cap management – they’ve done well.”