With three defeats in their last five outings, the Geelong Cats are reeling.
The long-time leaders of the AFL Premiership have just started to hit a bump in the road at the wrong time of their journey towards the Grand Final.
The Cats just about squeezed into the Finals last season but, this year, they had loftier ambitions with Chris Scott at the helm. Could they end a silverware drought dating back to 2011?
They are so strong on home turf that you feel anything is possible for them. And it looked that way for much of the Premiership campaign as they propelled themselves to the top of the table.
But now, well, they are reeling, and their timing could not be worse.
Of course, a couple of their last regular-season games are at home, and it is those fixtures – against North Melbourne and Carlton – where confidence-boosting victories are probable.
The reality, however, is that would just be papering over the cracks. Just look at the Aussie Rules betting odds with the sportsbooks: according to them, Richmond are a more likely winner of the Grand Final, and Geelong are less likely to reach the final than the Tigers and the West Coast Eagles. That’s incredible when you consider that they have largely dominated proceedings up until recently.
A Voyage of Discovery
It’s early season form that is keeping the Cats in the hunt and, while some of their recent malaise could be put down to the feeling that a play-off place is already assured and the complacency that that thought brings, there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned.
Jordan Clark has picked up an injury that looks set to keep him sidelined for a good while. He landed awkwardly in a training session after a tussle with Zac Smith and was led away with his arm in a sling.
There’s a deeper, more worrying undertone to their recent performances that is more damaging than injuries to key men.
They have become predictable, stagnant, slow. Gone is the joie de vivre of their early-season play, where they were electric in their attacking work and at times looked capable of blowing sides away.
It’s almost as if these Cats have become the prey, not the predator. And it’s evident in the staccato style of play they have served up recently, which has gone from fearless to nervy and disjointed.
And it’s not just on the offense where Geelong are flailing. Their ruck has lost its power and reliability too, and Scott has a tough decision to make now whether he is to show faith in Zac Smith or revert back to Rhys Stanley.
So, where do they go from here? Well, after their own skipper, Joel Selwood, labelled them ‘boring’, Chris Scott has to find a way to re-energise his side and get his star names – from Hawkins and Dangerfield to Ablett and Selwood himself – back firing again.
The idea that you can play your best football when it matters doesn’t always ring true, and if the Cats don’t find a way to rediscover their best form, they will go into the finals cold and devoid of confidence – never a recipe for success.