Make no mistake, the Geelong Falcons can win the premiership. They have the key forward in Patrick McCartin who borders on unstoppable. They have the in-and-under midfielders, the outside runners and the reliable defenders. There aren’t too many clubs that would trouble Geelong outside of Calder and Oakleigh.
There’s a reason the Falcons finished third. If they’d been at full strength all year, there’s every possibility they might have notched up the minor premiership. During the year the Falcons’ depth struggled at times, losing to Bendigo, Sandringham, North Ballarat and even Queensland. At full strength, they didn’t lose a match and that may well be the case until they meet Calder in the Grand Final.
Two weeks ago they managed to defeat Oakleigh by a point at Simonds Stadium and that match is what confronts them this Saturday at Visy Park. Win and they’ll make a Grand Final. Lose and they’ll probably have to fight tooth-and-nail against the Cannons in the preliminary final. Geelong at full strength can beat any side in the league. Calder have the potential to upset them but then that adds to the rivalry of the two clubs.
For those not familiar, Geelong and Calder have a rivalry akin to Collingwood and Carlton – two successful clubs that want to out-do the other. The coaching staff, players and fans all despise each other and it adds to the atmosphere. They’ve been up and down this year because of the limited players with so many of the upper-echelon out on AIS or state duties. Make no mistake, come Saturday, a full strength Geelong outfit will be scary for opposition clubs and beautiful for neutral fans to watch.
Coach: Andrew Allthorpe
Talent manager: Mick Turner
Captains: Teia Miles & Aaron Christensen
Leading goal kicker: Aaron Christensen (25 goals)
Final place: Third
Best win: Oakleigh Chargers at Simonds Stadium
Poorest loss: Bendigo Pioneers at Avalon Airport Oval
Finals threat: Calder Cannons
The gun: Patrick McCartin
It’s hard to go past the likely number one pick when trying to find a gun. Let’s be honest, the Falcons have a number of talented players, but McCartin tops the list for his sheer dominance in the forward 50. He was dangerous last year and he’s successfully taken the next step to stamp himself as potential number one pick. Had he played a full season he would have cantered into the leading goal kicker not only for the Falcons, but the league as well. He booted 18 goals in four games – enough said.
The smokey: Jackson Nelson
Jackson Nelson is one of those players that addressed concerns over his game last year. He was a handy outside user, but didn’t attack the contest as much as others. This year he seems to be more aggressive and willing to win the inside ball a bit more. This in turn has increased his draft stocks and has been touted as high as the first round. He’s still go a fair way to go, but a good finals series should see a number of clubs continue their interest in the half back/winger.
Mr Consistent: Hugh Goddard
Hugh Goddard has maintained his spot as a reliable swingman, but has failed to dominate at any point. He has picked up his game the last few weeks, but doesn’t scream top pick like teammate Patrick McCartin. What he does scream, is consistency. He’ll rarely be beaten in defence and that’s where I imagine his AFL career is headed. In the Bound For Glory News Phantom Draft, Goddard slipped to pick 20. While he might not slide that far, I think he has slipped to the mid first round. He’ll be a very consistent talent who is reliable week in, week out, and will be key in the finals series, especially against Calder.
The x-factor: Darcy Parish
Darcy Parish is one of those players people come to watch. He might look like he’ll get blown away if an opposition player sneezes, but his unbelievable burst and kicking skills are first class. He racks up the ball off half back and carries it, which is something many AFL clubs are craving. Last year we saw McCartin and Goddard emerge as future number one players, this year Parish and Mathieson are the talents most likely to succeed at the next level. Watch for him to break games open and really cement his spot in the minds of recruiters and fans for next year.
Under the radar: Teia Miles
Teia Miles reminds many of Luke Ball. He racks up the ball, is proficient around the clearances, puts his body on the line but is rarely given the plaudits he deserves. Miles is the midfield cog that delivers the ball out to Parish, Mathieson and Maishman who use their foot skills to deliver inside 50. This isn’t to say Miles isn’t a solid user of the ball, he’s just not in the elite category. One aspect he’s improved this year is his impact up forward and if he can do that during the finals series, Geelong will go a long way.
The match winner: Rhys Mathieson
Boy this kid can play. Anyone attending the Geelong-Gippsland match at QEO needs to look no further than the last quarter to see how he turns matches. A goal down at the 17-minute mark, the Falcons went on to kick seven goals in nine minutes with Mathieson booting three, two of which came in a row. He provided a couple of assists and despite not being a towering forward, provided a rare presence for a player who should be a near full-time midfielder next season. He’s one to watch and will battle Parish for a top draft position next season.
Finals specialist: Aaron Christensen
Aaron Christensen is a similar player to what his brother was, without the midfield capabilities. Around goals he is electrifying and that’s why he won the leading goal kicker award for the Falcons. He pounces on opportunities and doesn’t need much space to capitalise. Needs to work on his endurance further to move up the ground, but is someone the opposition will need to keep an eye on during red time in finals.
FINALS PREDICTION: Grand finalists (minimum)
In all honesty, the Falcons should make the Grand Final. They are every bit as good as the Cannons. Their forward lines are square – McCartin is the best forward, Calder have more spread. Calder’s midfield is a bit better, Geelong’s defence is better. Either way, I can’t see another team troubling a full strength Falcons.
Geelong have won two premierships – 1992 and 2000 – and look to become the first Country team to win the TAC Cup since a star studded Murray Bushrangers, led by Tom Rockliff and Steele Sidebottom, won it in 2008.