THE Geelong Cats are one of the two new sides entering the AFLW competition this year, and rather than finding players from other clubs, they have largely focused on adding local talent to their line-up. The Cats received the first two picks in the draft and snapped up two of the most exciting players in Nina Morrison and Sophie Van De Heuvel, who will certainly turn heads as the competition goes on.
List: Rene Caris, Danielle Orr, Hannah Burchell, Cassie Blakeway, Jordan Ivey, Julia Crockett-Grills, Mia-Rae Clifford, Kate Darby, Nina Morrison, Georgie Rankin, Meghan McDonald, Renee Garing, Maighan Fogas, Aasta O’Connor, Olivia Purcell, Georgia Clarke, Melissa Hickey, Rebecca Webster, Phoebe McWilliams, Madaleine McMahon, Elise Coventry, Madeleine Boyd, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Denby Taylor, Richelle Cranston, Hayley Trevean, Anna Teague, Rebecca Goring, Madeline Keryk, Erin Hoare
Local talent dominates this list, with 20 players featuring in Geelong’s 2018 Victorian Football League (VFLW) side. The Cats made the Grand Final and came up short against the Hawks, but showed what they are capable of with their list. Add experienced spearheads like Aasta O’Connor, Melissa Hickey and Phoebe McWilliams to the side and Geelong has a very potent line-up.
Area of strength: Midfield
The Geelong midfield is stacked with talent, led by Geelong Best and Fairest winner, Richelle Cranston. Cranston consistently racked up high numbers of disposals for the Cats during the VFLW season, and was complemented by a core group in Cassie Blakeway, Maighan Fogas and Hannah Burchell, who stepped up each week and are likely to do so again in the AFLW. Add in Geelong Falcons premiership duo, Nina Morrison and Olivia Purcell, who both also played in the Grand Final for the Cats. Morrison’s chase-down speed is unbelievable, and she has shown that she can come up against bigger bodies, having to deal with a Meg Hutchins tag in the VFLW Grand Final. Purcell is a tackling machine and led the way for both the Falcons and the Cats with her ferocity, so expect 2019 to be much the same from her.
Area of weakness: Defence
While Geelong has plenty of exciting forwards, its defence may come under pressure with the attacking forward lines that a lot of sides boast. Georgia Clarke will come into the mix as a calm and composed defender, and will have to work with the likes of Elise Coventry and Bec Goring, who were mainstays in the Cats’ defence in the VFLW. While Coventry is a consistent player, she often goes missing in the disposal count, so she will need to work on that coming into the AFLW season. Rebecca Webster is likely to be a key part of Geelong’s defence, even though she can play through the midfield too. Webster has a booming kick and strong hands, so if she floats into the midfield, it could leave a big gap in the defensive 50.
Players to watch:
Being the number one pick comes with a lot of pressure, but Morrison knows how to handle it. Having only picked up a football in a competitive environment three years ago, Morrison had a ripper 2018, sharing the TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest and the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at the Under 18 Championships. Her outside run is incredible, and her take-off speed is really something to watch. She is a precise kick and has shown that she can use it anywhere, having spent some time up forward for the Falcons last year in the TAC Cup Girls competition. Expect her to get a Rising Star nomination this season.
The Geelong Falcons Best and Fairest was one of the most fierce tacklers in the TAC Cup Girls competition. She’s also a great clearance player, and knows how to hack it out of congestion with ease. She thrived in the Geelong VFLW environment, having played alongside players like Richelle Cranston. Purcell represented Vic Country in 2018 as well and was one of the leading disposal-getters in every match, highlighting her ability to find the footy with ease.
A player that already has experience in the AFLW, Boyd will be a pivotal player for the Cats this year. She thrived in the ruck and through the forward line for Geelong’s VFLW side, taking big grabs and kicking crucial goals when needed. With plenty of ruck support in the team in the form of Aasta O’Connor, Kate Darby and Rene Caris, expect Boyd to spend some time up forward, as her marking prowess will give defenders massive headaches.
2019 prediction: 3rd in Conference B
The Cats certainly have the line-up to turn a few heads this season. With all the focus on North Melbourne’s star-studded line-up, the Cats’ has largely gone unnoticed, which the side will not mind at all. With Melissa Hickey leading the brigade as skipper and VFLW Grand Final coach, Paul Hood at the helm, it is hard to see where the Cats could go wrong in 2019. Gelling together will be the main challenge, as it always is for a new side. They have a hard draw to start off with, taking on the AFLW’s two premiership teams in Adelaide and the Bulldogs in the first four weeks, but those games are bookended by matches against Carlton and Collingwood. Expect Geelong to come out firing in 2019 and turn a few heads.