The Cats’ slow starts have been costly in recent finals. Pic: Getty Images
The Cats’ slow starts have been costly in recent finals. Pic: Getty Images

King: Can Scott shake ‘Home and Away Chris’ tag?

Geelong has been a "first-quarter flop" under the bright spotlight of finals football.

By the first change in its recent September clashes the game is over - the Cats have already been blown out of the water.

Many questions have been asked: Who is responsible? Is that the coach? The players? The plan? Is it simply a mindset?

 

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I am sure there's a reason.

I am sure there's an excuse.

But no one really cares for words now, because we are once again facing a month in which actions are more important.

As the saying goes, "pressure builds diamonds", and this September delivers Geelong an incredible opportunity to alter the disturbing trend and falling fortunes of its past five finals.

In three of those games, the Cats were held goalless in the opening quarter.

In those games they were hammered early in the contested possessions count while being pressured into constant error.

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The numbers behind Geelong's recent finals woes.
The numbers behind Geelong's recent finals woes.

 

Patrick Dangerfield went forward in a semi-final against Sydney with good effect. Pic: AAP
Patrick Dangerfield went forward in a semi-final against Sydney with good effect. Pic: AAP

 

The numbers above highlight just how poorly the Cats have started in those finals.

They were reactionary, waiting to see what the opposition threw up, waiting for them to throw the first punch.

They would block, jab and block instead of throwing an uppercut, a hook and another hook to hurt the opposition.

There was one anomaly. The proactive model saw Chris Scott start Patrick Dangerfield forward against Sydney in 2017 and he caused chaos.

He kicked four goals from his seven shots that night.

This September is as good a time as any for the coach to shake the unwanted tag of "Home & Away Chris".

Scott has the best winning percentage of any of the current senior AFL coaches - 72 per cent in the home-and-away season.

But he's batting at only 33 per cent of finals in the past seven years since his debut season.

Geelong's 2011 premiership, rightly or wrongly, is often referred to as the one "Bomber Thompson" left behind, a gift for the next coach after his exit from Corio Bay.

 

Geelong coach Chris Scott is a premiership coach. Pic: Michael Klein
Geelong coach Chris Scott is a premiership coach. Pic: Michael Klein

 

While that premiership success is correctly apportioned to Chris Scott, I'm sure that "gifting" notion would offend him.

Regardless, this current group is "Chris's list" and it now has a "Geelong identity" which is the cornerstone of the 2019 campaign.

In my opinion, the Cats have prioritised negating the opposition's weapons, over and above their own brand.

The Cats invested tactically in stripping bare their opponent's arsenal to the detriment of their own methods.

At the same time, Scott has maintained an unwavering trust that his stars in Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and last year Gary Ablett would simply just get it done when required.

This year Scott has arrived at September with a totally different package.

He has a system that rides shotgun with talent.

Geelong has a 5-3 winning record against top eight teams this season with the best percentage of 136 per cent.

They have been at their best against the best.

Geelong possesses two "points of difference" inside the 50m arcs.

To explain, the Cats are elite at opposite ends of the field - which is highlighted by scores for and scores against per entry at both ends.

One key, unique element is that they have only one forward flying for marks inside the forward 50, with five to six crumbing types waiting for the spilt ball.

 

Luke Dahlhaus is one of the Cats’ small forwards. Pic: AAP
Luke Dahlhaus is one of the Cats’ small forwards. Pic: AAP

 

This is a difficult ploy to counter, and has been a driving force behind their premiership aspirations.

I'm a subscriber to Scott orchestrating a 5-6 week period through the middle of the season

during which he protects the bodies of senior core talent by playing them in less punishing roles.

They also underwent a significantly harder training block and basically managed a lull.

No-one recalls the home-and-away win-loss record of the premiers.

If Geelong is successful this season, "the lull" will be lauded as coaching genius.

Champion Data ran a health check over Scott's team pre-September, using its version of the sphygmomanometer - the blood pressure gauge with the inflatable cuffs that strap around the bicep - and Scott will be pleasantly surprised with the diagnosis.

If we replace blood pressure readings for basic points for and points against, Geelong's home-and-away season rests easy at "90 over 67".

All flaws in the way teams score or concede are readily identified.

The last two home-and-away seasons gave Scott a healthy "97 over 83" and "93 over 71" but the team was struck down by "September flu" and those figures dropped in the finals to "71 over 89" and a clearly unwell "46 over 75".

Geelong has finished the season on top of the AFL ladder and yet all the conversation about premiership success has been guided towards Brisbane and Richmond.

Even the Western Bulldogs are getting more traction. That's just ridiculous.

It's a fine line between pleasure and pain on the coaching AFL landscape, but one thing about Geelong and finals, you will know early.

News Corp Australia


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