It was a disappointing end to the 2023 season for Geelong, being beaten by 25 points by the Bulldogs in the final round at home on Saturday night, despite some glimpses of brilliance that keep coach Chris Scott positive for next year.
The match was a dead rubber, only Geelong’s second in the 13 years under the helm of Scott, and featured a very different line-up with Cameron, Hawkins, Close, Ratugolea and Bruhn out with injuries, Duncan suspended, and rookie Toby Conway in.
The Cats started well, taking the lead early and falling just behind at the first break, but coming back for a 15-point lead at half time.
But the Bulldogs, who had a finals berth on the line provided Carlton beat GWS on Sunday, took control of the match in the second half, kicking six goals in the final term to the Cats one goal, finishing 104 (16.8) to 79 (11.13).
This was the first time the ‘Dogs have beaten the Cats at the Cattery since 2003, but a GWS win put paid to their finals hopes.
“We saw lots of things and reasons to be pleased with the performance (of the Cats) and some signs that give us some real optimism for what we can do in ’24,” Scott said.
“There are some things we clearly need to work on and get better at, but there are so many reasons to think we’ll be better next year, if we just get a bit of a better run and do things a little bit differently.”
“We thought we were dominating the game, and it was really just late when we got a bit fatigued,” he said.
“I thought the way we played and the excitement of the players, for various reasons, was a really good sign.”
Scott confirmed that Tom Hawkins and Zach Tuohy will both continue in the hoops next year and said the club was focussing on 2024 with a longer than usual pre-season available to them now.
“It’s reasonable to say that we’re always thinking of a way we can give our players a chance to be competitive with every team in the competition next year,” he said.
“I think that’s a balance that we’ve managed pretty well over a long period of time.
“I’m not going to wake up feeling great tomorrow, I’ll be honest, but it won’t be a situation where we’re thinking this is a desperate situation and we don’t know the way forward.
“We’re respectful of how close the competition is, but optimistic we can be a big part of it.”