Geelong coach Chris Scott can call criticism of his team’s finals record as “lazy” but until the Cats win a flag — or maybe even just beat an opponent ranked higher them on the ladder when it matters — it’s not going to stop.
Scott was correct in his assessment of Thursday night’s 16-point defeat against Port Adelaide — the Cats did have their chances, especially early, but certainly didn’t dominate what was a pretty even game by two solid sides.
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Scott is also correct in predicting the reasons behind the 9.4 (58) to 5.12 (42) loss will likely be different from the reasons they lost last year’s qualifying final to Collingwood. Or the 2018 elimination final to Melbourne. Or the 2017 prelim against the Crows. And so on and so forth.
He’s also somewhat right in feeling aggrieved at the constant commentary about the Cats’ poor results in September (and this year October) since their 2011 premiership.
Geelong hasn’t had any glaringly bad finals defeats since 2016 — and last night’s game wasn’t either.
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The majority of their September duds came earlier last decade — two defeats in Victoria against Fremantle in 2012 and 2013, a shock semi-final defeat against a North Melbourne team that was pumped the following week in 2014 and a 2016 preliminary final false start against the Swans all occurred without most of the players who took the field at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night.
But the mud is sticking because in almost a decade of finals — since the 2011 win against the Magpies — Geelong doesn’t have one signature finals victory.
Not once have they beaten the odds and sprung an upset and, given how many opportunities they’ve had, it’s unusual.
So until Patrick Dangerfield has his September moment and Scott proves he can win it all with a new group he’ll be forced to answer questions about buckling under pressure and whether his game plan stands up — even if being forced to play finals at the MCG has had far more impact than either of those theories in recent years.
“I didn’t think we crumbled under the pressure. I don’t think we’ll look at the way we played and think there were fundamental problems with the game style,” Scott said.
“We had our chances. I think the criticism is a bit lazy, personally. But we’d like to win more finals.
“I’ve got a lot of faith in the character of our group. If we don’t perform well, I’d be very, very surprised if we looked back and thought character and strength of will was the biggest issue.”
“We consistently come up with reasons that we think are much more valid than any of those,” Scott added.
“Bar Richmond, if you include teams that don’t make the finals, not many teams have good finals records.
“You play the best teams at the end of the year in high pressure situations. If you win it, you come away with a good record.
“The other option is you have a really good year one year and you miss the finals three years in a row. That helps your record.”
GEELONG’S DECADE OF FINALS PAIN
Lost qualifying final to Collingwood after finishing top, but only won one more game than the Magpies and had to play them at the MCG. Defeated reigning premier West Coast in a semi-final before losing a preliminary final to eventual premier Richmond despite leading by 21 points at halftime.
Lost an elimination final to Melbourne after finishing eighth on the ladder.
Were smacked in the qualifying final by eventual premier Richmond at the MCG after finishing half a game ahead of the Tigers. Responded by thumping Sydney but were then forced to travel to Adelaide for the prelim and were comfortably beaten by the Crows.
Edged Hawthorn in a qualifying final thriller to go straight into the prelim but conceded seven goals to none against the Swans and were rolled by 37 points.
Lost the qualifying final to eventual premier Hawthorn before suffering a shock defeat to North Melbourne to go out in straight sets.
Lost a home qualifying final against Fremantle at Kardinia Park before beating Port in week two and losing to eventual premier Hawthorn by five points in a prelim at the MCG.
Lost an elimination final to the travelling Dockers at the MCG.