Season preview: The only way is up for promising Cats midfield

Club: Geelong

Coach: Dan Lowther

Captain: Meg McDonald

2021 best and fairest: Amy McDonald

Cat Amy McDonald has a laugh at training on October 7, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

2021 in a nutshell: Geelong's season started with a 62-point loss to North Melbourne and didn't get too much better from there. They lost their first eight games – six of which were by at least 29 points – before finally breaking through for their only victory in the final round of the season against the winless Suns. It was a horror campaign for the Cats, compounded by an ACL injury to star Liv Purcell, who then departed the club for Melbourne in the off-season. One of the few shining lights was the improvement of Amy McDonald, who won the best and fairest in a breakout season.

Full squad: Olivia Barber, Rene Caris, Georgia Clarke, Julia Crockett-Grills, Kate Darby, Chantel Emonson, Gabbi Featherston, Zali Friswell, Olivia Fuller, Laura Gardiner, Claudia Gunjaca, Danielle Higgins, Jordan Ivey, Annabel Johnson, Rachel Kearns, Maddy Keryk, Madisen Maguire, Darcy Moloney, Amy McDonald, Meg McDonald, Maddy McMahon, Phoebe McWilliams, Nina Morrison, Georgie Prespakis, Georgie Rankin, Carly Remmos, Chloe Scheer, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Rebecca Webster, Stephanie Williams

Recruits: Chantel Emonson (Melbourne), Chloe Scheer (Adelaide), Olivia Fuller, Claudia Gunjaca (mature-age signings), Rachel Kearns (rookie)

Draftees: Gabbi Featherston, Zali Friswell, Annabel Johnson, Georgie Prespakis

Cat Georgie Prespakis at training on October 7, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Inactive: Millie Brown (break), Renee Garing (pregnancy), Denby Taylor (break)

Out: Olivia Purcell (Melbourne), Aasta O'Connor (retired), Maddie Boyd, Nicole Garner, Rebecca Goring, Mia Skinner (delisted), Richelle Cranston (delisted, then Western Bulldogs)

2022 opponents: North Melbourne (A), Western Bulldogs (H), Collingwood (H), Brisbane (A), West Coast (H), Gold Coast (A), Fremantle (H), Richmond (A), St Kilda (A), GWS (H)

REVEALED: The 2022 NAB AFLW fixture is here

05:11 Dec 2. 2021. 12:45 PM

Every team, all the match-ups, where you need to be and when

Circle it: It has to be round three against Collingwood at GHHBA Stadium on Friday night. Who could forget the Cats' debut match in AFLW when they defeated the Pies by a solitary point in the 2019 season-opener?

2022 FIXTURE Check out who your club will face

Player to watch: Will this be the year Nina Morrison stays injury free and dominates the competition? The prodigiously talented Cat has basically had two seasons wiped up by ACL injuries, but she has been training the house down and is raring to go in 2022.

Best NAB AFLW Rising Star chance: Georgie Prespakis

2022 prediction: After a disappointing 2021 that yielded only one victory – against winless Gold Coast in the final round – the only way is up for the Cats in 2022. The departure of Liv Purcell leaves a big hole, but the return of Nina Morrison and top draft pick Georgie Prespakis will give the midfield a huge boost. Finals looks likely a bridge too far with the Cats' main focus to be developing the youngsters and closing the gap on the competition heavyweights. The fixture has done the Cats no favours with a brutal opening month, but don't jump off them as there will be improvement later in the season when the youngsters find their feet.