THERE were very clear glimpses of improvement from Geelong this season as it registered two wins from its ten games, but was able to significantly narrow the margin between itself and other sides.
Established players took their game to a new level, while a number of new recruits showed why the Cats targeted them in the off season.
Over the next few weeks, womens.afl will look at each of the seasons of the 14 AFLW teams in reverse ladder order.
Coach: Daniel Lowther
Leadership group: Meghan McDonald (captain), Nina Morrison (vice captain), Julia Crocket-Grills, Chantel Emonson, Maddy Keryk, Georgie Rankin
2021 home and away finishing position: 12th, two wins and eight losses, 80.4 per cent
Best team performance: In the side's second win of the season, Geelong showcased the best of its assets in round eight against Richmond. They got the fast start, heading into the half time break with five straight goals on the board and a 38 point lead off the back of neat ball movement into attack, and efficient use once inside 50. Phoebe McWilliams kicked two goals and looked strong close to goal, while Amy McDonald continued her impressive form around the ball, with 26 disposals, seven tackles and eight clearances.
Best individual performance: On debut in round one, Georgie Prespakis showed why she went at pick No.2 in the draft. She racked up 20 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s, while also winning seven clearances - the equal-most ever on debut - and 402 metres gained - the second most on debut in AFLW history.
NAB AFLW Rising Star nominations: Georgie Prespakis, Darcy Moloney
Debutants: Gabbi Featherston, Zali Friswell, Olivia Fuller, Claudie Gunjaca, Annabel Johnson, Rachel Kearns, Georgie Prespakis (AFLW debut), Chantel Emonson, Chloe Scheer (club debut)
Retirees: Danielle Higgins
Delistings: Yet to be announced
Most improved: After missing last season to give birth to her first child, and then being delisted before new coach Lowther was appointed, Kate Darby worked incredibly hard to earn her place as an inactive player replacement this season. Once back on the list, she did not stop working, playing all ten home and away games for the side. Darby was essential to Geelong's structure, particularly in the first half of the season, getting back to assist in defence and then playing as a foil for McWilliams in attack.
Star recruit: A tough category to single just one player out as almost a third of Geelong's list was new recruits this season, but ultimately Chloe Scheer was the standout of the bunch. Kicking an equal career high eight goals, she provided a strong target in attack, but proved to be even more damaging when roaming the forward 50 arc and setting up teammates closer to goal.
Unsung hero: On more than one occasion this season Rebecca Webster's dynamic efforts at the contest have turned the tides for the Cats. While Amy McDonald does a lot of grunt work at stoppages, Webster's speed and attacking mindset helped to open up play at crucial times.
- After spending the bulk of the 2021 season trapped in the back half of the ground, Geelong became much more adept at controlling the ball higher up the field. This relieved some pressure on their defence, and in doing so minimised opposition scoring in losses, averaging a losing margin of just 10.6 points this year compared to last year's 32.6, and their biggest loss was by 18 points, when they lost by 30+ points four times in 2021.
- The Cats were strong around the ball, conceding just 3.8 centre clearances per game - the fewest in the competition - thanks to the combination of McDonald, Prespakis and Webster around the ball.
What needs improvement:
- While the Cats were able to maintain more possession in the forward half this year, their consistency was lacking. Often, they would have two, sometimes three strong quarters but were found wanting for extended periods of games. Finding more four quarter performances will be important as they strive to register more than two wins next season.
- They really struggled in the ruck this season, averaging the second fewest hitouts in the league with just 18.6 per game. New face Olivia Fuller showed some strength in the air, but she needs some more reliable support as she continues to develop.
Early call for next season: With another preseason working on the new Geelong system, they will become more effective at launching attack from their back half, using the run of Sophie Van De Heuvel and Nina Morrison.
Season rating: 5/10
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