Scott holds nerve
THERE were three ways Chris Scott and the Cats could have looked at Friday night’s clash with Sydney after Geelong’s 51-point loss to Richmond in the qualifying final.
Being pessimistic was never going to be one, and in any case there was an ample supply of experts who were taking care of that externally.
To be overly optimistic would also have been fraught with danger because despite a top-four finish and earning the double chance, only a fool would have believed putting in a repeat performance from a week earlier would have garnered a different result.
So things had to change, and no matter the public enthusiasm from the coach and the players, internally everyone was aware of what was on the line.
Put simply, Geelong had to approach the contest with pragmatism, and it was absolute in doing so.
The Cats finished second after the home-and-away season with 15 wins and a draw — and was a Tom Hawkins kick off being outright first — so they knew they had what it took to get the win.
But the swiftness and execution of the coach’s message to his players in the wake of the defeat to the Tigers was crucial.
Its delivery reiterated to everybody that what happened was unacceptable, but it was also made crystal clear that the opportunity they had earnt to rectify the situation was now theirs to grasp.
Scott had conceded if he had his time over Daniel Menzel would have played against Richmond.
His ability to transform a deflated playing group is what the art of coaching is all about.
It is why Joel Selwood labelled him the best-onground against the Swans.
The assistant coaches are there to help with tactics and match-ups, and to work with the players from their individual positional portfolios, but it is Scott who had to be the one to motivate the 22 men tasked with fronting up against one of their most feared enemies.
It is not a facet of the job the two-time Brisbane Lions premiership defender has always relished, but he deserves recognition for stepping up when it mattered most.
Victor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search For Meaning that “when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”, and Scott did that.
Geelong goes to Adelaide and while the blowtorch will be off the club, the job for the Cats is hardly any less daunting.
The Crows have enjoyed a week off, they will be playing in front of an energetic crowd and there will be an emotional high from which Geelong will need to come down.
But the Cats are the type of team that thrives on continuity in their football. They will not be daunted. Geelong will be focused on backing up the intensity it displayed against Sydney.
Its sole motivation will be earning a grand final berth.
There will be no pessimism, although fans will once again be optimistic.
Scott and the players, though, will be more pragmatic. The job is not over yet. In fact, it’s only just begun. Nakia Cockatoo Dynamic, explosive and energetic, but comes with a massive risk. If you knew with absolute certainty that his hamstring issues would not flare up and that he would get through unscathed, he would be picked in a heartbeat. Can break a game open. Jackson Thurlow Seems to be on the outside at Geelong, but with Andrew Mackie, Jed Bews, Tom Stewart and Zach Tuohy down back, it is not hard to see why. The Crows have plenty of match-ups for him but he is a fair bit back in the pecking order when it comes to midsized defenders. Tom Lonergan Has been declared a certain starter. Missed the chance to have one final crack at his great rival Buddy Franklin. Jordan Murdoch Was in the box seat after playing 21 home-and-away games the year, but his poor showing against Richmond would be fresh in the minds of selectors. Has the potential to be a damaging player, but after such an ordinary outing on the big stage it’s difficult to make a case for his return. Wylie Buzza Emergency for Richmond game but then out of the squad for Sydney. If he was a chance to come in, it would have been against the Swans but the Cats opted for Rhys Stanley. Hasn’t put a foot wrong but his absence appears to have more to do with team balance than form. Tom Stewart Redeemed himself after a tough initiation against the Tigers and the club is confident he will be right for the Crows after a hamstring scare. If fit he will certainly play, and will need another big performance against the best attacking team in the AFL. Rhys Stanley Was a late inclusion and did his job well against Sydney, but he may be the unlucky one to make way for Lonergan. Zac Smith is playing career-best football as the sole ruckman so the need for him there is gone as Mark Blicavs is an ample substitute within games. Geelong may not want to go in too tall, which could prove to be his downfall. James Parsons Laid five tackles (after having zero the week beforehand) but only had five disposals and gave away four free kicks. Has kicked three goals from past eight matches and would be the man most likely to miss if the Cats go with Cockatoo as a like-for-like replacement. Has played every game (except two when he was suspended) since making his debut in Round 3, but like Murdoch, may have been exposed on the big stage.