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Scott versus the fans: explaining the divide

Scott’s winning percentage is the highest of any (long-term) coach in VFL/AFL history, an astonishing record in a competition with a draft and salary cap.

But his finals record is unflattering since they won the flag in his first season. In the subsequent eight seasons, the Cats have won four and lost 12. From six top four home-and-away finishes post-2011, they’ve made four preliminary finals, but were a fair way off a flag in 2016 and 2017 and went out in straight sets in 2014, when their home-and-away record belied that team’s real capability.

The anti-coach sentiment contains a few specific causes. One is the view, which some Geelong insiders don’t completely buy, that Scott inherited a super list from Mark “Bomber” Thompson.

Undoubtedly, he did take the reins of an exceptional, though ageing team, which had under-performed in 2010. Scott modified the game style – eschewing the kamikaze handball that Collingwood’s forward press had undone in the preliminary final – and guided the Cats to a difficult premiership.

One of Scott’s problems with supporters is that the 2007-2011 era represents a kind of Camelot, an idealised past that he is measured against.

Further, the unpleasant task of removing those beloved premiership players fell to Scott, who was mindful of his time at Brisbane and the way the Lions collapsed into prolonged mediocrity and worse after the 2004 grand final.

Chris Scott has led his side into another finals series but not all fans are happy.

Chris Scott has led his side into another finals series but not all fans are happy. Credit:Getty Images

Naturally, these decisions created resentment from some players and the impact reverberates into the present; behind the scenes, a Geelong loss will invariably prompt harsh assessments from a portion of ex-players.

Scott is an articulate coach with media nous, but he can sound superior and a touch narky when questioned – as he did when he deemed questions about the latest loss to Port “lazy journalism”.

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The reality of Geelong’s finals record since 2011 is that the Cats haven’t had the outlandish talent they possessed in the five years of Camelot. The Cats have been propped up by Dangerfield’s arrival and by their capacity to bring in seasoned players – and by the inspired recruitment of overlooked state league and/or local players, such as Tom Stewart, Tim Kelly and Freo discard Sam Menegola.

What they’ve lacked for a few years is elite, young, vibrant talent, of the kind that Port Adelaide acquired in 2018 with Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma, or the Brisbane crop that was harvested from finishing down the ladder.

Geelong has been unwilling to go down the ladder and replensish in the draft, in the manner of other sides, having missed the finals only once since 2006. The list at Scott’s disposal reflects those high ladder finishes: there’s some decent players and a few great veterans but you don’t get a King brother or Matthew Rowell at pick 15.

The most worrisome number about Geelong in this finals series is this: that they fielded the oldest team in the history of the VFL/AFL last weekend. The Tim Kelly trade, thus, is vital and the Cats must resist the temptation to trade those three first-round picks Kelly netted.

Rather than constantly whinging about the coach, those ‘Never Scott’ fans might consider the playing lists that the coach has had, compared to the clubs that have beaten them. Another comparison is in Scott’s favour: the current positions of Hawthorn and Sydney, the teams that were Geelong’s peers several years ago.

Geelong’s finals record, which can still be redeemed somewhat this week and in a preliminary final versus Brisbane, should they get there, is more a case of a club and coach that extracts enough to win plenty of games, but isn’t gifted enough to bring home the bacon that the fans demand.

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