A virus swept through the Geelong camp in the lead up to their preliminary final against Melbourne affecting seven players to the extent the Cats contacted the AFL as they contemplated whether they might call in emergencies at late notice.
Sources confirmed Esava Ratugolea, Lachie Henderson, Cam Guthrie, Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron and Brad Close were struck down ahead of the match with several bedridden and experiencing fevers within 48 hours of the game. The players were eventually declared fit to play.
Geelong were reluctant to blame the loss on the virus, conceding Melbourne were too good and deserved the win, but the 83-point margin was probably larger than it might otherwise have been with the Demons slamming on eight unanswered goals in a devastating third quarter.
Cats’ coach Chris Scott implied there were some issues in the lead in but did not want to be seen to have sour grapes after the loss particularly as they had not been at their best at the end of the season with Patrick Dangerfield battling a hand injury, Joel Selwood a leg injury and Lachie Henderson a hamstring problem.
The revelation will add complications to the post-mortem with Geelong expected to keep most of their core group together heading into 2022 after the disappointing finish to the season where they had injuries to key players and lost form to lose four of their final six matches.
Henderson is out of contract and yet to make a call on his future, while Rhys Stanley is hoping to re-sign. Gary Rohan will remain at the club in 2022, while Josh Jenkins is set to finish up.
However, several younger players who battled to cement a spot in the team are expected to explore their options during the upcoming trade period.
Key defender Nathan Kreuger, who attracted interest from Collingwood last year, has had multiple clubs enquire about him, but the 22-year-old was waiting for the Cats’ season to finish before deciding where his future lay.
Kreuger, pick 42 in the 2018 draft, played two games in defence this season having shown some versatility in the VFL.