“How could we get it so wrong?” It’s a
question Geelong’s supporters, AFL commentators, and one suspects Geelong’s
coaching staff, are all asking following Saturday night’s drubbing at the hands
of Collingwood.

Before season 2006 began, Geelong were in
everyone’s top eight, and in many people’s top four. Their time had come. Their
list had matured. They’d gone deep into last year’s finals and continued the
good form by winning the pre-season cup, if not in a canter, then certainly
with the promise of greater things to come.

The rot set in after Geelong played the
Hawks in round three. At day’s end, the Hawks drove back to Melbourne as 52 point
winners and Mark Thompson talked about the game being a good wake-up call. A
one-point loss to the Bulldogs followed, and then after a loss to Sydney,
Cameroon Mooney admitted that “since the Hawthorn game, confidence has been shot a bit.”

The win against St Kilda in round seven proved
to be a false dawn, and what followed – a performance against Collingwood that
coach Mark Thompson described as “atrocious”
– has left many asking what next for Geelong?

An ABC Online poll yesterday asked a simple question: Are Geelong a spent force this season? Of
the 894 votes cast by this morning, 69% voted yes.

Mark Thompson is now facing the biggest
test of his coaching career. Anything less than a finals campaign will be seen
as a failure in the eyes of supporters, and simply appearing in the finals will
not be enough to keep the critics at bay.

In the coming days, there’ll be questions
asked of players, coaches, administrators, and trainers. But from an outsider’s
point of view, it would be fascinating to know how a team expected to mount a
serious challenge this year could be so fragile? And how could the Geelong
hierarchy have been so blind to it?

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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