Coach Chris Scott readily acknowledges there will be plenty of Geelong people having a hard time watching Cats premiership heroes run around in unfamiliar colours this season.
For what it’s worth it won’t be easy for Scott either, seeing Paul Chapman in Essendon’s red and black or James Podsiadly in the Adelaide strip.
The Cats have done an outstanding job staggering the departure of their ageing stars in the last seven years while remaining at the pointy end of the AFL ladder.
It’s just that with the advent of free agency, the likes of Chapman, Podsiadly and Josh Hunt (Greater Western Sydney) have a better chance of one last hurrah, rather than just fading away.
Not to mention the trading of 2011 flag-wining ruckman Trent West to Brisbane and the retirement of midfield great Joel Corey.
“You need to keep one eye on the big picture and the number of players who are going to leave your list at the end of any one year,” Scott told AAP.
“But that’s secondary to treating every player as an individual.
“We would like to think we’ve been very respectful of our senior players and we will continue to do so.
“But doing what we think is in the best long-term interests of the club has to come first.”
The rugged Chapman has always been a fan favourite at Geelong, but the recent season-ending knee injury suffered by luckless ruck-forward Nathan Vardy means the loss of West and Podsiadly may be even more keenly felt by the football department.
While former steeplechaser Mark Blicavs took remarkable strides in his debut season in 2013, it will be a very big ask for him to carry the ruck division with only Dawson Simpson and Hamish McIntosh – who have had plenty of injury concerns of their own – for support.
By letting the 32-year-old Podsiadly join Adelaide, the Cats sent a clear message to their young key forwards such as Shane Kersten, Mitch Brown, Josh Walker and the now unavailable Vardy that there was a clear vacancy to be filled.
“We’re really open-minded,” said Scott.
“It’s a pretty cut-throat game and in the end we’ll play the one who plays the best.”
As has been the case throughout the golden era that began with the breakthrough 2007 premiership, the Cats’ strengths this year will be in midfield and defence.
On-ballers Joel Selwood, Steve Johnson, James Kelly and Jimmy Bartel are four of the remaining six triple-premiership players still on the club’s list and the other two – Andrew Mackie and Corey Enright – shore up a back half anchored by key-position players Harry Taylor and Tom Lonergan.
The loss to injury of clever utilities Allen Christensen and Steven Motlop will hurt early in the season.
Geelong will do very well to match last season’s 18-4 record in the home and away season, which took them to second on the ladder.
But the shock qualifying final loss to Fremantle at Simonds Stadium and Hawthorn’s curse-ending victory in the preliminary final a fortnight later were bitter pills to swallow.
“As my great mentor Leigh Matthews always said, at the end of the season there’s one team happy and the rest are really disappointed,” said Scott.
“I think that’s still true today and true of us, even though we did have a great home and away season.
“But all you’re really doing is qualifying through that period and the unfortunate reality for us is that we didn’t play our best when we needed to.
“We’ve been specific and targeted with our long-term program over the last few years and we’ll continue to be over the next few years.
“What we’ve seen is that it hasn’t hindered our chances of short-term success.”
Coach: Chris Scott
Captain: Joel Selwood
Last five years: 1-3-1-7-3
Premierships: 9 (1925, 1931, 1937, 1951-52, 1963, 2007, 2009, 2011)
Key five: Joel Selwood, Harry Taylor, Jimmy Bartel, Steve Johnson, Tom Hawkins
One to watch: Shane Kersten. The key forward has yet to make his senior debut in two full seasons on Geelong’s list. But with the departure of James Podsiadly to Adelaide, Kersten is well-placed to fill the void. Kicked plenty of goals in the VFL last year and was an emergency for the preliminary final loss to Hawthorn.
Ins: Jarrad Jansen (East Fremantle WAFL), Jake Kolodjashnij (Launceston Tas), Darcy Lang (Geelong U18).
Outs: Paul Chapman (Essendon), Joel Corey (retired), Josh Hunt (Greater Western Sydney), James Podsiadly (Adelaide), Trent West (Brisbane Lions).
Best 22: B: Corey Enright, Tom Lonergan, Jared Rivers
HB: Andrew Mackie, Harry Taylor, Cameron Guthrie
C: James Kelly, Steve Johnson, Josh Caddy
HF: Mathew Stokes, Tom Hawkins, Mitch Duncan
F: Allen Christensen, Mitch Brown, Steven Motlop
R: Mark Blicavs, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Selwood
I: Travis Varcoe, Billie Smedts, Taylor Hunt, Dawson Simpson
Predicted finish: 6th
To win the flag: $9
To make the top eight: $1.25