Isaac Smith will bring clout, daring, decisive ability to provide territory and invaluable prime ministerial experience to a Geelong squad still in the Premiership window.
But the arrival of the former Hawk will also bring about a significant reshuffle among the Cats – and could further encourage a first-round conscript to leave the club.
Smith’s decision on Friday to leave Hawthorn and sign as a free agent with Geelong via Melbourne surprised many, although the Demons offered him a longer contract.
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Ultimately, he chose the cats because of the rural lifestyle Geelong can offer and the fact that some family members live nearby.The Cats had success this year with a slower, methodical style of play that wasn’t based so much on good walking and quick transition. How much that will change with Smith’s arrival in 2021 remains to be seen.
The immediate impact, however, will be to change what Geelong’s top 22 will look like next season.
Smith comes to Geelong to play a grand piano role. At Hawthorn, he was the epitome of the modern wingman. With his speed and his long step he gained territory as a reliable liaison between the arcs of defense and attack.
The cats already have a number of players on their roster who can play the wing role with serenity.
Sam Menegola is arguably the best in the league – although he was not selected on the 2020 All Australian team – while Mitch Duncan came second behind Tiger Dustin Martin at the Gary Ayres Award for best player of the 2020 final. You can also add Mr. Versatile Mark Blicavs, who started all of the finals on the wing before turning in the jerk, as well as another upcoming recruit, Shaun Higgins, whose outside class was able to temporarily put him in the position.
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Former Club Recruiter Matt Rendell at AFL Trade Radio An attempt was made on Friday to pick Geelong’s possible best 22 for the first round of next season.
It was so strong that when Smith got on the wing and Duncan was put on the other, he was forced to put Menegola on the bench.
This meant Luke Dahlhaus was excluded from the top 22 and Sam Simpson, Gary Rohan and Gryan Miers took their places on the forward line.
Players are already on their way
“Smith are giving them another winger so Menegola, Duncan and Blicavs are running through there and now you’d think Smith would keep playing there,” said Rendell AFL Trade Radio.
“They have to shuffle some of their players forward or maybe even backward through the midfield.”
One player Rendell definitely couldn’t fit into the squad with Smith’s arrival was Jordan Clark, whose future at the Cats now seems uncertain.
Clark, a WA product that took pick 15 in the 2018 starred national draft, debuted on the AFL scene in its debut season, playing 18 of the Cats’ first 19 games when he snatched a spot on the Wing secured.
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However, significant elbow and shoulder injuries, as well as strong internal competition for spots, have resulted in Clark spending more time on the sidelines.
It has led Clark to consider moving home to one of two WA-based clubs, despite being under contract with Geelong until 2022. Fremantle the club preferred to acquire it.
Just a few days ago it was reported that Clark would rather stay in Geelong, where the 20-year-old wants to stay in the club. But that was before Smith decided on the cats.
“It looks difficult for him (Clark) to get into the wing there,” said Rendell.
“For Clark to get in there, someone like Simpson would have to go out the way I see it. I don’t think it will be (Mark) O’Connor and (Jed) Bews in defense who will play similar roles.
“You’re going to have to have some injuries, or he (Clark) is looking at this now and says, ‘I’m not going to do much – and I’m ready to go.'”
Clark isn’t the only kitten who has struggled lately to solidify its spot in the top 22 linked with competing clubs during this trading period.
The non-signed duo Nakia Cockatoo and Quinton Narkle are both ready to move. Cockatoo is expected to land in Brisbane while Narkle has met with multiple clubs looking to continue his AFL career elsewhere.
And then there’s the contracted Charlie Constable, who’s been directed to explore his options with other teams.
Brownlow medalist Adam Cooney said he would not like to be a young player at Geelong as it would be “difficult” for the senior team to get on.
“The players who showed a bit in their first, second, and third years at Geelong, many of them got through and hit the scene, and after their second, third, and fourth years we didn’t see much of them high-level “Cooney told AFL Trade Radio.
“It’s really because Geelong has been stocking up with mature players and has been in the Premiership window for most of the last decade.
“They seem to get chances early on for some of these younger players with the Cats and then they fall away and fall off pretty quickly and then find themselves as trade bait.”
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