A DISAPPOINTING season for Geelong was capped off with the worst possible news when young gun Nina Morrison re-ruptured her ACL.
Morrison was building form before the injury and had showed glimpses of her enormous potential.
It was similar to Geelong's season as a whole: flashes of brilliance but not quite enough to get over the line, finishing with a devastating loss to North Melbourne and the injury to Morrison.
Over the next two weeks, womens.afl will look at each of the seasons of the 14 AFLW teams, kicking off proceedings with Adelaide and moving alphabetically from there.
Coach: Paul Hood
Leadership group: Melissa Hickey (captain), Meg McDonald (vice-captain), Renee Garing, Jordan Ivey, Aasta O'Connor
2020 finishing position: Fifth in Conference A, two wins, four losses, 80.8%.
Best win: Geelong 5.8 (38) defeated Gold Coast 2.6 (18)
Only two to choose from, with the win over the Suns vital in keeping the Cats' slim finals hopes alive. What was most impressive about this performance was the 26-point fight-back against a fierce and dogged opponent.
Best individual performance: Olivia Purcell threw off concerns about her limited pre-season due to shoulder surgery to amass a whopping 27 disposals, five marks and four tackles in round one against Fremantle. It set her up for what will surely be a best-and-fairest winning season.
Club best and fairest candidates: Olivia Purcell, Richelle Cranston, Maddy Keryk
NAB AFLW Rising Star nominations: Nil
Debutants: Millie Brown, Madisen Maguire, Amy McDonald
Retirees: Melissa Hickey
Most improved: Danielle Higgins struggled to have a consistent impact on matches in her first season, but this year was much more effective as a hard-running high half-forward. Higgins found the ball a lot more, and her good decision-making meant it also had an impact on teammates.
Star recruit: It's hard to believe this was only Millie Brown's first proper year of senior footy, such was her composure in the backline. The 19-year-old had only played three VFLW matches prior to 2020 and often found herself on the last line of defence this season.
Unsung hero: A lot of attention goes to the Cats' young midfield stars Liv Purcell, Nina Morrison and Becky Webster, leaving Julia Crockett-Grills to slide under the radar. The hard-running midfielder did a lot of grunt work, lifting her average disposal from eight to 14 this year and was also dangerous around goal.
- The move of Maddy Keryk to half-back was a masterstroke by Paul Hood and his coaching team. The former midfielder not only reads the play well, but was confident enough to leave her player to take strong overhead intercept marks.
- Geelong got another season of development into its young brigade. While the Cats have veterans aplenty, they've got a void of top-liners in their mid-20s. It's vital the likes of Purcell, Morrison, Webster, Brown, Georgia Clarke and Sophie Van De Heuvel start owning games as quickly as possible.
What needs improvement:
- The right forward line mix is close, but not yet quite there. The Cats continually tinkered with it in 2020, rotating players in and out. Kate Darby and Phoebe McWilliams appear to now be the preferred talls, but the combination of smaller players isn't quite as obvious.
- The Cats have a strong last line of defence, but often struggle when attempting to transition out of the backline. The ball will leave the back 50 but then be turned over halfway up the ground, coming straight back in and putting defenders under repeated pressure.
Season in a song: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (U2). It just hasn't yet quite clicked for Geelong. They did well without winning against tough opponents, and were clearly a class above the bottom tier of teams.
Early call for 2021: The Cats are better than their two wins from six matches suggests, but they're not at the level of the top sides. Will be battling for finals.
Season rating: 5/10