Cats no longer AFL team to beat: rivals - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cats no longer AFL team to beat: rivals

By Sam Lienert 18/03/2010 07:39:44 PM Comments (0)

Geelong's aura is fading, with rival captains rating St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs as more likely AFL grand finalists than the reigning premiers.

The Cats have won two of the past three flags, with a grand final loss in between.

But in the league's annual pre-season poll, they received only three of a possible 15 votes from rival skippers as the opponents they most expect to meet if they made the grand final.

Last year's runners up St Kilda and beaten preliminary finalists the Western Bulldogs each polled six votes, while the other member of last season's top four, Collingwood, snared one.

The Saints and the Bulldogs played off in last weekend's NAB Cup final, won by a Barry Hall-inspired Dogs.

One undisclosed skipper even tipped Geelong to follow Hawthorn's path from last season and miss the finals altogether a year after claiming the premiership.

The Saints, Bulldogs and Magpies all received a maximum 15 votes as expected finalists, with the Cats level with Brisbane on 14 and Adelaide (13) and the Hawks (12) the other fancies.

That suggests the battle for eighth spot is wide open, with no other club receiving more than five votes and two of last year's finalists, Essendon (two votes) and Carlton (one), widely expected to fall.

Three clubs - Richmond, Melbourne and Fremantle - were overlooked by every rival skipper.

Reigning Coleman Medallist Brendan Fevola's off-season switch from Carlton to Brisbane is not expected to hurt his goal tally, rated the most likely winner of this year's honour with five votes.

Hall's strong pre-season form has also made an impression, sharing second place with Hawthorn's Lance Franklin on four votes.

Geelong star Gary Ablett is tipped to go back-to-back as Brownlow Medallist, although opinions are widely split, with Ablett polling just three votes.

Eleven different players received at least one vote to take out the league's top individual honour, including Hall.

West Coast's Nic Naitanui and North Melbourne's Jack Ziebell were the clear captains' favourites for the Rising Star award, with five votes apiece.

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