AFTER a drought-breaking premiership last season the Geelong Falcons will have no intention of slowing down, putting together another impressive list on paper, with top-end talent and strong depth throughout the list. The Falcons had five players drafted in 2017, as Matthew Ling and Tom McCartin headed to Sydney, James Worpel landed at Hawthorn, Gryan Miers stayed in Geelong, while Josh Jaska was selected as a Gold Coast rookie.
AFL Academy members Sam Walsh and Ned McHenry are the top two prospects, with Walsh hardly putting a foot wrong in 2017 and looking all the bit of a top-age prospect rather than a bottom-age one. Meanwhile, McHenry provided good dash and elite foot skills on the outside last season and one can expect a greater presence on the inside this year given the exits of Cassidy Parish, James Worpel and Harry Benson. The third name that will receive plenty of attention is Oscar Brownless – co-captain of the Falcons this year with Walsh. Brownless is the son of Geelong great Billy and is eligible for a father-son selection. He played both forward and back last season, but can also move through the midfield so he will be a real X-factor in the team. Defender Connor Idun is another prospect to keep an eye on having played a number of successful lock-down roles in 2017 – including in the Under-17 futures game for Vic Country – and is strong one-on-one with a really promising kick.
A couple of handy 19 year-olds have returned in 2018, with Ethan Floyd the top prospect after missing out on being drafted last season despite a damaging output. After some murmurs had him joining the state league, Floyd has returned to the Falcons to iron out parts of his game – most notably his contested work – to put his hand up for recruiters once again. Tall timber Sam Conway and Dane Hollenkamp were incredibly raw last season but with another 12 months of development under their belts and some filling out, expect the pair to draw interest from AFL clubs throughout the season. Fellow tall Blake Schlenslog had promising traits and will be one to watch in his top-age year. Medium forward Charlie Sprague is clean and composed, and while he has school football commitments has some X-factor to watch out for in 2018. Brayden Ham (14 games – overager in 2018) and Cooper Cartledge (15) were others who had a good taste of football last season.
It is hard to fault Geelong’s season last year, winning the ultimate prize in the TAC Cup premiership. While the league is first and foremost a development league, winning the premiership meant so much to the Falcons having last tasted success in 2001. They finished second overall and had really good depth across all fronts and it showed on grand final day, toppling Sandringham Dragons in one of the most epic deciders of all time. They looked too good early, then fell behind, then dominated again, before holding on to the flag courtesy of a missed shot from Dragons-turned-Sydney player Joel Amartey. In years gone by, the Falcons traditionally looked good during the home and away season, but faltered in finals. That changed in 2017 and they will take confidence out of their performances to head into 2018 under Daniel O’Keeffe.
Geelong kick-off 2018 with the opening three games against fellow country teams. The Falcons host Dandenong Stingrays at the newly named GMHBA Stadium (formerly Simonds Stadium) on Sunday, March 25, before a second home game against the GWV Rebels at the same venue in Round 2. They head up to Bendigo for the Country Triple-Header at 3pm for a clash against Dandenong Stingrays, then host a home game at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee – one of three at the venue. The Falcons play three of their final four games at Mars Stadium in Ballarat, the equal-most games of any venue.