The longest active streak of AFL finals appearances was ended last year when modern-day powerhouse Geelong slipped to 10th spot.
Not since 2006 had the Cats missed out on the September action – a season which pre-dated the most dominant period in their long history.
So was it a one-off? Was it bad luck compounded by a run of injuries? Or was it something more significant?
For Cats coach Chris Scott there is no one simple answer.
“It’s really naive and probably border-line arrogant to say it’s just a blip because no club has the right to finish top-four or even top-eight every single year,” Scott told AAP.
“Five or six years ago we were absolutely aware that there were going to be some big challenges in front of us and with the exception of last year we met them as a club really well.
“In a really even competition, losing nine games in a season doesn’t normally constitute a disaster.
“But we are also aware of the reality – we missed the eight and we were a long way behind the very best teams in the competition.”
Not that the Cats could be accused of sitting on their heels.
They leapt into action during the trade period, securing four established players, headed by Adelaide powerhouse Patrick Dangerfield.
It was a deal on the scale of Chris Judd’s seismic move from West Coast to Carlton or Lance Franklin’s shift from Hawthorn to Sydney.
The prospect of Dangerfield lining up in the centre-square alongside skipper Joel Selwood has Cats fans drooling.
Ruckman Zac Smith has also made a great start to life at his new club, while Lachie Henderson – like Dangerfield a junior product of the Geelong region – and Scott Selwood should also make the team better.
Only eight players remain from the Cats’ most recent premiership team in 2011, including three-time flag winners Jimmy Bartel, Corey Enright, Andrew Mackie and Selwood.
“That’s not a little bit of transition, it’s almost complete rejuvenation,” said Scott.
“To maintain your level or to improve with that sort of change is difficult – but it’s not something we weren’t aware of.
“At the same time we don’t have any interest in trying to manage the expectations from our supporters or the competition in general.
In addition to the arrival of Dangerfield and Co from other clubs, Geelong should benefit from another key group who could almost be classed as recruits.
The likes of Dan Menzel, Nathan Vardy and Josh Cowan have spent most of their time on the long-term injury list in the last few years but all are now pretty much ready to repay the faith of the club.
Smith and Rhys Stanley shape as an impressive and athletic ruck combination, which will also free up last year’s best and fairest winner Mark Blicavs to wreak havoc around the ground.
Much will again rest on Tom Hawkins’ broad shoulders in attack, although the load will be eased if Mitch Clark can finally take a trick on the injury front.
Coach: Chris Scott
Captain: Joel Selwood
Last five years: 1-7-3-5-10
Premierships: 9 (1925, 1931, 1937, 1951-52, 1963, 2007, 2009, 2011)
Key five: Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Hawkins, Joel Selwood, Harry Taylor, Mark Blicavs.
One to watch: Dan Menzel. After suffering more knee injuries than he would care to remember, Menzel provided one of the AFL’s feel-good stories of 2015 with a four-goal return in his first senior match in 1450 days. Now he’s fully fit again, the sky is the limit.
Ins: Wylie Buzza (Redland, NEAFL), Jock Cornell (Mangoplah-CUE, NSW), Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide), Ryan Gardner (Burnie Dockers, Tas), Matthew Hayball (West Adelaide, SANFL), Lachie Henderson (Carlton), Michael Luxford (rookie elevation), Sam Menegola (Subiaco, WAFL), James Parsons (Eastern U18), Tom Ruggles (Geelong, VFL), Scott Selwood (West Coast).
Outs: Sam Blease (retired), Dean Gore (Adelaide), Brad Hartmann (retired), Jarrad Jansen (Brisbane), Steve Johnson (GWS), James Kelly (Essendon), Hamish McIntosh (retired), Jared Rivers (retired), Dawson Simpson (GWS), Mathew Stokes (Essendon), James Toohey (retired), Josh Walker (Brisbane).
B: Andrew Mackie, Tom Lonergan, Lachie Henderson
HB: Corey Enright, Harry Taylor, Jake Kolodjashnij
C: Mark Blicavs, Patrick Dangerfield, Josh Caddy
HF: Jimmy Bartel, Nathan Vardy, Mitch Duncan
F: Dan Menzel, Tom Hawkins, Steven Motlop
R: Zac Smith, Joel Selwood, Cameron Guthrie
I: Rhys Stanley, Cory Gregson, Nakia Cockatoo, Darcy Lang
Predicted finish: 5th
Betting (William Hill)
To win the flag: $8
To make the top eight: $1.35