The Cats can take confidence from their 58-point win over the Eagles in round six but that was in Geelong and not at the MCG where the two clubs have not met since the 2011 preliminary final.
“You have to be positive about the opportunity that presents itself. There’s a period of mourning, if that’s not too strong a word. But our players, in particular this year, have shown really good capacity to bounce back when we have had some disappointments,” Scott said.
“I don’t see any reason to suspect that that will change.”
Playmaker Duncan will be a major loss because of a medial ligament injury but the Cats need more from their key men. Skipper Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett – whether up forward or on the ball – and Tim Kelly failed to have an impact against the Magpies, while Tom Hawkins was goalless.
The Cats finished with more contested possessions and won the overall clearances but were crunched on the outside and by their own lack of composure. They too often bombed the ball to their forwards, and this will need to change if they are to combat the Eagles’ intercept-and-rebounding defenders, particularly Jeremy McGovern.
“The start of the game was poor for us … but from the 14-minute of the first quarter we probably on top. We went in three goals down, it wasn’t a disaster for us, we missed two or three ‘sodas’ in the first quarter that really hurt,” Scott said.
He insisted the Cats’ game plan – where they regularly opt to not play on after marking – is the right one.
“We have been ranked 18th for mark-play-on for years. It has held us in pretty good stead. We were not going to go into a final after finishing on top of the ladder, and we were one or two is most of the key stats across the season, and say we were going to play differently because it’s a final,” he said.
The Cats may also regret their shock late move to withdraw ruckman Rhys Stanley and reinstate midfielder Sam Menegola. While the latter was solid, Stanley’s absence meant Magpies’ bigman Brodie Grundy had little competition. The All-Australian responded with 48 hit-outs and 21 disposals, including 15 contested, to ignite his side.
Scott said the Cats had not yet conceded their decision was a mistake but he would probably veer to admitting it was the wrong call.
“We’ll agonise over whether it was the right decision. But we review and agonise over a lot of decisions we make, we generally just don’t tell you guys about them,” he said.
“There’s always a bit happening behind the scenes every week. I’ll reserve my judgment on the impact Grundy had.”
Too much was left to Patrick Dangerfield but he could only carry the Cats so far. The champion midfielder had 32 touches and was instrumental in the Cats booting three late goals in the second term and when they closed to within two goals late in the final term.
Scott said the football world often didn’t “give much credence to form over a long period”, pointing out the Eagles were “good” in their elimination-final win over Essendon but “weren’t that good” in their round-23 loss to Hawthorn.
“They are a good team. They will be hard to beat we have got confidence,” he said.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.