Cats Duncan chases another AFL grand final

Mitch Duncan doesn't need any reminding about how quickly time passes in the AFL.

In 2011, as a raw 20-year-old, Duncan was the youngest member of the great Geelong team who powered to a third premiership in five years.

The Cats have remained near the top of the AFL tree since, without again making it through to the last Saturday in September.

Only six members of that storied 2011 team still play at Geelong - a figure that will dwindle to four when stalwart defenders Andrew Mackie and Tom Lonergan depart at season's end.

Similarly for Sydney, the Swans are set to have eight members of their 2012 flag-winning outfit play in Friday night's cut-throat semi-final at the MCG.

The two clubs have been bywords for sustained modern-day excellence, with Geelong reaching the finals in 12 of the past 14 seasons and Sydney missing out on September action only once since 2003.

But for all their home-and-away brilliance over a long period, the Cats' finals record since 2011 reads a sorry two wins from nine attempts, with the most recent of those losses a 51-point thumping by resurgent Richmond.

In contrast, the Swans go into Friday night's MCG encounter on a hot run of 15 victories from 17 games.

Sydney have also won five of their past six clashes with the Cats, having benefited from red-hot starts in round 20 this year and in the 2016 preliminary final.

"At this time of the year, you're playing against great opposition so you just have to fight and scrap and try your best to nullify their influence," said Duncan.

"I don't think it's any secret - it's just about being harder than them."

Mackie and Lonergan have deliberately kept their impending retirements low key.

But if the Cats needed an added emotional spark in a tight final quarter on Friday night, it might just come from the two club favourites.

Another potential grand-final appearance is still two victories away, but Duncan insists it would mean much more the second time around.

"I remember bits and pieces of 2011 but it really is a bit of a blur," he said.

"I was lucky to play with some unbelievable players in that side who mentored me and showed the ropes about what it means to be a Geelong player.

"That's probably driven me every day since to get there again.

"If and when we do, it will mean a lot more this time than it did in my second year when you just got out there and played.

"Now you have the love for the footy club, the love for your teammates and you really value how much hard work goes into it just to get there."

2011 GEELONG PREMIERSHIP PLAYERS AND 2012 SYDNEY FLAG WINNERS WHO WILL LINE UP ON FRIDAY NIGHT:

Geelong: Joel Selwood, Andrew Mackie, Tom Lonergan, Tom Hawkins, Harry Taylor, Mitch Duncan.

Sydney: Heath Grundy, Jarrad McVeigh, Josh Kennedy, Kieren Jack, Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker, Sam Reid, Nick Smith.

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