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Geelong coach Chris Scott says his "battered" side had already run out of steam before being hammered by Melbourne in their AFL preliminary final.
The Cats face another long off-season after slumping to their worst finals defeat under Scott's tenure, losing by 83 points at Optus Stadium.
Having fallen short in last year's decider, the Cats have now played 22 finals and won just seven since their most recent premiership in 2011.
Friday night's 19.11 (125) to 6.6 (42) defeat will reignite scrutiny of Geelong's ageing list and their decision last year to trade away three first-round draft picks to secure prized free agent Jeremy Cameron.
A visibly emotional Scott alluded to the Cats having faced undisclosed challenges in recent weeks which had prevented them from playing their best football.
"We were pretty battered towards the end of the season really, not just the last couple of weeks but probably the six weeks leading into the finals series," Scott said.
"There's a few things I won't speak about tonight that will become clearer over the next few weeks but suffice to say I'm proud of the way our guys endured. But we just completely ran out of steam by tonight."
The Cats were without All-Australian backman Tom Stewart (foot) and midfielder Brandan Parfitt (hamstring), while Patrick Dangerfield played through the finals with a fractured finger.
Last year's grand final was notably played in late October, leaving the combatants with limited preparation for another coronavirus-disrupted season.
The hangover was clearly felt by Richmond, who missed this year's finals altogether.
Scott said he was reluctant to make excuses for his side's performance but acknowledged the past two years had been difficult.
"I think some of the clubs that went deep into last year, through some adversity, have had their troubles this year," he said.
"I think our players deserve a break and what they will get this time is enough time to regroup and get the requisite amount of time in to give ourselves a chance."
Melbourne's speed and pressure proved to be irresistible against a Geelong outfit which fielded 12 players aged 30 or over, including a trio of 33-year-olds in Joel Selwood, Tom Hawkins and medical substitute Shaun Higgins.
Scott labelled concerns about the ageing list as "superficial", saying the club needed to dig deep in analysing where it needed to improve.
"I think that's always going to be an observation ... that when you get beaten, you look old and when you win, it's because of your experience," he said.
"I don't think either are necessarily true."