2010 2nd Qualifying Final: Geelong vs. St Kilda

The Saints have attracted a lot of attention this season, most of it for the wrong reasons. But amidst the soap opera of dramas, I think a couple of salient points have been under-estimated

Firstly, this is not the St Kilda club we’ve traditionally known. That club often had talent, but was too easily and too often blown off course by events, usually of their own making. They were amiable because they weren’t really a threat.

Not so this St Kilda team. No Nicky Winmar pay strikes this time. Previously, a debacle like the Lovett recruitment would have been sufficient excuse to sidetrack the season, but not for this outfit. Old or new police investigations, Riewoldt’s hammy, Baker’s suspension- none of it has interfered with business. Singularity of focus can be a powerful weapon.

Motivation can be similarly powerful. Twenty regular season wins and no flag- that has to burn in the gut. If ever a runner-up would have held a sense of unfinished business, it was this year’s Saints.

But there remained the matter of Geelong, a side seriously contending for historic greatness.

St Kilda showed sentiment wasn’t a consideration when Baker was left out. Stevie J was to have Dempster for company tonight.

Gardener lumbered into goal all alone to make for a slightly curious opening, and the Saints notably were winning the early contested ball.

But the Cats were winning centre clearances and going inside 50 more. Gilbert didn’t kill a contest and Stokes gathered to goal. Then Varcoe crumbs and threads the narrowest opening. Mooney misses a sitter. Then Hawkins misses. We’ve seen much of this before.

But what we haven’t often seen is the Geelong defence being picked apart. Riewoldt takes a great pack mark but misses from 25. Undeterred, he runs Harry all over the place, and keeps taking grabs.

The Saints are also kicking to Kosi, and he’s giving them plenty. He’s also giving Scarlett plenty to think about.

The Cats’ defence is spread, isolated and vulnerable. The Saints just keep marking. They miss a few, but then the goals come-2 to Riewoldt, 1 to Kosi.

Selwood, running with Hayes, has hardly been sighted. He sets Chappy up with a hospital handpass. Hayes doesn’t miss. Being Chappy, he gets up. But he’s sore.

Varcoe snaps over his shoulder from 30 to keep the scoreboard close, but Geelong goes to the huddle with plenty to think about.

The Saints are taking the Cats on through the middle, and winning. And they keep marking it.

To start the 2nd term, Mooney again demonstrates he’s happier shooting from 50 than 25. The Cats, aware of the challenge, are trying to meet it. A torrid battle in the centre ensues. Minutes pass before the ball is worked free. Neither side will yield.

Riewoldt is running like a man possessed, Harry trailing behind. Doesn’t this guy remember what he did to his hamstring? Apparently not, as he flies, recovers and sets up Milne for a goal.

The Saint skipper continues to win the ball on the wing. He sends another kick toward Milne, who is held by a rattled Hunt- goal. Then Milne nudges Hunt under the next incoming ball and the Saints lead by 20.

Rallying, Hunt takes a saving mark and begins a move which ends in a Hawkins miss. Mooney, flying a solo forward flag for the Cats, marks on the lead and replies.

Goddard has been racking it up. McQualter marks at 50 and dishes to him. The Saints lead by 20 at the long break.

St Kilda has taken as many forward marks to ½ time as Geelong usually concede in a whole game. Their ruckmen have been much busier around the ground than their opponents. The Saints have been controlling possession, denying the Cats their normal rhythm.

The anticipated rain now arrives. When the teams re-emerge, Corey is standing Milne, and Ling has gone to Goddard. The Cats know they need to change the flow.

The Geelong skipper had run with Dal Santo in the first half. He’s looked to be labouring at times this season. More opponents had got away from him than we’re used to seeing, and Dal was threatening to be another. But they don’t make you Mayor of Geelong for nothing. Goddard was quiet for the rest of the night.

For all Ling’s efforts, the Saints look like winners. A Jones snap skids through, then Montagna bombs a long goal and the margin is 33 points. The Saints pressure means Geelong is spending as much time retreating as attacking.

The two best defensive zones this season have been deployed by the Saints and the Magpies. Both had strangled the Cats in the second half of their respective encounters. You sensed a changing of the guard.

But the one thing you can never forget with this Geelong side is that they believe, no matter the situation.

And they don’t mind the wet. As the rain set in, Selwood, Chappy, Corey and Kelly rise to the occasion. Bartel had been in the centre of things wet or dry.

Mooney throws a foot at a loose ball. There’s a strong suspicion of touched-off-the-boot, but a goal is signalled. Dempster has eclipsed Stevie J, but suddenly, at a throw in, Stevie’s alone and snaps a goal. Replays show the he gained the space by shoving Dempster square in the back.

Schneider and Riewoldt both shoot, but miss everything. What are the Saints thinking? Are they thinking of winning or saving? It was now harder to mark. What was plan B?

Hayes still believes. He continues to use his body as a battering ram. If I ever need a team to play for my life, I’ll have Hayes and Bartel in the middle thanks.

Gazza had been quiet since discovering Hayes’ skull was harder than his knee cap. Now he charges out of defence, finds Mooney, who finds Byrnes. The gap narrows.

Riewoldt answers, and then Stevie J drops a sitter. But these are momentary blips. The game has now opened up, and it’s suiting the Cats. A defence that had been stuck in survival mode is now rebounding.

Ling creates space for Stokes to score. Then Stevie J puts his head over the ball and draws a free.

At the final break, the margin is only 11 points. The Cats have kicked 5 straight for the term to stay alive. Are the Saints suffering déjà vu?

If you only looked at the statistics of the final term, you would never truly understand what transpired. It was as if St Kilda had decided to cover up on the ropes, absorb the punishment, and hope the knockout blow didn’t come. If the Saints have a fatal flaw, they try to protect when they should go for the kill.

Geelong was only thinking win, but they couldn’t find the target. The gap narrowed a point at a time.

For what seemed an eternity, the Saints didn’t pass half way. Finally, Milne broke free and kicked it inside 50. Schneider strained to full stretch to grasp it. Discarding memories of Grand Final misses, he kicked straight. The Saints by 13.

Geelong’s forward siege resumed. Selwood finds the wounded Chappy. From 40 metres, out near the boundary, he showed his team-mates how to do it. 6 points.

By leaving their forward line vacant, the Saints had left Scarlett free to marshal the forces. It seemed to suit the Cats just fine.

Gazza threatened to burst through to goal, but a desperate Gilbert nabbed him. Varcoe missed, then a Selwood torp sailed wide. 4  points.

With the term’s inside 50 count now a ludicrous 17-1, the Saints battled to midfield. Riewoldt stole the ball out of the ruck and punted it forward. The clock ticked down as a series of throw-ins went nowhere.

Finally, Bartel clears and Geelong launch a final assault. Mooney tackles Gwilt at CHF, the ball spills, Ling gathers and goals. Pandemonium! The Cats have done it again! They erupt in celebration.

But Mooney had ridden Gwilt’s back to the ground in the tackle. The ump had signalled the free early. Mooney accused the ump of costing them the game. The emotion was understandable, but he was wrong. The free was there.

Both teams swapped exultation and despair in an instant. Geelong try to recompose, but the Saints find men free. They ice the clock and win by 4 points, having barely entered their forward line in the final term.

The passionate will doubtless argue the free kick. Their anger might be better aimed at a 1.7 final quarter tally.

For all their focused intent, you doubt the Saints really believed come the crunch. But they won. The Cats did believe, but they lost. A writer could only dream to create such drama.

If anyone ever wonders why we love footy, just show them a game like this one.

Geelong  3.4  5.6  10.6  11.13 (79)
St Kilda  4.7  8.8  11.11 12.11  (83)

GOALS
Geelong:
Mooney 3, Johnson 2, Stokes 2, Varcoe 2, Byrnes, Chapman
St Kilda: Milne 3, Riewoldt 3, Gardiner, Goddard, Jones, Koschitzke, Montagna, Schneider

Best:

STK: Hayes, Riewoldt, Dal Santo, Milne, Fisher, Peake

GEEL: Bartel, Kelly, Chapman, Mooney, Ling, Milburn

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. JB, great article. Cats fans will rue the Mooney decision (remember the good old days when a push in the back used to require a player to actually PUSH someone in the back?) as well as a general shocker of a night for the Wiggles, but you’re right: we had to chance to not just win, but bury St Kilda in the final quarter. If only we’d not wasted our opportunities.

    Joel Selwood has to be far and away the worst set shot in our team. Has he EVER kicked on from a set shot? He had a dog of a night, but he’s a proud boy: he’ll be so filthy, expect him to become player of the finals series.

    And the first half was just disgusting. I didn’t think St Kilda were especially good: we were just that bad.

    I know this is odd (and I may be the only Cats fan who feels this way) but I’m actually glad we lost. The determination, the fire in the belly that has been sorely missing this year will be back. I fully expect the Cats not to only win the next three weeks (well, that’s more a hope), but I expect them to produce the best brand of footy they have over the past four years.

    Plus which, Pods is back. There is a certain fairytale that begs completion.

    p.s. Geelong’s two premierships have come when we’ve faced Collingwood in the prelim. Fingers crossed the omen gods are with us!

  2. … fudging RIEWOLDT!!!! :(

  3. Our defenders had a shocker. Mum has a conspiracy theory: she reckons Thompson planned to lose this game, as we’ve often struggled in Prelims after a break. This was a change up to keep us playing over four weeks -_-‘ I think I liked our original plan better.

  4. Way down upon the Swannie River

  5. You can’t give a good side like St Kilda a 6 goal lead and expect to win. If the Cats got up it would have been a bigger heist than the great train robbery.

    Having said that, the Saints second half lapse is a concern for them. Geelong won’t start that badly again and Collingwood would feast on such a lapse.

    If the Cats can’t win (it will be tough from here) PLEASE make it St Kilda. I live WAY too close to Smith Street Collingwood.

  6. David Downer says:

    Great JB.

    Nice to finally read a game summary which gives the Saints a couple of ounces of credit. All we’ve heard from the mainstream is “the free kick” and how the Cats “lost it”.

    The St Kilda pressure, the backbone of their game, was enormous, a level not seen since last year. That contributed just ever-so slightly, just a teency weency little smidgen, to the 33pt lead. Admittedly, that it later got reeled in, yes that is a concern.

    But breathe it in nice and slowly everyone…

    “The Saints were good. The Saints were good. The Saints were good. The Saints were goooooood”.

    When the Cats lose – on the odd occasion it is owing to the performance and pressure from the other side.

    But what a game.

    And sorry to disappoint half the almanac …but your precious Geelong-Collingwood Grand Final is OFF!

    DD

  7. 5- Oh come on Dips! don’t back the Saints against me, i thought i was one of your favourites!! :(
    Plus i’m happy to be your protector if Smith Street celebrations get rowdy :)

  8. Dave – you’ll be hard pressed to get sympathy about the lack of credit for the Saints games from Cats supporters. Most of them :p

    I’m on the better side of the weekend now and ready to admit: the Saints were just too good in the first half. Yes, Geelong were crap, but the Saints contributed in part to making them crap. The pressure was far too good from the Sainters and the Cats panicked.

    Second half slack off can be attributed to Geelong pushing with everything it had, and the Saints balancing up between meeting the Cats blow for blow and avoiding any injuries.

    Well done Saints – perhaps we shall meet again in a few weeks’ time? My mouth is watering at the very thought!

  9. Good summary JB – I share your views about St Kilda’s performance and the disproportionate attention given to “that decision”.

    However, once the dust settles I doubt whether Geelong would be too worried if they get to face St Kilda again in three weeks time. All credit to the Saints for a gutsy performance but in truth they gave their very best shot and were still out on their feet when the bell rang.

    Watching that last quarter, I reflected that the Torreador Song (aka Geelong’s theme song) has never been more appropriate. The Cats looked for all the world like a bunch of matadors putting a brave but ultimately doomed bull to an exquisitely drawn out death that, for all its efforts, it was powerless to avoid. After twenty minutes of teasing, the solid bald no.35 matador delivered the body blow, rendering the bull dazed and vulnerable. Moments later, it was left to the red headed no.45 matador to deliver the coup de grace. All soooo predictable. And then the umpire intervened… I reckon St Kilda will need a similar slice of good fortune to overcome the Cats again.

    Geelong’s big worry will be getting over Collingwood. So this contentious decision means they will need to confront the Pies before the Grand Final? They were always going to have to face them and from what I saw when they last met, it won’t be an easy assignment.

    I’ve now seen the Cats four times this season at the MCG and each time they’ve looked like a complacent team, still capable of playing great footy but only summoning the necessary effort in bursts, as though assuming that a devastating 10 minutes is all that’s required. Sorry, guys, but there are other sides that are your equals now and they are itching to experience your success. Perhaps Friday night will be your wakeup call.

    Credit to Stephen Milne and Zac Dawson for their efforts on Friday. Both went into the match with a host of doubters expecting them to fail. They both performed well under fierce pressure.

  10. There is discussion regarding Geelong Vs Collingwood in a fortnight.

    That is no certainty. This finals series still has the componental capacity to deliver surprise.

    Who will win out of Swans and Doggies for example?

    And further, could the Swans be a chance against the Saints?

    Will the Cats exit in straight sets?

    Is Sandilands fit?

    And what about the Colliwobbles?

    Are yes! Those nasty old lurking colliwobbles.

  11. #7 – Danni. If the Pies win the flag I won’t be anywhere NEAR Smith Street. I’d suggest you arrange protection for yourself (despite your black and white heritage) against the marauding packs of young Collingwood knuckleheads who, fueled to the brim with amber and black fizzy wisdom, might decide to eat a few of their own in celebration and to appease the great Jim Beam Gods.

    But if they win I’ll be the first to congratulate you.

    Good luck in the exams.

  12. Peter Flynn says:

    JB,

    I would’ve had Goddard in the best players.

  13. Andrew Fithall says:

    One goal seven behinds in the last quarter. I am glad I don’t barrack for such an inaccurate team.

  14. #12 – 3 Goddard, 2 Riewoldt, 1 Bartel

  15. Haha, good joke Andrew. :P I was at the Pies vs Dogs game – I think Collingwood have more to worry about than the Cats. Ours was karma, not a pattern. Inaccuracy is something Collingwood desperately need to work on if they are to make the big one, regardless of who they face in a fortnight. Both Freo and Geelong are more than capable of capitalising on the opposition’s wasted chances.

    Dips and Flynny – all the papers seem of the opinion he disappeared once Lingy went on to him at half time (only 3 possies in each of the third and fourth quarters) – I think that puts Ling ahead of Goddard in the best list.

    I maintain that I’m grateful St Kilda beat us. Provided the Wiggles settle down and Geelong can keep their focus, the Saints may have just handed us the GF. Too soon to call, but if any team is going to win it the hard way, I’d be backing Geelong.

  16. Peter Flynn says:

    Susie,

    While I agree with your Ling comment, I reckon the game was won in the first half and Goddard was the chief architect.

  17. Peter, I see it another way.

    I think the game was ‘lost’ in the first half. But for the same reason you stated.

  18. I think I’m going to side with Phantom, Peter. It was more so the absence of any real effort on Geelong’s side – clearly, the Cats weren’t in the right frame of mind to try to out-manouver the Saints. Goddard play well – but how much of that can be attributed to Geelong not making the effort to stop him?

    Anyone can play well when they’re not being checked. Even Blakey :p

  19. Wait, I read Phantoms comment wrong. Still stick by what I said, though.

    Goddard did do well, but by equal measure, Geelong were just appalling.

  20. David Downer says:

    Susie …you know I love your work …but perhaps then Bomber was outcoached.

    His post-match comment: “You write what you saw about that last incident …and tell the truth”.

    can so easily be changed to…

    “You write what you saw about not sending anyone to Goddard …and tell the truth”.

    Interesting for the Saints that Tony Elshaug was back in the box after 3 months away for personal reasons. Lyon credited him with a “couple of gems” that helped them over the line. I’m gonna have a stab that Milne to the midfield was one of them. Milne’s unexpected finals corker (and we’ve been waiting a while) was the difference for me.

    But I won’t give too much away …I have a glorious 800 words to pen about this!

    DD

  21. DD – I agree completely. Bomber has been far too complacent for much of this year, he needs to lift his game, and I daresay he and all our (possibly showing signs of arrogance) players will improve out of sight this weekend.

    Thompson has said much before and after this final which makes me groan. He’s a great coach, but he has the occasional brain fade.

    LOL, enjoy your article – I look forward to reading it in the book!

    p.s. These “personal reasons”: rumour on the grapevine is the resignations of various coaching members are due to a thorough dislike of Ross Lyon. While I have enormous respect for your team, I have little patience for your coach. If the rumours are true, there won’t be any surprise coming from this quarter. :P

  22. DD – steady son, they haven’t won anything yet.

  23. John Butler says:

    Thanks for the comments folks.

    I reckon this game is yet another lesson on how different the live experience is from the TV one.

    Watching TV, as I was, the audio feed from the umps allowed you to hear the whistle before Ling kicked his “goal”. You knew straight away something was afoot.

    At the ground, you would have every expectation that it would count. Obviously the players forward of the ball did.

    Those at the “G would have ridden the whole spectrum of emotion that the TV viewer was somewhat shielded from.

  24. Absolutely true JB.

    Where I was, it was at least 10-15 seconds after the ball went through that anyone picked up that it wasn’t going to stand.

    I was one of the first ones to pick it up and even then when others asked me why the free had been paid I honestly had no idea.

    Seeing the replay later, it looked clear cut.

  25. Andrew Fithall says:

    JB – I was at the game. I usually pride myself on knowing when something is amiss. However, this time it was (Geelong supporting) Helen who was the first in the vicinity to alert that the “goal” might not count. It would have been worse to have been listening to the radio. I have subsequently heard a replay of the 774 call and it seemed like 20 seconds after they had called the goal that they said “hang-on”.

    It is not unusual that when asked about a specific incident in a game, a coach will reflect that it is only one incident in an entire game. Ross Lyon took it a step further when he, by referring to the Tom Hawkins goal/point in last year’s grand final, put this decision in the context of other games between the two teams.

  26. John Butler says:

    On the Goddard question,

    I hardly spotted him for the first 10 minutes. Then he had a purple patch until half time.

    I reckon Lingy stitched him in the second half.But he played a role.

    This was one of those epic games where you could have picked many players.

    Stainless, I think the Milne/Zac call is a good one.

    If I had to give 3 votes, I’d probably go Hayes. I thought he influenced the game with his presence even when he didn’t win the ball.

    Bartel and Riewoldt would be my other likely vote getters.

    But you could validly pick others.

  27. John Butler says:

    PS: to 26

    I thought Chappy showed what a champion he is. Hayes obviously hurt him, and he took a while to recover, but when the Cats need was dire he was the only one to kick straight.

  28. We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when……..

  29. 11- Dips
    LOL naww nah they wouldnt come near me. Im Lebo which means i can call my cousins, all 5000 of them ;) lol
    im still up for helping you out though, ive been practicing with my mega-phone;
    ‘STAY AWAY from the NICE MAN’S HOUSE AND CAR!! I REPEAT, STAY AWAY FORM THE NICE MAN’S HOUSE AND CAR!’ lol

    Danni

  30. JB #26,

    umpire ‘hugh maggot’ was influential in the best players department.

    As a noted unbiased knacker who has only a passing interest in footy I would like to have the final say on the disallowed goal incident.

    Here goes. I was surprised that Messers Ling and co got so excited as I had already realised it was a free kick and was surprised that the players had not picked it up. I may have been disappointed that it went against us but I would have been extremely pissed off if the boot was on the other foot.

    I don’t know what all the fuss is about. If you initially play badly – I have seen better ball handling at a teddy bear’s picnic than many of the Cats in the first half – and then kick badly, you will often set up a senario where the orange ‘blowfly lavae’ can influence the outcome; as was the case.

    This is not the end of the world for the pussies. We still have two quite contemporary dvd’s that we can replay. Apparently Howard Hughes (another quality eccentric) was known to watch ‘Ice Station Zebra’ over a thousand times.

    Although it will be challenging I have not completely discounted the Cats just yet and I suspect neither have the supporters of the other five remaining teams.

    When the going gets tough these handbaggers get going.

  31. Andrew Starkie says:

    Great piece John.

    I was there on Friday night and the Saints were very good. Loved the way they spread the Cats defence – Riew went one way, Kosi the other. Hard the deep up the ground. Riew’s gut running, leading and marking were brilliant. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but he reminded me of the King. What impressed me more was his deliberately controlled celebration at the end of the game. Unfinished business. I’d love to see him have a big September and stamp himself as one of the best players in the comp. I don’t quite think he’s there just yet.

    Goddard was brilliant in the first half. Ling quietened him down later on. Have a close look at the replay of the free kick to Gwilt. Instead of following Ling who was kicking the goal, Goddard was looking over his shoulder, possibly willing the ump to pay a free. He would’ve been the most relieved player on the ground.

    We may have seen our grand finalists on the weekend. The magpies and Saints look the goods. The cats keep giving good teams a start. They look sore and sluggish to me. They could easily prove me wrong.

    The Saints did worry me with their hanging on tactics during the last term. This is what they tried to do in last year’s GF and look what happened. They need to be more positive when under pressure.

  32. John Butler says:

    Phantom

    I wouldn’t count the Cats out either.

    They’ve flirted with mortality, so they need to pay Freo the respect they deserve.

    If they do, then the Prelim will be a classic.

    Andrew, you’re right to draw a parallel with last year’s GF. The Saints need to stop worrying about protecting leads. There’s a worm of doubt still lingering there. Maybe this result will eliminate it?

  33. It’s ancient history, but it’s still worth studying. The fateful free kick which robbed Geelong of victory was NOT awarded to Gwilt – it was called a free to Zac Dawson, and no-one in the universe (not even the umpire) knows why. Watch the replay, despair at the injustice of it and ponder what might have been.

  34. Phantom says:

    Bert,

    zay have vays and zay have zee means of influencing zee eventual outcome.

  35. #33 – didn’t know that Zac Dawson thing. Outrageous. We need a Royal Commission.

    I hate the way the Saints play. Watched the other night and it was just bloody boring.

  36. Phantom says:

    ‘Spot fixing’ need an ICC investigation.

    Dips, I liked the way St Kilda played in the 2009 GF. They came second.

  37. JB’s just happy that people are still discussing his article from 6 months ago.

  38. John Butler says:

    Bert, on what do you base that claim? The notion certainly wasn’t proposed at any stage on the night, and I’ve not heard any (non-Geelong) source raise it since.

    I still work on the presumption that Mooney was penalised for riding Gwilt in the tackle, which will forever be one of those frees paid sometime and not others, depending on umpire positioning , etc, etc.

    As to what might have been? I thought the Prelim was conclusive enough. The Cats didn’t handle that style of pressure footy (Pies/Saints style) all year. To suggest they might have found something had they made it to GF day is an assertion of faith only.

    So much water has passed under the bridge since. The most interesting thing revealed is that some of you masochists are still watching replays & reliving the agony. :) Reminds me of so many Saints/Bulldogs supporters I know.

    And you’re right Gigs. I hadn’t really thought any of these ramblings would have a life beyond the next week.

  39. Phantom says:

    We are still talking about the injustice of the crucifixion JB.

    To us Cats supporters this is as big.

  40. John Butler says:

    Nothing like keeping a sense of perspective, eh Phantom? :)

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