AFL Round 15 – Geelong v Hawthorn: Kennett Curse irrelevant to young Cats

This story is not what we say it is.

It is not about two grand final teams, nor an ex-president. How can it be? Perhaps it started off as that, but the tale has changed as much as the two teams running out onto the field have.

What would that Hawks premiership team of 2008 care about names like Murdoch, Stringer and Blicavs?

They don’t. But for the Hawks of 2013, those three, and many more, are a very real problem. Add in names like Duncan, Motlop, Taylor Hunt and Allen Christensen, and you begin to get a bit of an appreciation of just how much this Geelong team has changed since then.

It’s no longer about simply redeeming an unexpected loss. It’s about proving themselves. The young kids want to win for their own sake, to show they’re genuine contenders and can create their own history. They don’t have to make up for that grand final.

Maybe the seniors want to. Maybe us fans want them too. But for the majority of the men on the field – 15, or so I read – there are bigger, fresher fish to fry.

As if to prove the point, Mr Pact himself Paul Chapman would not even be there when the Cats extended their streak to 11. It was this one fact that gave me the gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach all week.

No Chappy – would we have the drive?

On more than one occasion over the journey, he’s almost single-handedly kept us in it. Super human feats, gutsy efforts. It would be fitting for the streak to end when he wasn’t there to feel the pain of it firsthand. It would be the human way to end it.

In that final quarter, I thought the streak was ended on three different occasions, for three different reasons. But at the same time, it felt like it was only getting started. The longer the streak goes, the louder the argument comes out of the Hawthorn camp: “We’ll still beat the Cats when it counts”.

Please, universe, football gods, give us the grand final this year. The Cats have a point to prove.

***

Geelong versus Hawthorn Day is a special day in my family. Much like Chappy, I sometimes feel like I’m the only person steering this ship, but if I’m loud enough about it, maybe people will take it up, maybe it will slip into the vernacular, much like ‘the pact’.

The trouble now facing me is trying to find a way to outdo my previous celebrations each time. If you’re going to create a new unofficial football holiday, you’ve got to do it right.

This time, it was a joint effort (the family is finally getting on board!).

It starts with Darren, Mum and I going out for breakfast at a new joint in Werribee, and is followed by a trip to the VFL. Some people meditate to de-stress, I watch the VFL boys. They atmosphere, and the games themselves, are just so wholesome.

In a first, Katherine, Mum, Darren and I go to the Geelong Cats members’ function, MCed by Bewsy, at the MCG. And we drive in, instead of catching the train. Naturally, Stress Susie, whose voice is an undercurrent in my brain on footy days, begins whispering about breaking routine and how if we lose today, it will all be my fault.

But we have an entertaining night and, full of parma and chips and scones, make our way out to the cushy, padded seats on level two.

And as the game starts, Geelong looks on. After being bit on the butt by a lion two weeks ago, the Cats look like they mean business.

Mackie has an early win on Hale, and he looks switched on. All the defenders do. The Hawks might get the first two points, but Geelong bucks its trend of terrible starts and kicks the first two goals – and they are courtesy of the youth brigade.

Taylor Hunt – who the bloke a few seats to my right points out looks like a player straight out of the 50s – kicks the first after Awkward Dawson once again takes an entirely unexpected mark.

Motlop runs in for the next, and the Cats are away – momentarily. Hawthorn gets one back through Hale, and suddenly our lead doesn’t look so good. Hawthorn can do this to us. They often do. It looks like the Cats are all over the contest, but Hawthorn just needs that one moment, and BAM! they’re back in it.

We’re up by just 16 points at quarter time – which, arguably, is a heck of a lot better than the last time we played them. Every one of these contests is different. They’re often characterised by momentum shifts. What we haven’t really had yet is both teams really going at it for the entire four quarters. Today is as good a day as any if that is going to happen.

The second and third quarters are a master class of pressure, but produce an ugly scoreline. The Cats kick just one goal and 13 behinds, but thankfully the Hawks fare little better, kicking two goals seven.

The only goal for the Cats during this time comes from Selwood following a high free-kick. I know all the Hawthorn fans in our bay were thrilled with that. But, for once, it wasn’t a shoulder-shrug, Hill had him high from the get-go. It was barely short of a coathanger. Selwood nails it, as he’s been doing with off-putting tendency this season. He used to be notoriously bad from set shots. Just minutes before half-time, it’s the only thing that saved us from a goalless quarter.

The same couldn’t be said for our usually dominant premiership quarter.

No one has room. No one has time. Players are ruthlessly hounded and gang tackled. Perceived pressure plays a role, but it’s hardly needed – the actual pressure is unbelievable. I struggle to think of a game that’s been more intense, and pose the question to twitter.

Gigs comes back with the Saints-Dogs prelim fairly quickly. Fair enough, I’ll give him that.

But at the final change, I think this game should be dead and buried, and I can’t help but feel Geelong should be in front by a lot more. But we’re not, because something bigger than you and I and Josh Hunt’s left boot seems to be controlling these contests.

Darren reminds me that it doesn’t matter what the score is at this stage: we could be five points up or five goals down, and this game will always come down to the wire.

“Remember what you said last year about Hawthorn coming back?” he said. Don’t remind me.

“You’re right – that was the warm up, it all starts now,” I said, hoping desperately it would be us who rose to the occasion. I settle myself in to enjoy the spectacle. This quarter, this is what makes these games.

It’s like the only point of the first three quarters is to establish any handicap or penalties. This, at the end of the day, is the only quarter that counts. And after Geelong conceded the first two points, they’ve led all day. This makes me nervous. Have we gone too hard too soon? Is there anything left in the tank?

It doesn’t take long for me to realise yes, yes there is. Oh, boy.

There’s a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, and the ball is heading towards Hawthorn’s goal. Mackie stretches his long lanky arms up and spoils it. Guthrie, so composed under pressure, gets it out. It travels up the wing, and lands in the waiting arms of Stokesy on the flank.

He spots up Murdoch, who puts on a burst of speed and suddenly has acres around him 40m out from goal. How is that even possible? He’s been running hard, and for once wasn’t the sub. Where did this stamina come from? He’s run all the way from defence.

But against all odds, he’s found the space and Stokesy found him. A neat little pass. Murdoch had two chances early in the third, but missed both. He’s great on the run, but I’m dubious about his set shot.

“Did he get a goal before?” Darren asked.

“No – two points,” I reply. Under my breath, the plea. “This is his chance to be a hero.”

And sure enough, Murda nails it. The Geelong chant starts up. Not the ironic Geeeee-long that was birthed during the 2011 Grand Final, not the earlier but less publicised version of it from the 2007 finals series, but the purest of footy chants.

GEELONG! clap clap clap. GEELONG! clap clap clap.

Lonergan continues to dominate Franklin, and Geelong is on again. Straight up the guts to Stringer, who kicks it on the run. Murdoch shakes off Gibson, who traditionally has struggled against whichever Cat he cops, then marks and goals.

The Cats are up by 33 points. It will be a blowout. The curse is over. This isn’t a psychological win anymore, it’s pure class.

Or so I thought.

Lance Franklin breaks his drought and goals against the flow, followed alarmingly quickly by goals to Puopolo and Gunston.

Then the interchange error to end all interchange errors – only it wasn’t the Cats’, though they were penalised for it. Doms is being Doms, running off before realising we are one man short on the field, then running back on. That isn’t the issue, though. Hunt, who is actually late off the mark, is punished for apparently being 0.2seconds early for the Lonergan swap.

Hale goals, and it’s four in a row to the Hawks, and there’s only nine points in it. When Joffy Simpkin, the former Cat, gets the next, it’s panic stations.

Three points.

How the hell did that happen?

It was the football puppeteers, once again pulling the strings, orchestrating a Geelong-Hawthorn contest that would be one for the ages.

Hawthorn has all the run – after kicking just four goals for the first three and a half quarters, they have five more in the blink of an eye. No, no, no, no.

The curse is over. They’re going to win. I brace myself, try to prepare myself mentally. It has to happen eventually. Now is as good a time as any. Rather now than in the finals, I try to console myself.

But this Geelong team does not say die. And it’s not just the old hats of Selwood, Bartel and co. Blicavs is no longer an athlete who does alright on the field. He’s just a good footballer.  Motlop is working on his inside play every week and Bundy just wills himself into every contest.

Duncan has a touch of flair and pizazz about him. He misses the running shot from outside 50 that is his bread and butter, but redeems himself with an intercept, fend off and sweet delivery to Caddy who’s in the corner of the forward 50.

People around me start screaming out names he should kick to, but none of them are real options. He has to take the shot himself. And it’s a tough one. A really tough one.

He goes back, lines it up, kicks it from 48m out on the boundary line. Impossible. It’s – it can’t be – it’s –

“YES!” Everyone in blue and white in my vicinity, and I daresay the whole ground, is suddenly up and jumping, dancing. Yes.

The Cats aren’t done yet.

They get it forward again, Stringer bombs it into the forward line, and Murda with the Roadrunner legs leads the pack, breaking further and further away from them.

Where is this speed coming from?

He runs onto it. Snaps it.

Game over.

The jubilation from the Cats’ fans is insane. We’ve got them again, and this time, there’s no way we’re letting them back in.

The excitement builds and Cats fans just want the siren to make it official, but there’s a ways to go yet. And just like that, our bubble is burst.

No, the win is still on the board, but Joel Corey is on the ground, looking like a crucified man. Arms out, clearly completely out of it.

It looks to me like he’s knocked himself out while tackling Sam Mitchell. But the replays come again and again, and the Cats fans’ blood starts to boil. I don’t know what to make of it – who tackled who? But there are those around me who remember Mitchell chopping Hunt in the throat in the opening quarter, and are less open-minded.

Mackie takes the same view, and the sharpest tongue in the league goes over to have a few words with the Hawthorn huddle.

Podsiadly wanders over, perhaps to keep the peace, but the next instant, he has one of theirs’ by the shirt front. And suddenly, it’s all in. Not a brawl, the players are too tired and smart for that, but intimidation and puffed chests and a little bit of shoving are the order of the day.

Some morons in front of me – sadly, from both camps – get a bit too involved, and security has to escort them out.

We applaud Joel Corey off, the Hawks get a late goal, and it’s siren time.

We cheer and celebrate, but I’m more concerned about Corey – who knows what state that man is in? Hawthorn ruined this win for us. Accident or not, it’s hard to find perspective at this stage.

But the sight of a smiley, huggy Scott on the field assuages my fears. Corey must be okay. As Chris Scott embraces his adoring charges, the joy starts to creep it.

We did it again.

And if anything, this rivalry just got that bit more heated. Bring on the finals, Hawks. We’re not finished yet.

 

Geelong:             5.2          6.8          6.15        11.16 (85)

Hawthorn:          2.4          3.8          4.11        10.12 (72)

 

GOALS

Geelong: Murdoch 3, T Hunt, Motlop, Blicavs, Podsiadly, Kelly, Selwood, Stringer, Caddy

Hawthorn: Roughead 2, Hale 2, Breust, Franklin, Puopolo, Gunston, Simpkin, Savage.

BEST

Geelong:  Jordan Murdoch, Joel Selwood, Mitch Duncan, Josh Caddy, Tom Lonergan, Andrew Mackie, Mark Blicavs, James Podsiadly.

Hawthorn: Jarryd Roughead, Brian Lake, Jack Gunston, Sam Mitchell

Umpires: Stevic, Schmitt, McInerney

Official Crowd: 85,197

OUR VOTES:

3) Jordan Murdoch (Geel)

2) Joel Selwood (Geel)

1) Jarryd Roughead (Haw)

About Susie Giese

Born into the worship of the mighty Hoops, Susie has turned to adopting a Zen-like state during games in recent years to preserve her heart. The Cats of 2015 have the ol' ticker a-racing, though!

Comments

  1. Dinahcat says:

    Great writing, Susie. That last quarter had everything!

    Have you noticed that Cats supporters only barrack GEELONG! clap clap clap!
    when the team is well ahead or kicks a goal? I was trying to get some vocal
    support going during the Hawks’ avalanche of goals, and luckily some Catters
    nearby joined in! My Swans friend tells me that she too barracked from afar, so
    credit must go to her too!

    I think the curse will only be lifted after a Cats-beating-Hawks premiership. (Maybe 50 years after the last one? Fingers crossed!) GO CATS!!

  2. Richard Naco says:

    Suse, I have always loved my Mother Giese stories as they are all sublimely wondrous examples of the writer’s art, and they all seem to have such happy endings!

    I thought that this was one of the most tense and dramatic games of the sequence, which ameliorated – at least, to some extent – the awful case of mutual goal kicking yips of the middle stanzas.

    It was the game where Josh Caddy ceased to be an ex-Sun, and became a Cat (with the distinct possibility of his evolving further into a Cat Legend becoming increasingly evident).

    It was the game where all the Hawthorn planning for Selwood, Hawkins & Harry Taylor was undone by the emergence of Blicavs, Murdoch & Josh Caddy as game winners, and where Christensen, Motlop & Mitch Duncan took their games even closer to A Grade standard.

    And finally, this was the game where Geelong’s future emerged from it’s immediate and glorious past, and the growth and evolution of the club became evident to all.

    We are not fading away. We are going nowhere.

    “We are Geelong!”

  3. Dinahcat – I love your thinking! I think the only acceptable outcome for this season is a Geelong-Hawthorn grand final. Hopefully Geelong doesn’t pull a Geelong and get complacent!

    Richard, my dear old friend – I think you are quite possibly the greatest wordsmith on this site! You are, of course, completely spot on with every observation. I had the same thought re: Caddy. Now, he is a Cat. And he’s only going to get so much better. Stephen Wells and his team are the most beautiful, wonderful people in the world. When is e getting a statue? Love him, and love this club. And love your closing words.

    Go Cats!

  4. Dennis gedling says:

    The last 3 times I’ve watched us play the hawks before this game I’ve started to mentally prepare for the streak to be over thinking they had us so i know exactly where you’re comin from. Great article although it was the sloppiest game between the two in quite some time.

  5. Hi Dennis!
    I’m glad I’m not the only one!
    Is sloppy the right word? Scrappy might be better.
    It wasn’t a lack of skills so much as skills adversely affected by insanely intense pressure.

  6. Paul Spinks says:

    Good account, Susie.

    I don’t buy curse theory, though I toyed with karma theory for awhile.

    Though, in reality, I reckon it’s simply a case of Geelong being determined to prove it’s a better team than Hawthorn and that 2008 was an aberration.

    The young guns are being swept along for the ride – as are us fans.

Leave a Comment

*