AFL Round 8: Geelong v North Melbourne: The Cattery’s just fine by this Roos fan

Geelong versus North Melbourne
2.10pm, Saturday, 16 May
Skilled Stadium, Geelong
By Andrew Starkie

I love The Cattery.  I love it for its friendliness, deep standing room, big sky and cold winds.

I’m old school.  The Cattery is a reminder of the VFL.  It’s as close to country or suburban footy we have in the big league.  You can almost hear the cars around the boundary line.

I attended my first VFL game there.  I stood in the outer with Dad – a Bomber – and he told me to keep an eye on the new kid, young Simon Madden.  He was wobbly like a colt and circled his opponent in the goalsquare to keep warm.

Today, I’m on the midday train from Southern Cross to South Geelong.  The train is two-thirds full with Cats and the occasional Roo.  As we push out, I leave the working week behind and catch up with my brain.  Everything makes sense again.  Etihad Stadium resembles a uranium smelter.

We roll past ship containers and crumbling factories and into the western suburbs.  I peer into the backyards of rows of houses.  They look welcoming and warm on this cold Melbourne day.  The huge grandstands of the Flemington racecourse loom on the right.

More supporters get on at each stop and the carriages are bright with laughter and hurried chatter.

We alight at our destination and walk past old, weatherboard cottages to The Cattery.  People are paying $5 to park in the primary school grounds.

I take my seat in the second row behind the goals, city end.  I’m surrounded by a small handful of Roos and the talk is about the withdrawals of Ziebell, Wells and Rawlings.  We laugh and shrug at the prospect of a one-sided afternoon.  Grima and Wright are debutants and we have seven players with twenty or fewer games’ experience.  We are up against a team that has lost three times in two years.

The withdrawal of Chapman consoles us.  He is replaced by Lonergan.

The Cats come out for their warm-up and look massive.  Harley could carry a child on each shoulder.  North come out and we, too, look big; however, less intimidating.  We’re wearing our ice-cream jumpers again.

The Geelong mascot kicks into the crowd and hits an old bloke in an Akubra.  “Shit,” the old bloke says before breaking into a laugh. His wife ribs him.  The mascot comes over to the fence and mimes an apology and the old bloke gives him two thumbs up.

The game is under way and Geelong are playing the way you expect.  They shrug off opponents, win clearances and open up play.  They work for each other, running hard to make a lead or to assist in a contest.  They kick to the front of the square and lay tackles that leave opponents on the ground.

Bartel is smart.  He knows where to be before the ball arrives.  Selwood is tough, busting open packs.  Kelly is gliding smoothly out of defence.

North are attacking the game and playing the type of direct footy that brought success last week against Port.  Edwards is running Scarlett around and Hale is presenting well.

Geelong’s defenders settle and assert themselves, sweeping the ball away.  Varcoe is desperate to secure his position and slips away to kick two early goals.

Twenty-one points down at quarter-time and a flogging looms.

“How much did Brisbane lose by?  One hundred points?”  The Roo beside me asks with a chuckle.

I have to admit, the Cats are a pleasure to watch in the second quarter.  They dominate possession. There is nothing flashy about them, they are too physical and skilful for the Kangaroos.  Stevie J outsmarts Gibson and leads him under the ball.  Mackie runs hard.  It’s nearly ten goals the difference half-way through the quarter.

The ball is coming into the Geelong forward line easily.  Scott Thompson is holding onto Mooney.  “Be careful Moons, he might make love to you!” a supporter calls out.  The Big Hairy Cat laughs and replies, but his words are lost in the wind.

We start dropping players behind the ball.  Ross emerges running from the wreckage.  McIntosh marks strongly.  Two late goals help us avoid humiliation.  Fifty-six points down at half-time.

The third quarter is encouraging for North.  We are continuing to be positive and direct and are stronger at the contested ball.

Despite our efforts, the Cats are too skilful.  Hale misses a sitter and Geelong rebound quickly for Bartel’s third.  We kick out of bounds on the full four times.

With the win assured, Geelong have relaxed.  They share jokes with each other.  Each team kicks three for the quarter.

The intensity has gone early in the last term.  Our defence continues to work hard, with Grima impressing.  However, the Cats attack and they ease away to a seventy-point win.

Geelong have won fifty out of the their past 53 games. If they claim only one premiership from this era, it will not be enough.  This team should win a handful of flags.

North, on the other hand, are attempting to build a new team, a new era.  It will come.

I’m walking on the ground after the game, among the dancing smiles and flying footballs.  A father gathers his scarf and collects his child for the walk to the car.  The sun is setting behind the old grandstand.  I love footy.

Comments

  1. Steve Cooke says:

    I love Kardinia Park for those reasons. Great stuff.

  2. johnharms says:

    Andrew

    It’s all so Geelong at Geelong. That terrace is one of the great places in footy. I love how it can be for a moment, quiet, and you feel like you’re standing with just a few people. The perma-din of the other stadia are quite different, particularly Docklands. Although I do recall a magnificent quiet at the MCG in the final 10 minutes of the first Swans-WC grand final.

    JTH

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