Cats cruise as Roos lose Ziebell – and belief – early

Geelong versus North Melbourne
1.10pm, Sunday, July 4
Skilled Stadium, Geelong

by Andrew Starkie

‘Confident?’ I ask the Roo beside me, taking my usual seat, front row, Melbourne end goals.

In order to avoid disappointment, I always pre-purchase a ticket from the club for the annual Cattery game, and this is where they invariably put me, along with a handful of Roos, amid the familial, chattering Cat throng.

‘Gotta be,’ he shrugs from under his membership scarf and cap. ‘No other way to be.’

Call me crazy, but I’ve been mildly confident all week.  Three wins in a row have North out of the eight on percentage and I expect an impressive effort today in what is a true test of our progress.  Grima is a late withdrawal and Adams takes his place.

The Cats are coming off a loss to the Saints and have a third of their premiership team out, including Ling, who has a back injury.  Chapman, Corey and Kelly return.

I have questions bouncing around in my head.  Are North confident?  Do they believe?  In recent seasons we have travelled down to the Cattery with expectations only to be chewed up and spat out early.  The same will happen today if North don’t match the Cats for attitude, skill, and physicality.

Concerning me is our record against the top teams this year. We lost by over ten goals to St. Kilda, Collingwood, Western Bulldogs and Fremantle.  If North approach today’s game with the same resignation and self-doubt, a similar result is assured.

The opening siren bellows at the grey, yet non-threatening Geelong sky.  It’s a typical smiling and relaxed full-house for the reigning premier.

Geelong show a determination to put last week’s performance behind them.  They dominate the first quarter with high intensity and heavy tackling.    Chapman and Ablett benefit from this pressure and collect easy possessions.  Podsiadly, lone tall forward without the suspended Mooney, leads and marks strongly.  He kicks two.

North are harassed into rushed decision making resulting in over use of handball.  We turn the ball over.  Ziebell is carried off with a fractured lower leg.  Besides Hansen, our forward line looks too small.   Any forward pressure we apply is absorbed and the Cats rebound and spread with slick ball use and hard running.

Cats lead by 19 at quarter-time.  Doubts must be creeping in already for North.

Geelong’s superior skill and larger bodies control the second quarter.  North’s tackles are broken and the Cats hit targets with hand and foot.  Hunt dominates Thomas, as he and Kelly sweep across half-back.  Geelong carry the ball easily from end to end.  Ablett and Chapman have each had the ball over twenty times.  Pods kicks his third and displays coach and crowd pleasing defensive skills with strong tackling and smothering.

Wells is our only effective onballer.  His skill matches Geelong’s.  Boomer, who would’ve been relieved pre-game to hear usual shadow, Ling, wasn’t playing, is being kept quiet by Enright.  Hansen is our only forward target and kicks two for the half.

The lead is 23 points at half-time and although the game isn’t completely gone, North’s belief is waning.

Geelong’s pressure continues to force errors from North in the third quarter.  Less than ten metres from me, Boomer is corralled in the back pocket.  He kicks across goal and hits the point post.  The helpless look on his face mirrors the feeling of North players and supporters.  Goldstein marks twenty metres from goal, handballs over the top to a teammate only to have Geelong defenders close in and wrestle possession.  Swallow and Greenwood are battered by hardened opponents.  Bastinac and McMahon make poor disposal decisions.

Our defence is stretched almost to breaking point.  Pods has seen Firrito off and is now running Thompson around.  He kicks his fifth.  We are missing Grima’s strength and athleticism.  West takes a screamer and kicks truly to the delight of the faithful.

The margin is 45 points at three-quarter time; another ten goal thumping threatens.

Perhaps with their minds on next week’s match against Hawthorn, Geelong relax after kicking the first two goals of the last term.  McIntosh, quiet all day against Blake, takes his first mark and kicks his first goal for the day.  Hansen battles on and kicks his fourth.  He has had a good match on Lonergan and continues to impress.

The 35 point final margin flatters North.  The first three quarters demonstrated that despite genuine improvement this season, we are still a long way behind the top teams.  Further development and experience in our young team will close this gap.  If they believe.

Geelong 5.3    8.4    12.9    14.14 (98)
North Melbourne 2.2    4.5      5.6       9.9   (63)

GOALS

Geelong: Podsiadly 5; Byrnes, Duncan 2; Bartel, Varcoe, West, Mackie, Ablett.
North Melbourne: Hansen 4; Warren, Goldstein, Wells, McIntosh, Thomas.

BEST

Geelong: Chapman, Podsiadly, Kelly, Ablett, Enright, Corey.
North Melbourne: Hansen, Wells, Rawlings, Goldstein.

Official crowd: 25,159 at Skilled Stadium

The Jason Daniltchenko Award

3 – Hansen
2 – Wells
1 – Rawlings

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Andrew,

    Given North’s strip, I was hoping to see Diego Armando Maradona hugging himself and gesticulating in the interchange area.

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