Geelong makes its point loud and clear

So I hear there was a game on Friday night?

Myself, I’ve been stuck in Outer Uzbekistan all week; so I’ve only had to trawl through a dozen or so feature articles on the Big Game. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Try explaining Cameron Ling to an Uzbeck goat herder.

As far as blockbusters go, this one was more Godfather 3 than Star Wars. The reality was never likely to match the build up. For a large part of the first quarter, we could have done with some Indiana Jones spirit.

Dane Swan opened the goal scoring by winning a foot race with Lingy that wasn’t going to cost Usain Bolt any sleep. If any Magpie faithful were dreaming of a blitz like recent weeks, this was probably dispelled when Gazza found himself all alone on the end of a Blake tap and replied for the Cats.

Thereafter the game was stuck in a peculiar stalemate, caution ruling the day. Geelong, as is their custom, were trying to force the ball through the centre corridor by constant ball movement, and Collingwood were hell bent on thwarting them with their version of a full-court press. Players of both sides were staying off their opponents somewhat, with relatively few tackles being laid. Instead, errors seemed to be due to implied pressure, and the indecision caused by lack of a clear option.

The quarter time score line saw Geelong 1-3 to 1-2. It was no great spectacle.

The 2nd term began more promisingly, with Luke Ball gaining the opening clearance and Dane Beams running into goal. Stevie J then bounced a reply through on his left. But soon enough the pattern resumed.

Geelong were having slightly more success moving through the centre, but their kicks into half forward had little purpose. Collingwood were finding a regular outlet through Travis Cloke, although this didn’t seem to be causing his opponent, Harry Taylor, undue concern. Taylor seemed prepared to zone off and allow Cloke to win the ball up in the centre. Trav’s problems started when he wheeled around; there were few options to go to. He really needed to be on the end of his own kicks. Except, when pushed deeper, he met with no more success than his team mates.

The game was crying out for someone to take it by the scruff of the neck. Luke Ball’s decision not to shoot from 45 out, only to see the give-off intercepted, seemed all too apt. Finally, Pods split a pack, Byrnes knocked on cleverly and Mooney broke the deadlock. Blake then roved his own crumb, gave off to Brynes, who missed badly. However, the resultant kick-in was broken up for the Tomahawk to goal.

Selwood, Kelly and Bartel were busy, Mooney threatening, and the Cats seemed likely to enter the long break with a useful lead. But Didak pressured Hunt into handball error, resulting in a Beams soccer goal. Then a Pie kick out in the dying seconds ended with Beams, who bombed his 3rd from long range as the siren sounded.

At 4-7 to 4-2, both sides would have been pondering a way ahead.

Again the Pies scored first to reopen proceedings, with Pendlebury intercepting for Beams to score his 4th. Beams was to continue snapping at goal without further success, as Mackie was relieved of trying to match him up. An O’Bree goal saw the Pies 10 points clear, and they appeared to have the Cats hemmed in. But no killer blow was on offer.

Swan had a heavily strapped knee, but he succeeded in having Ling moved to Pendlebury through sheer persistence. This is not to say the Geelong skipper wasn’t having his own moments.

With the trend unpromising, up stepped Jimmy Bartel. Visibly lifting, he beat a couple of young Pies for a contested ball in the middle, and Varcoe goaled as a result. Bartel was now everywhere, and his team mates joined in. In a withering burst, Stokes, Mooney and Pods all scored. When Mooney goaled again, they suddenly led by 22, 9-12 to 6-8. If the Pies were shell-shocked, they had a right to be.

Looking for answers, Collingwood attacked in the final term, but only found frustration. Macaffer summed up their plight, winning a couple chances through committed effort, yet squandering them horribly. Beams had lost his goal touch, and no other solution offered. No Pie forward could find space in positions that mattered.

Having been pinned in defence for a sustained period, the Cats finally broke free. Mooney fortuitously came off the bench to find himself all alone, and Stokes made the lead four goals. One is tempted to enquire of Mr Harms what he thinks of interchanges now.

This seemed to take the remaining sting out of the Pies, and Geelong now indulged themselves in tempo footy. Unable to win possession, and losing heart, Collingwood went meekly to their fate, conceding another couple of goals to see the final margin a comfortable 36 points.

You couldn’t call this a classic Geelong performance, but in terms of making a point, it will certainly do for now. Collingwood was able to frustrate their ball movement for lengthy periods, but the experienced Cat defence was rarely shaken. When they needed it, Geelong had the players who could change the course of events.

The Magpies applied themselves diligently for much of the proceedings. They had a plan and they tried to follow it through. At times they looked like they might take control, and they will regret opportunities lost. But in truth, young Beams excepted, they lacked the spark to break the game open. That the Da(y)nes kicked 5 of 6 indicates there was too much Hamlet about their forward efforts.

A miserly 4 goals against the Saints, together with the 6 scored here, indicate that rebounds alone won’t suffice in the big games. You can’t see them throwing in the towel, and you would expect them to finish high on the ladder, but there appears to be a limit to where evenness can take you. If there are champions to be found in the Magpie group, they are yet to fully emerge.

This is not a problem facing the Cats. It is no accident this team has had such a golden period. Champion is a term thrown around like confetti at times nowadays, but Ablett, Bartel, Scarlett and Chapman have all earned the title. Selwood looks a good chance to join them. And it’s not like the supporting cast lacks for quality.

You can have your team systems and your rules and your plans- they all have a role to play. But at crucial moments in finals, it is individuals of special quality that usually decide matters. No zone can really factor in a toe poke.

This is the challenge facing those who seek to seize the Cats crown. 2008 showed that they’re not invincible, and there is a long season still ahead. But unless injury should rear its head, they are going to take some stopping.

Collingwood     1.2   4.2   6.8   6.14 (50)
Geelong   1.3   4.7   9.12   12.14 (86)

GOALS
Collingwood:
Beams 4, Swan, O’Bree
Geelong: Mooney 3, Stokes 3, Ablett, Hawkins, Johnson, Varcoe, Podsiadly, Wojcinski

Votes-  3- Bartel  2- Kelly  1- Mooney

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World’s Most Livable 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. Hooray.

    Good to see Bartel getting the three votes from you.

    I’d not have thought the difference between the 2 top teams at this level was 6 goals.

  2. John Butler says:

    Adelaide,

    I’m sure Jimmy’s had bigger accolades, but I think he deserved it.

    Are the Pies the 2nd best team? We’ll see.

  3. Callum O'Connor says:

    Excellent sardonic, dry wit.
    Well done.

  4. John Butler says:

    Thanks Callum

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