Harms: Cats crush cockroach with sleight of hand and weight of boot

SATURDAY night and I’m at the Punt Road end of the MCG. Behind glass. Thanks to a kind invitation from Bruce Houston and the Tatts Group who are obviously working their way through the share register.

My portfolio is made up exclusively of Tatts shares, 231 from memory, a wedding gift from Bimbo Read and E. L. Smythe who thought I should fill the punting black hole by having some of the company’s profits returned to me. If only Wally Beaver were listed.

I am enjoying an ale or two, waiting for the showers to pass (go Jimmy Bartel). Chatting away. When I realise I’ve probably put too much butter chicken on my plate. Justice Elizabeth Curtain, Bruce’s (much) better half, brings down no judgment.

Other reprobates join us and I can see her worship looking at Steve Moran as if she’s seen him before.

Although he has committed few crimes, the only one really in recent times has been to take on L. Longden as a lodger in his North Melbourne pad. (Apart from being a Richmond supporter.)

I have an excuse. I am nervous. The black-and-white cockroach has scurried on to the ground, running in that guilty way cockroaches tend to when you turn the light on. Look at Didak. Look at Thomas. How can a man as distinguished as Presti possibly play for this team?

The Cats look superior on paper, so good man-on-man, so good in the ruck, so good with Johnno back, just so good. But it’s a final and I keep thinking of the ’07 prelim, and that shocking Friday night last year, and then the first quarter-and-a-half of the round-three clash. Every time we play … the Pies jump us, and we look like we’re not going to recover.

The ‘roach jumps us.

Blake wins the early ruck contests but the Pies swarm and in just a few minutes it’s 2.2 to nothing and the boisterous excitement of beered expectation disappears. I am feeling rather subdued but Bruce, who has clearly backed the Cats, retains the clinical mind of the scientific punter. He is convinced the Cats will win by 10 goals.

Thank God for Otto, who kicks a steadier, and Shannon Byrnes, who bananas from the pocket below for another. The game settles down and Geelong plays the better footy.

It’s back to that play-on, direct style with the runners heading straight at the goals.

It’s all built on a foundation of terrific match-ups. Linga on Swan especially.

Scarlett is just too good for Jack Anthony. The rotating half-backs on Didak and Davis. And Chappy, who is so reliable. (He makes me want to ring home, which I do, at quarter-time).

The Cats almost have the chocolates by the final minutes of the second quarter.

When the Collingwood beast stirs, the Cats go wobbly. Scarlett’s pinged for holding the ball: goal to Lockyer. And some ridiculous back-pocket disaster results in four Geelong players looking at each other while Didak bangs through another. Pies fans have come to life and, in the dying seconds, had Cloke’s snap gone through, it would have been like the day the baby bonus was announced.

Then the Cats put it together. After the break they surge. Magnificently. And produce a few minutes of footy like they did in the second quarter of the ’07 grand final. Where attack starts from deep in defence with players running brilliant angles off half-back, hand-balling to teammates on the fly, who look up to see options everywhere. Johnno just telling everyone where to go and kicking a few himself. And reading the game so enigmatically he can put Cam Mooney 15 metres in the clear by the force of sheer bamboozlement.

There are a couple of telling moments. One, where Linga works to the front of Swan and takes a chest mark. Swan’s tattoo melts like a Dali painting. He is defeated. As is his team. And another where Swan throws Ling to the ground in frustration.

The Pies fans get cranky. When one of theirs grabs his calf a bloke yells, “How can you have cramp, you fool?” And crankier, “Enjoy your retirement, Michael Outhouse.”

The Cats fans give up cheering and start applauding, especially when Gary Ablett has the footy. What a game he has had.

What a game his coach has had. Tactically brilliant.

And he has his boys ready for the weekend.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf’s Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV’s Offsiders.

He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au

He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids – Theo9, Anna8, Evie6.

He might not be the worst putter in the world but he’s in the worst three.

His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. JTH – Cats playing straight ahead, direct for the goal football. Very good observation. Shades of 2007?

    It was an enjoyable evening (especially the second half). I hope we play the same way this Saturday.

    One bloke who didn’t get due recognition in the win over the Pies was James Kelly – thought he was magnificent.

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