Starting to play like they want it

I took the night off work to go to Friday night footy at the G. Friday being our busiest day/night at the pub and Geelong playing an unfortunate number of Friday night matches this year I’m having to prioritise which games I go to. Grand Final replay was a no-brainer. Thriller. Guaranteed… the first half had me calculating how much money I’d lost by not working. The last quarter made it worth it.

The game reminded me of the first match against Collingwood last year, only in reverse. Collingwood controlled the game for most of the night but couldn’t kick straight and put it away, Cats come storming home and nearly pinch it but for a “contentious” umpiring decision. (The 50 was there. I was screaming, but it was there.) The one that really bugged me was the lack of review on Chapman’s shot at goal, ruled touched on the line, when we’d waited five minutes for the umpires to review whether Hawkins had kicked a behind or put it out on the full earlier in the game. But enough about the umpires.

Let’s talk about the Cats. My Cats. The reigning premiers. The Greatest Team of All. The unstoppable force that has been nigh on untouchable (certainly to those teams outside of the four) for five years. The competition has evened out. Fine. Good, even. It had to happen. The gap between the top four and the rest was ridiculous and had to be bridged. But every year since we lost the unlosable flag the critics have lined up to tell us that Geelong are done, that they haven’t got it, that the dynasty is over. And every year the Cats have made fools of them all. They went blow for blow with a brilliant Saints side in ’09. They were (arguably) the second best side of ’10, speaking of contentious umpiring decisions… And they were the only team to beat the Collingwood powerhouse last year. Three times. So having won the flag I could only come to the new season expecting more of the same.

4 and 4. The improvement of the league as a whole is great. But that’s not why we’re losing. Something’s going on down at Geelong. They don’t look like the Cats. They’re not playing like the Cats (Selwood, Bartel and a couple others excepted). Sloppy ball use, shocking decision making, turn overs and temper snaps. I was at the North game. I put it down to an anomaly. A bad day. A valuable experience that would spur them to pick their game up. We snuck home against Richmond. We dominated Brisbane and Melbourne. And then we hit Adelaide, who, in fairness, look nigh on unstoppable at the minute. And they showed us how far we’ve really fallen.

I was hoping the thrashing Adelaide gave us would provide another spur. The North game obviously hadn’t quite done the trick. First quarter we managed to stay in touch. Second quarter I started getting angry. We weren’t out of touch on the scoreboard, but we didn’t look like any kind of chance. Then came the third. And they started to play like they wanted the pill. Johnson, who had been erratic all night, made a mess coming off the back 50. Sure I was about to see Collingwood slot another turnover goal right under my nose, I started swearing. Then Johnno dived back in amid three Pies and somehow held the ball up long enough for help to arrive. Around the ground we started hitting the contest. Hard. And we were coming out with the ball.

The fourth was all us. We won the contests. We locked the ball in our 50 and we peppered the goals. The main problem being we could neither kick straight nor take a mark. We drew level, one behind at a time. Jimmy missed one, ever a thermometer for our chances; if Jimmy can’t kick ‘em we’re stuffed. Then Dawes got one at the other end and Dad and I looked at each other shaking our heads. “You know you’re in trouble when Dawes kicks one.” The ball bounced off Hawkins’ chest in the goal square. Chappy looked to have put one home only for the goal umpire to rule it touched (and become the source of much abuse raining down from Q deck). And Pendelbury. I’ve never felt such a mix of admiration and hatred all at once. So the Pies held out and won a game they deserved to win. And I’m OK with the loss, because we finally look like we want it.

Comments

  1. Zac – nice summary of events. But never be happy about a loss. Never be OK with it. Accept it but never be happy.

    It was a tough hard contest. If Geelong had won it would have been a genuine pinch. But at least we gave the Pies plenty to think about. There is always next week.

    This may not be our year but some good young players are learning valuable leasons.

  2. Phantom says:

    I’m not sure if our new game plan is a positive Zac.

    This ‘turn the ball over at times when it hurts you most’ and ‘kick as many points as you can from easy shots’ strategy may need a review.

    Fear not. We will still cause a bit of grief to ‘wannabes’ as the season goes on.

    I am actually finding our current situation as relatively stress free after an intense few years. I slept well on Friday night.

  3. Dave Nadel says:

    I bet I slept better, Phanto. Swan and Reid on the sidelines injured, Geelong coming home with the momentum of a runaway train and the Pies still saved the game. That’s a pretty good way to end a Friday night!

  4. Mark Doyle says:

    Another enjoyable night at the ‘G. This game was another good contest between two good teams. Geelong and Collingwood have had a pretty good rivalry over the past five or six years. Pendlebury’s exceptional skill and decision making plus his four goals were the difference in a close game; his football is a joy to watch. Selwood, Corey and Kelly all had good games and matched Collingwood in hard ball gets. Stokes and Enright also had good games. Duncan continues to improve. Guthrie shows potential. T. Hunt is developing as a tagger.
    The Cats are having a reasonable year especially without Varcoe, Menzel and Vardy plus inexperienced ruckmen.

  5. Phantom says:

    No problem with that MD.

  6. Dips, I was far from happy about it. But we got back into the game and played some real footy, so I can deal with it.
    Skills definitely a big issue, Phantom. Have now seen Duncan and West handball into the back of a team mates head, in the freaking back line! Decision making, ie. Harry Taylor (who in fairness was brilliant on Friday) trying to handball off the ground past a Collingwood player when he’d taken a mark and should have just stood up and played on from there… there are no words.
    Got to back it up next week against the Dogs.

  7. pamela sherpa says:

    Zac- what I found interesting about watching Geelong was they didn’t seem to have the ‘connection’ with each other that they’ve had in the past . The players looked like they were at Auskick-just throwing the ball onto their boots and hoping

  8. Reckon there’s a bit of wishful thinking going on. From both ends of the Melbourne Road. To add my two bob’s worth, the “Big O” looked to be finding his feet. It’s not before time.

  9. There’s obviously been more disruption caused by the departures than we expected/hoped for. Pam, I agree, I don’t know whom they’re kicking too and I’m not sure they do either. Dad says “we play on at all costs, that’s what we do”. I say hand balling off the ground in your back 50 when you have to put the ball past your opponent is just plain stupid.
    Belly, wishful thinking may be all we have when we’re witnessing such a massive shift in the balance of the league and two sides who’ve outright dominated are struggling to stay in the 8. Let us have it. We’ll adjust.

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