You’d take magic over grind

I love a deft tap on the footy field, as much as I love a good footy brain. You can’t have one without the other. Tom Hawkins, he loves the deft tap. Whenever he flicks his wrist to guide the footy to a teammate in the clear, I press rewind on the foxtel control. Look what he’s done there, put it to a bloke in space, certain goal, mark it down to young Tom. I’ve always loved watching Carey and Brown take those big grabs over a congested pack, clutching the ball to their chest and bringing it down safe from harm. I like watching Hawkins emulate them. I don’t always look for the remote when he does it though. He’s a good mark, Hawkins, but his ability to take a grab is second to his footy brain.

There are two exceptional footy brains running around in the blue and white hoops at the moment – Hawkins and Steve Johnson. Both were critical in Geelong’s victory over Footscray on Friday night. The Dogs got to within three points late in the game and would have hit the lead if Jones, Roughead and Skinner could kick straight. They didn’t, so Geelong’s uncertain season continued with a win.

Both teams are in transition – the Cats from a settled team full of experienced players to a team with ageing superstars and untried kids; the Bulldogs from a coach with one game plan to a coach with another. More of the Dogs worked harder on the night, but they didn’t have a commanding forward like Hawkins and they didn’t have the sublime skills of a Motlop. When it went forward, the Cats could capitalise on a half chance, the Dogs couldn’t.

I like Hawkins on the lead – I don’t like his penchant for toe poking goals off the ground from the goal square. He has a massive torso yet dances on his toes waiting for the ball to spill from a pack –like a ballerina carrying a safe. I guess you have to resort to that when your heart rate reaches dizzying heights every time you line up for goal, otherwise you’d pass out by half time.

Both forward lines had to work hard. There were no easy pickings. Brian Lake dominated at one end, Andrew Mackie (to my pleasant surprise) at the other. Four players wrestled in a pack in a bid to wrest prime position in the first quarter, Lake jumped from behind to fist the ball away from them all. The result was never in doubt. Minutes later, Hawkins was a split second from completing a chest mark when Lake worked his fist to it and knocked it from the safety of his opponent’s arms. While Hawkins wondered what happened, Lake was running with the ball from defence.

Mackie has turned into the leader of that defence in Scarlett’s absence. His confidence matched Lake’s on the night and his young teammates gain confidence with someone that sure and daring beside them.

Stringer on debut for the Cats showed pace and used the ball well. He sold a classic dummy to Robert Murphy of all people – giving him a real good look at it before tucking it under his arm and showing some toe. He gave the handball to Johnson early in the game. I can easily imagine Johnson being the first to sidle up to the new blokes once they’ve been picked: “Now, first game, don’t be nervous, just look for me and I’ll help you out.”

Johnson was superb on the night. A month ago he was playing for free kicks against Melbourne on his home turf. Melbourne! I worried then. Not now. He worked as hard on Friday as I’ve seen – covering all points of the ground and bringing players into the game with his exquisite skill. He puts the ball into space for his teammates to run into. He knows where they should be, even if they don’t.

Geelong’s transitional pains showed on Friday night. Johnson sweetly kicked the ball to Taylor Hunt – on his own but with three Dogs closing fast. He dropped it and the ball was swept away. Last year, a senior Cat would have marked that ball and converted. Not now. Young Hunt dropped another easy one shortly after in defence, enabling Giansiracusa to kick a goal. I’m not sure Hunt has what it takes but I’m writing for the Almanac so I don’t have to declare it NOW! If it was the Herald Sun, I’d have had him hanged, drawn and quartered by now. I remember when Enright used to spray the ball regularly. The Cats gave him time too.

 

Gia, sporting the salt and pepper that makes him look like the Andrew Gaze of football, worked hard in the forward line to keep the Dogs close on the scoreboard in the first quarter. Motlop stretched the lead at the other end – one goal comes from 50m (and after two baulks if you don’t mind). It’s very enjoyable watching genuine class – even more so when packaged in No. 32.

Chapman continued his form from last week’s game against the Pies. He worked hard to run himself into form last week. Chapman was very good on the night but his days of dominance seem over. His face revealed that – he’s frustrated that his body won’t do what his mind is telling it.

The lead gets out to four goals in the second quarter but the Dogs then kick goals against the run of play. They fashion them from set plays based on stoppages in their forward 50. Leigh Matthews calls them “scungy” goals – what a terrible word. A late goal to Gia with 6 seconds left and there’s two goals the difference at half time.

The Dogs close to within a point minutes into the third quarter until Chapman kicks two goals in 90 seconds – the first from a clever handball by Hawkins over his head (straight from the Johnson handbook) and the second a strong overhead mark in the goal square. It’s time to make Chapman that permanent forward, he could hold that position until Ablett comes back in 2016.

Some action from the Footscray forwards in the third quarter and the team looks more dangerous. Unfortunately for the red, white and blue, Roughead and Jones both miss easy chances. The difference is ten points at the last break and young Roughy misses a shot from 30 metres out early in the last. It’s a sign of things to come.

The Geelong midfield has no penetration or run. Bartel and Selwood are quiet and nobody steps up. We miss Varcoe, and a little bit of Wojo toe. Guthrie and Hunt play similar roles so there’s a lack of variety and magic in the Cats midfield. It resembled Footscray’s on the night. This makes Stevie J even more important.

Roughy misses again from the boundary before Hawkins gathers at speed and converts from a left foot snap. Motlop follows to put the Cats 21 points ahead. The Dogs roll the dice. Gia and Higgins kick goals before Zephaniar Skinner – he of the 12-inch rat tail that will no doubt end up on the turf before the season is out – kicks a 60 metre goal (30 metres up, 30 metres down) that miraculously passes the goal umpire’s hat.

3 points in it – guess who stands up for the Cats. Bartel and Corey labour to get the ball forward and Motlop adds the polish to goal. Pods then gets his first thanks to Hawkins. Jones and Skinner both hit the post for the Bulldogs as another roll of the dice ends in the red. Cats win. Geelong relied on magic to get them over the line but it’s great to watch. You’d take magic over grind. I agree with Dennis Cometti: Geelong – they’re lazy but good.

About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety

Comments

  1. Cat’s not overly impressive but their class prevailed. Lake and Hawkins was a good duel, both were in their sides best. Lake had the better of the duel early on, but Hawkins second half helped Geelong come home. I noticed in some of the print media Stevie J didn’t get BOG, unsure which game, these reporters attended.

    Glen!

  2. Lord Bogan says:

    Cookie, I watched the game and what struck me was the loss of that split second in reflexes in players like the Corey’s and Chappy. Enjoyed seeing Stevie J get a run in the midfield. I reckon his creativity suits the Cats there at the moment. Nice piece.

  3. Stephen Cooke says:

    LB, It doesn’t take much to come off the pace, it would seem.

  4. Great post Cookie!

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