Ablett on Fire in Milestone Match

by Julian Morison

The ‘milestone game’ effect is much debated – are there benefits or otherwise for the player and team involved? Regardless of the actual impact, it invariably adds conviction to the expectations of a winning team and offers a thread of hope to a struggling combination. Before heading to Footy Park, I watched the Adelaide Lutheran Football Club, a Div 4 amateurs team, give New Haven (formerly the Port Presbyterians) a 100 point thumping. This rematch of the Lutheran’s very first game was the focal point of the Club’s 40th anniversary weekend. On the drive down Port Road and West Lakes Boulevard I wondered how significant the anniversary, the milestone factor, had been in the Lutheran’s win.

Graeme Johncock, the skilful and creative Crow defender, and Gary Ablett jnr the Cats superstar on-baller were the night’s milestone players, both celebrating their 150th senior match. As well, Crow coach Neil Craig broke the club coaching record of 107 games held by erstwhile palm thumper Gary Ayers.

Much like scoring 150 runs in cricket, 150 games is worthy of a good round of applause, not a standing ovation. But why is that? Simply our fondness for big fat round numbers or a legacy of our base 10 counting system, a system so ingrained we rarely give it any regard? A base 15 counting system would have had Johncock and Ablett playing their “100”th games (10 times the base) and there would surely have been a bigger hullaballoo all round. Conversely, in the days of the Babylonian base 60, the system that gave us 60 seconds in the minute and 60 minutes in the hour, it would’ve been just their “25”th run around the park (2.5 times the base) and no milestone at all.

Banners acknowledging the milestones were soon forgotten as the Cats skipped away to a three-goal lead midway through the first term. Both teams were playing a similar style of game: a zone defence when without the ball but, when in possession and taking the ball out of defence, both teams were consistently looking to move the ball quickly through the centre to breakdown the fast shaping zone at the other end. The teams shared possession through the quarter but better execution had the Cats leading by 11 at the first change. Johncock was busy although had his hands full with Varcoe and was unable to provide his characteristic run from defence. Ablett was on fire; two goals for the quarter, one of which was a set shot from the boundary which he took on his non-preferred left foot. His appetite for the ball was obvious even to the Crow-focused locals.

The second quarter was similar to the first but even more pronounced in the unbalanced flow of goals. The Cats had complete control over the first dozen or so minutes, slamming on five goals straight to lead, at one stage, by 42 points. Ablett had his third goal early in the quarter, a magnificent long-range right-footer from the right forward flank boundary. A couple of midfield turnovers by the Cats, strong marks and goals to Tippet and young MacKay had the Crows surging late in the quarter. By half time the margin was back to 18 points, still in favour of the Cats but the momentum was strongly with the home team.

Third quarter was a goal-for-goal affair. Repeatedly Ablett was getting the hard ball and making yards before dishing off, usually by hand. Bartel had come into the game after a quiet first half and Corey and Selwood were getting good service from big Blake. The Crows were not getting the ball at contests but were forcing turnovers in general play. Goodwin was winning plenty of the loose ball and Porplyzia was matching it with Scarlett and providing a target up front. The Crows are a disciplined, well motivated team and Neil Craig was having a very good milestone game. A running, crowd lifting goal by Tyson Edwards late in the quarter from a quick but rare centre square take away had the Crow faithful in full voice and sensing an upset.

However the real difference between the two teams became apparent less than 20 seconds into the final term: another Blake ruck knockout to Bartel and then by hand to Selwood for a seemingly simple goal. With Ablett still winning possessions all over the ground, the Cats were tackling, running and diving on the ball with the same fierce desperation they showed in the first quarter. The bigger, older and more skilful Cats had pummelled, squeezed and eventually strangled the young Crows to take the game by eight goals. Johncock was serviceable, Neil Craig had wrung the most from his charges but the milestone man of the match was clearly, and forget the junior appellation, Gary Ablett.


Adelaide 3.2 7.2 11.6 13.8 (86)

Geelong 5.1 10.2 14.5 21.8 (134)

Goals – Adelaide: Jason Porplyzia 3, David Mackay 2, Patrick Dangerfield 2, Taylor Walker 2, Scott Thompson, Kurt Tippett, Jared Petrenko, Tyson Edwards. Geelong: Gary Ablett 3, Steve Johnson 3, Travis Varcoe 3, Cameron Mooney 2, Mathew Stokes 2, Max Rooke 2, Andrew Mackie, Mark Blake, Shannon Byrnes, Joel Selwood, Paul Chapman, Shane Mumford.

Best – Adelaide: Goodwin, Edwards, Porplysia, Thompson. Geelong: Ablett, Corey, Selwood, Enright, Blake, Bartell, Ling.

Umpires: Ryan, Schmitt, Meredith Crowd: 40, 418 at AAMI Stadium

Malarkey votes: Ablett (Geelong) 3, Corey (Geelong) 2, Selwood (Geelong) 1.

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