AFL Finals — Week 1: Cats steady to keep Dogs at bay

I woke up on Saturday morning, eagerly awaiting the game between the Cats and the Dogs, for the second time in two weeks. At one o’clock I turned it on the VFL, Casey Scorpions v Collingwood. The Scorpions came out and got thumped; they were down 0-21 when I turned it off to watch a replay of the Rising Star award. It was good, especially the story on Liam Jurrah, about adapting to the city lifestyle.

After a great lunch of party pies, homemade pizza, cupcakes and lollies (it was my younger sister’s birthday party) the game was starting. Max Rooke is a late out for the Cats and the young-and-rising Simon Hogan is replacing him. I couldn’t wait for the game to start.

The Dogs win the toss and start the game in style. Hudson marks in the 50 and kicks the first of the game. The crowd roars. Just when I thought the Dogs were on, the Cats took over. Chapman kicks a couple of behinds before Taylor gets a 50 and kicks Geelong’s first of the game against the Bulldogs for the second time in a row. The Cats roll on, Mackie kicks a long goal and Ablett draws Mooney who marks and gets the monkey off his back with a straight kick through the middle. The crowd moans at the bad bouncing of the ball in the middle, by the experienced Hayden Kennedy. Maybe his old age is taking over now. I look at the Cats move the ball quickly and so smoothly around the ground (which reminded me of the 2007 Grand Final) and Stokes gets on the end of one and kicks a goal. Just as the Cats look like they could produce a thumping, Welsh marks and kicks one through from a hard angle. Mooney replies, marking and threading through his second. Bartel tackles ferociously. Ball! The Brownlow medalist lines up and kicks his 10th for the year. The siren sounds and it’s the Cats easily, 6.5 41 to 2.1 13. Enright has a phenomenal 17 touches off half back and Milburn 11. Gilbee and Cooney have eight each for the Dogs.

The second quarter starts in frantic pace. Chapman’s too strong for Hargrave and kicks a goal. The Geelong runner gives Higgins a 50 and the young Bulldog kicks it through to give his team a sniff.  It turns into an interesting contest. The Dogs are doing their best to hold Geelong but they can’t score, because of Harley, Enright, Milburn, Scarlett and Taylor all rebounding from defence. Hill finally marks for the Dogs and squeezes one through. Half time comes and the Dogs are still trailing by 20 after a very low scoring quarter (7.5 47 to 4.3 27) but I have a feeling that the Dogs did well and are still in it. Enright has 23 touches, Milburn 19 while Gilbee has 19 and Cooney 15 for the red, white and blue. I take out an orange from the fruit bowl and try and eat it without making my score sheet wet.

The second half begins, and Higgins pin-points a pass to Aker who caresses one through. Akermanis strikes again and it’s only nine points, all of a sudden. The Cats strike back, Ling kicks a great goal from where the 50 intercepts with the boundary line (near the practice wicket area) and Ottens marks and kicks a goal which gets the crowd going. The game keeps getter better and faster. Hawkins hand passes to Bartel who kicks his second. The Dogs drive forward and Johnson just manages to squeeze a kick through for a goal. Akermanis kicks another to reel the margin back to 17. Ling kicks long and Stokes marks and drives home his second. Bartel gets an equal career high third from 50. Chapman marks on the paint and goes bang! Another goal for the back-in-form Geelong. The siren sounds immediately afterwards and at three quarter time, it’s Geelong easily by 35. 13.9 87 to 8.4 52. Enright has 29 touches and Ablett 23 for Geelong, Gilbee has an impressive 29 for the Dogs and Cooney 22.

I’m hoping that the Dogs win, but it doesn’t look likely that they’ll get the week off when the last quarter starts. But all of a sudden, Griffen gets a goal and Mackie makes an uncharacteristic mistake which gives Johnson a good goal from 50. The Cats steady, Enright marks a kick-in and gets it back and snaps a high goal, capping off a great game. Gilbee marks on his knees and slams one through from 40 out directly in front. The Cats are being strangled, they’re trying to wind down the clock but to no avail. The Dogs have their chances. Cooney and Johnson both miss similar set shots, but Higgins doesn’t make the same mistake. The Dogs are somehow only 13 points down. And there’s plenty of time left. I’m now barracking for a draw, but the Cats find loose men and play kick-to-kick. The siren sounds and the Cats are 14-point victors, 14.12 96 to 12.10 82.

Enright finishes with 35 touches (and best on ground), Ablett starred with 31 and a great mark, while Gilbee (whose game I was impressed with) had 35 and Boyd 29 for the Dogs. For the second time in three weeks, Geelong score 14.12 96 against the Bulldogs. This time, it was a 14-point win, not a 14-point loss. The Cats scored 11.9 at the City end and only 2.3 at the Punt Rd end. It was a good crowd of 74,007, considering last year’s preliminary final between the two sides only attracted 70,140. The Dogs are still a good chance at the flag, and for the second year in a row they play a Friday night semi-final at the MCG.

Geelong  6.5  7.5  13.9  14.12 (96)
Western Bulldogs 2.1 4.3 8.4  12.10 (82)

Geelong: Bartel 3, Chapman 2, Stokes 2, Mooney 2, Ling, Ottens, Enright, Taylor, Mackie.
Western Bulldogs: Akermanis 3, Johnson 2, Higgins 2, Welsh, Hill, Hudson, Gilbee, Griffen.

Geelong: Enright, Ablett, Ling, Scarlett, Milburn, Bartel, Wojcinski, Taylor, Chapman.
Western Bulldogs: Gilbee, Boyd, Cooney, Eagleton, Cross, Akermanis, Higgins.

My Votes: 3. Corey Enright (Geel), 2. Gary Ablett (Geel), 1. Lindsay Gilbee (WB).

Umpires: Vozzo, Kennedy, Meredith.                    Crowd: 74,007 at the MCG.

About Steve Healy

Steve Healy is an entity of a Melbourne supporter.

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