AFL Finals — Week 1: If you think Cats are under more pressure than Dogs, you’re kidding yourself

I was sitting at a family dinner on Sunday night, enjoying the lamb shanks but wondering who the Cats would play next week.
I had no preference between the Pies and the Bulldogs – if you’re going to go all the way then you have to beat whoever fronts up – and the last update I received was via the car radio when Gerard Whateley said the Pies had kicked the first four in the third quarter.
Even if the Bulldogs hit back I can’t see them getting 22 points in front, I thought, while exchanging pleasantries at our hosts’ front door.
Neither the TV nor the radio were playing so it wasn’t until the perfect winter’s meal had finished that polite conversation was interrupted by my phone.
I checked the text message: So, we meet again.
It was from the Bultman – my only Bulldogs friend. I was unaware of the excitement of the final quarter but I knew the Dogs had done enough.
I thought I didn’t care who we played in the first week but as soon as I read that text my heart started to race. The teams had played two cracking games this year and I had attended both with Bultman, a connoisseur of the game and a passionate club member.
The feeling of excitement that a cracking final lay ahead was further heightened later that night when I learnt it would be played at the ‘G on Saturday afternoon and not at night as The Sunday Age had told me. There is a god and clearly he loves our great game.
This game will certainly go down to the wire as both home and away matches did this year.
The Cats played some of their worst football in the Friday night match a fortnight ago and I had written them off at half-time. It was after the Dogs kicked the first goal of the third quarter that I told Bultman they had the match in the bag.
You can’t write these Cats off, I was informed. I was given the same message by my Navy Blue in-laws in Round 19. The entire Carlton crowd that night were so terrified that the Cats would hit back that they did not show any hubris during the game and were exhausted after it – content to trudge back to their cars with nary a provocative word.
The Cats did hit back against the Dogs, taking the lead by three-quarter time, but mistakes at crucial times cost them in the end. Mind you, the Dogs kicked six posters in the first half so the old swings and roundabouts phrase came to mind.
The Dogs and their supporters are snarling now. And they appear confident. Footscray? Confident? What’s going on?
I received an email from Bultman an hour ago and he’s torn. I doubt he’s the only Doggies fan to feel this way – brimming with confidence and yet claiming underdog status.
There’s more pressure on your mob, he tells me. He even did a straw poll in the office and his verdict received unanimous support.
How so?
“Nobody thinks we are good enough to win it so the expectation is very low. Geelong on the other hand has been the dominant side for the past few years and should have won more than the one flag you have so far.”
And there’s the rub. Apparently there is more pressure on a club that won a flag two years ago than the club that won its solitary flag in 1954. That’s 55 years ago.
Apparently, if the Cats don’t win this year then the last three years have been a wasted opportunity. The same players that broke Geelong’s 44-year premiership drought should be burdened with the expectation that one flag isn’t good enough.
This argument has been repeated ad nauseum this year by Robert Walls. The Bultman is happy to side with the former (one-time) Carlton premiership coach who contradicts himself in successive weeks on at least one issue.
The Almanac’s own Cameron Noakes described it brilliantly in one of his Mongrel Punter columns when he acted as an agony aunt to Stray Cat Blues of Ocean Grove.
Essentially, Stray Cat opined that Geelong seem to suffer in the good times as well as the bad. Even though the Cats broke their premiership drought, it’s still not considered good enough as they strung together 58 wins from 65 wins and should have won two.
Dr Mongrel told him to get over their Grand Final loss and enjoy the flag they won – as Sydney did. It was sage advice.
I enjoyed watching the boys win the flag in 2007 and who knows, we may even win it this year, even the next. Hawthorn showed us last year that anything can happen and that has made this year’s finals series so exciting. Supporters from the top five teams believe they are genuine chances to see their captain hold the premiership cup on the victory dais.
And Bultman, if you think the Cats are under more pressure than your beloved Bulldogs then you’re kidding yourself.
Bring on Saturday.

About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety


  1. Stephen – very appropriate. I’m already tired of the Cats being labeled under achievers especially when we haven’t even lost this year’s flag yet !!

    The Cats were the best side in 2007 and won, were the best side in 2008 and lost – 1 out of 2 isn’t horrible is it? No one can suggest that the Cats have been the best side of 2009, so why all this crap about under achieving? Remarkable.

    Robert Walls always comes out with inane comments – that seems to be his job, so pay him no regard.

    Yes I think the real under achievers – Saints, Dogs, Pies will be feeling the pressure very keenly.

  2. Stephen Cooke says

    From The Bultman himself:

    Can’t believe you’re using the fragile state of mind of ex Carlton coaches to justify your argument – some people can’t help their lot in life so we shouldn’t pick on them.
    It all smacks of desparation to me…………

  3. During the third quarter of the 2008 Grand Final, I got angry towards the Cats (especially Cameron Mooney, who temperamentally is a liability) because they were throwing away the game and the chance to win successive premierships. This would qualify them, in my mind and I think the minds of others, as a great team.

    To me, the Cats of 2007 rescued footy. The attritional stuff of Sydney, West Coast and Adelaide in the mid-2000s had threatened to drive me from the game. (Don’t start me about Danny Frawley’s Richmond sides, who were so stodgy it was as if they trained on shepherd’s pie). The Cats brought it back for me. I REALLY wanted them to be considered a great team. I wanted them to win two premierships and receive their dues alongside Brisbane of recent years, Hawthorn of the late 80s, Carlton of the early 80s, Richmond of the early 70s, etc.

    The Cats threw it away. I think Cats fans are in denial if they’re not a little upset with them losing the 2008 Grand Final. They underachieved.

    Now about Spud’s Richmond teams …

  4. Stephen Cooke says

    We blew that game Daff, there’s no denying that. And when Hawthorn kicked ahead thanks to Dew, far too many Geelong players looked to their teammates to do something. That really ticked me off. We still have too many downhill skiers and the real test of this team is to knuckle down and respond when we’re down. We did that against Hawthorn as well as the Bulldogs and St Kilda(despite getting beaten) this year. Let’s see what happens this month.

    And maybe I am in denial, but I still think they’re a great team.

  5. Cookey,

    I reckon they’re a wonderful team. They just need that second flag to be recognised as they should be.

    Their fight in recent months has been magnificent. Other teams know the Cats are never beaten.

    Selwood especially knuckles down when he’s needed. Is Corey Enright a lesser but valuable light in this regard?

  6. Wholeheartedly agree with your comments about stodgy, attritional footy Daff.

    One thing in the Cats favour this year is that they have had to find new ways to win. They have scrapped their way to some impressive victories, despite lulls in form, injuries etc. This will stand then in good stead in September.

    I am not writing them off.

    Bulldogs and Cats this weekend could be a classic.

  7. HB,

    Agree re- Cats finding new ways to win. Could well stand them in good stead.

    I read an interesting comment from Shane Crawford (of all people) in the Herald Sun this week in which he said that Cats had been aiming for the first week of the finals series for a long time. The lead-up has has just been practice.

    I am in two minds. There’s no form like winning form, as per the Bulldogs. And it’s a different game in September, which is the way the Cats have gone.

    I just don’t believe the Bulldogs can win a flag, or even get to the Grand Final, with their forward set-up (this is something Rocket Eade should have copped some stick for after five years). I’m tipping the Cats but I’m not confident.

    As you say, should be a classic.

  8. Daff – allright I’ll admit it. Geelong not winning in 2008 cuts me like a very very very very sharp knife. Especially as Hawthorn has since proven itself to have the mental toughness of a cheesecake.

    Can we win this year? Yes. But I agree that winning form is the best form, making the cats look a bit dodgy. This Saturday’s game against the Dogs will tell us a lot.

  9. Andrew Fithall says

    Dips – just to pick on your metaphor (and you can pick on me if metaphor is not the correct word), if it was a very (four times) sharp knife, then the cut would have been clean and at first, you probably wouldn’t have even known you were cut. I reckon that last year’s grand final would have felt like it was inflicted by a very (how ever many times you like) blunt knife. Every pass of the knife would been felt. And each pass would have probably carved its own path. The final result would have been a gaping wound, that even when it has supposedly healed, a very visible scar remains. As a Collingwood supporter, I am very wise in such matters.

  10. Andrew – so you’ve picked up my nervous twitch then?

    Blunt knife indeed !

  11. I know it’s been suggested that Brian Lake could be switched up forward if goals dry up, however, I feel that Ryan Hargrave could be used as a tall target. And he’s an accurate kick at the goals. Lake’s too important down back to be moved.

  12. Just to follow up….a certain bloke by the name of Darren Jarman comes to mind as a small full forward in a winning grand final. The dogs don’t have Jarman but they do have Johnson and Akermanis.

  13. Stephen Cooke says

    I’m with you Luke, I don’t buy this Bulldogs don’t have a forward line so can’t win theory. We had two talls in Mooney and Lonergan in last year’s GF as well as Brad Ottens and look where that got us. BRING IT ON!

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