AFL Prelim Finals: Thoughts of Finland begin to drift in as Cats demolish Pies

It’s a heavily anticipated preliminary final, there’s a massive crowd at the MCG and they are making a massive amount of noise. I add my own as the popcorn cooks. Pendlebury is a late withdrawal and it’s no surprise really. Three weeks recovery for a broken leg is rather absurd.

From the first bounce, the Cats look like they’re playing their first game after a long off season, not a  week long break.  Johnson scores first (Ben not Steve to the bookies joy) and O’Brien adds a second, the crowd roars, Anthony Hudson seems to fall in with them, voice rising in crescendo each time Collingwood bring the ball in attacking 50.

Geelong are struggling to get it past centre and I am reminded of the Dogs early dominance last night and we all know how that ended. However, they recover quicker than St Kilda did and Ottens kicks truly from 45 on the angle to stem the Magpies attack. Byrnes snags one from the wrong side of the boundary line and Geelong have clicked into gear.

I flash back 12 months as Mooney marks . I’m instantly transported to my seat in q13. Half time in the Grand Final, Mooney runs in and I’m filled with dread. He sprays it, the Hawks have survived the Cats pressure and go on to win the premiership. As per last year he misses, I really don’t trust him kicking for goal. Strangely  it’s a quarter of 2 halves. The Pies had the first 7 inside 50’s, the Cats have the following 10 with Chapman snapping truly to give them the lead. Mooney misses again (no surprise there) and so does Ablett, twice. (Which is a big surprise).

The tide has completely turned and now it’s the Pies who can’t get it past centre. Collingwood attack late but without reward and the Cats take a 10 point lead into the break. Like the Dogs last night they’ve been very inaccurate.

The second quarter starts and the Pies don’t appear to be ready, much like me. Chapman goals after 12 seconds whilst I’m scrambling in the kitchen with the kettle. I make my way back to the couch as Enright turns it over, Swan marks on the angle but he misses. Tom Hawkins marks and goals and all of a sudden it’s a 20 point lead. Leigh Brown isolates the Cats defence and marks.  Running towards goal the defender holds him up, 50m and a goal. Seconds later the Pies finally get a clearance, Brown marks again but he rattles the post.

Ablett brings down O’Brien in the goal square but inexplicably the umpire gives Ablett the free, an undeserved goal to Ablett and O’Brien remonstrates with the umpire. “Don’t worry about it” he says. This seems crazy to me. A grand final is at stake and the game is in the balance. Of course he is going to worry about it.

Collingwood appear galvinised but cannot take advantage, they kick behind after behind before they get a square up from the umpire, and a goal is saved. It’s a short lived advantage though as Hawkins nails Maxwell inside 50 and kicks truely to extend the lead beyond 4 goals. An 8 metre kick is marked  by a Collingwood defender. Assuming it is play on he is tackled. 50m says the umpire and Tim Lane suggests that it’s a “shockingly inconsistent” decision . I wonder, will he be getting a nasty phone call during the week for daring to criticise the umpiring? Or has he found a way to sugarcoat it in such a manner that he can get away with it?

End to end football without a goal, but a late turnover sees Didak squeeze through a snap to cut the lead back to 12 with 2 minutes left. A snap on the siren by Cloke misses and the match is set up. Cats by 11 at the long break.

I seek a bit of expert commentary from my best friend but with North Melbourne out his focus has well and truly shifted towards the upcoming NHL season. “Toronto will be better,” he sagely advises, “and the season opens in Finland, how is awesome is that”.  His words trigger thoughts of my own upcoming trip to Finland, but these are quickly put aside as the premiership quarter starts.

Hulk Hogan is being interviewed on the sideline, “These guys are the best sportsmen in the world… no pads… they put America to shame” he says. Now that’s an endorsement (and he looked handy with a handball too). Geelong draw first blood, Mackie bounces a short pass through to Steve Johnson who is in acres of space. All of a sudden the margin is back out to three goals. Didak runs over the mark and Mooney receives a 70m penalty. He converts truly and dare I say it, it’s a shockingly inconsistent decision. Corey makes it three in a row and the Cats are away.

The next goal is pivotal, Collingwood attack but cannot goal, Geelong return the favour but with the same result. Like a heavyweight boxing bout, the contender is on the ropes and you just get the feeling that one more blow will finish the job. Bartel chips inside 50 and Byrnes does as his name suggests and burns his opponent in a foot race, slamming home the goal and leaving Collingwood facing a standing count. Macaffer drags them off the canvas with a goal in the final minute but I am left feeling that it is merely forestalling the inevitable. The Cats take a 34 point lead into the final break.

Collingwood’s only chance is to score first but Varcoe lands the knockout punch a few minutes in. They run away with it completely, victors by 73 points. With the game over, I can now turn my thoughts to Finland.

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