AFL Round 14: St Kilda v Geelong: Cats by a whisker

By Ben Jensen

This is the clash of the season. Although both sides are unbeaten, the Saints have been smashing sides with such regularity that they’ve got a percentage of 177.5%, to the Cats’ 149.7%. The Geelong back six will be tested by St Kilda forwards led by Nick Riewoldt, Justin Koschitzke, Stephen Milne and Adam Schneider, while the ‘Big Hairy Cat’ Cameron Mooney will be desperate to atone for recent performances, and should enjoy the confines of Etihad Stadium. Gary Ablett, Paul Chapman and Joel Corey similarly will be keen to ‘tear up’ the former Telstra Dome in front of a package house and live Channel Seven telecast.
The match has been seemingly ranked up there with the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, such is the hype. Damian Watson on the Footy Almanac website has written a great piece on ‘big match’ precedents over the last ten years (https://footyalmanac.com.au/?author=158.)
UK-based Geelong fans, in the absence of Setanta, will be able to watch the game live thanks to the AFL and Telstra ( http://bigpondtv.com/aflliveuk).
Meanwhile viewers in NSW, Queensland and the ACT will not be able to see the game unless they tune into Foxtel’s ‘Main Event’ channel, Seven/Southern Cross and Fox Sports 1 choosing to telecast the other two non-blockbuster games in Sydney-Kangaroos and Fremantle-Carlton.  Read on for further review of key match-ups and players, full team listings and a review of the last clash between the two sides.

GEELONG –   In: Wojcinski, Hogan, Stokes, Gamble     Out: David Johnson (calf)
ST KILDA  –  In: R. Clarke, R. Eddy, J. Gwilt, L. Miles     Out: M. Hudghton (inj)
UMPIRES – TBA
TIP – Cats by a whisker; 3 points
KEY MATCH-UPS
RUCK
Former Geelong skipper and premiership ruckman Steven King will miss through suspension, as will Cat Brad Ottens, who hasn’t played all season. The Saints have former West Coast ‘bad boy’ Michael Gardiner backed up by 19 year old Ben McEvoy to lead their ruck division, with forward Justin Koschitzke more than able to do the job if it comes to that. The Cats rely on Mark Blake, whose form hasn’t been terrific, and cult figure Shane Mumford. As if to emphasise this, the Geelong selectors have named Mumford in the ruck with Blake on the bench.
Verdict: Cats hold the edge, just; if they get too far on top, Koschitzke may get diverted from the forward line, making the Cats’ defence job even easier.

MIDFIELD
The Cats easily have the ascendency here. For what it’s worth, the Geelong midfield rotation of Gary Ablett, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Corey, Cameron Ling, Joel Selwood and Paul Chapman, Corey Enright, James Kelly, Travis Varcoe, Max Rooke and Shannon Byrnes will also have something to say about it. The Saints’ team of Lake Ball, Nick Dal Santo, Leigh Montagna Lenny Hayes, former Bulldog Farren Ray and Sam Fisher are all quite capable but not in the same league as the Cats just yet; maybe they will be come September. Verdict: Cats to control the midfield.
FORWARD – DEFENCE
One cannot question the potency of the St Kilda forward line this season; interestingly it is the Cats who have kicked by far the highest aggregate score, with 1509 points (116 per game) to the Saints’ 1356 (104pg). The more intriguing aspect is what the Geelong defence has let through this season: 1008 points (78pg), to St Kilda’s measly 764 (59pg).
For the Cats Cameron Mooney has been generally perceived as misfiring most weeks with 23 goals so far, in his only game at Etihad Stadium he kicked a bag of four against Essendon. Steven Johnson is certainly the pick of Geelong’s forwards, although in the past fortnight it was Shannon Byrnes booting bags of five and four goals. If the Cats get into serious trouble they can usually rely on Ablett to drop into a permanent forward role and kick a few. The Saints have lost tall defender Max Hudghton to an ankle injury, Sam Gilbert filling his spot at full back. He and the other Sam, Fisher, are likely to match-up on Mooney. Zac Dawson was tormented by Anthony Rocca all those years ago but it is often forgotten that he towelled up Geelong forward Kent Kingsley the next week, so the boy can play. He will probably take Tom Hawkins, who is about due for a good game. Paul Chapman loves Docklands, and should get either Brendan Goddard, who will try to exploit his pace by running off half-back, or tough nut Steven Baker. Stokes is an outside chance to play but will probably miss out in favour of Wojcinski, while Gamble simply won’t play.
Nick Riewoldt has tormented Geelong players and fans alike over the past decade; those long arms, well before the ‘chopping’ rule came in, seemed just too strong. Tom Harley’s back up and running, however, and with Harry Taylor should be able to handle him. Matthew Scarlett may get a shot at Riewoldt but may find himself on Koschitzke instead. Andrew Mackie is another capable of playing on talls. Someone like Enright, Milburn or maybe even Wojcinski should pick up Stephen Milne. Adam Schneider is another small forward capable of kicking a few in a row, Max Rooke might be suited to him if he doesn’t start up forward.
INTERCHANGE
Geelong – Blake, Shannon Byrnes, Darren Milburn, (1 of) Ryan Gamble, Matthew Stokes, David Wojcinski
St Kilda – McQualter, Miles, McEvoy, Geary, R Clarke, Gwilt, Eddy (3 to go)
Comparing the benches, the Cats certainly have the more experienced if not potent line-up. Aside from the two ruckman in Blake and McEvoy, the Cats bench is skewed towards defensive players in utility Darren Milburn, half-back David Wojcinski, key defender Harry Taylor but they’ve also named forward-minded Matthew Stokes and Ryan Gamble. Simon Hogan, the seventh benchman named, is not a realistic chance . The Saints went for Andrew McQualter (tagger), Jarryn Geary (half-back/midfield), Raphael Clarke and Ben McEvoy. Robert Eddy and Luke Miles seem to be on the outer while James Gwilt could return.
THE COACHES
Not much more can be said of Geelong’s coaching team. Mark Thompson, newly reappointed, is the best coach going around and has a strong team behind him, mostly ex-players. St Kilda has Ross Lyon; clearly a talented tactician, man manager and motivator. They also have former Geelong VFL Premiership coach Leigh Tudor, who knows a thing or two about the Cats. Wouldn’t have expected either box to have much influence on the game this Sunday.
Story on Herald Sun website re- Tudor (http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/sport/afl/story/0,26576,25714598-19742,00.html)

TEAMS

GEELONG
IN: D Wojcinski, S Hogan, M Stokes, R Gamble
OUT: D Johnson (calf)
B: Tom Harley – Matthew Scarlett – James Kelly
HB: Corey Enright – Harry Taylor – Andrew Mackie
C: Joel Corey – Jimmy Bartel – Travis Varcoe
HF: Gary Ablett – Cameron Mooney – Steve Johnson
F: Paul Chapman – Tom Hawkins – Max Rooke
FOLL: Shane Mumford – Cameron Ling – Joel Selwood
INT (FROM): Mark Blake, Shannon Byrnes, Ryan Gamble, Simon Hogan, Darren Milburn, Mathew Stokes, David Wojcinski

ST KILDA
IN: R Clarke, R Eddy, J Gwilt, L Miles
OUT: M Hudghton (inj)
B: Jason Blake, Sam Gilbert, Zac Dawson
HB: Steven Baker, Sam Fisher, Brendon Goddard
C: Farren Ray, Luke Ball, Nick Dal Santo
HF: Jason Gram, Nick Riewoldt, Adam Schneider
F: Lenny Hayes, Justin Koschitzke, Stephen Milne
FOLL: Michael Gardiner, Clint Jones, Leigh Montagna
INT (FROM): Raphael Clarke, Robert Eddy, Jarryn Geary, James Gwilt, Ben McEvoy, Andrew McQualter , Luke Miles

CATS INJURY LIST

Player (Injury) Onset; Estimated Return; Notes
David Johnson (calf) – 3-4 weeks NEW
Tom Allwright (knee soreness) – 1 week NEW
Brad Ottens (knee) – 1-2 weeks
Steven Motlop (shoulder) – 2 weeks
Ranga Ediriwickrama (hamstring) – 4-6 weeks
Scott Simpson (fractured ankle) – 5-7 weeks
Josh Hunt (ACL) – season
Mitch Brown (broken leg) – season

ST KILDA INJURY LIST
Leigh Fisher (hamstring) – 1 week
Max Hudghton (ankle) – TBC
Jarryd Allen (torn hip muscle) – indefinite
Xavier Clarke (ACL) – season
Matthew Egan (foot) – season

LAST TIME
AFL 2008, FIRST QUALIFYING FINAL
SUNDAY 7 AUGUST 2008, 14:40 EST, MCG
GEELONG POWERS INTO PRELIMINARY FINAL
Ben Jensen

8 September 2008
By Ben Jensen (In London)

GEELONG stamped their authority over this year’s finals series, dispatching St Kilda summarily at the MCG in front of a crowd of 71,653.  The Cats barely turned up in the final quarter but still won by fifty-eight points, although the win did come at a cost with the likely loss of Brent Prismall for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Out of contract Prismall, who had just about cemented a spot in the side after playing ten of the last twelve, is to have a scan to confirm what is believed to be a dreaded ACL. The Cats play the winner of Friday night’s elimination final between Sydney and the Bulldogs at the MCG, in a Preliminary Final likely to be the following Friday at the MCG.

MATCH RESULT AND REVIEW – GEELONG POWERS INTO PRELIMINARY FINAL

GEELONG 3.7, 7.10, 16.15, 17.17 (119) DEFEATED
ST KILDA 1.1, 3.2, 5.5, 8.3 (61)
GOALS
GEELONG: Ottens 3, Mooney 3, Bartel 2, Lonergan 2, Varcoe, S Johnson, Stokes, Ablett, Rooke, Chapman, Ling
ST KILDA: Milne 2, X Clarke, Montagna, Riewoldt, Schneider, R Clarke, Goddard
BEST
GEELONG: Bartel, Ablett, Corey, S Johnson, Taylor, Selwood
ST KILDA: Hayes, Montagna, Fisher, Goddard, Gram
CROWD: 71,653 at MCG
UMPIRES: Kennedy, McInerney, Meredith
INJURIES: GEELONG: Brent Prismall (knee – out for season); Paul Chapman (described as ‘hamstring / quad’) ST KILDA: Jason Blake (thumb)
REPORTS: Lenny Hayes (St Kilda; by emergency umpire Jeffery) for allegedly striking Joel Selwood (Geelong) in the third quarter.

About Ben Jensen

Geelong fanatic back in town after a few years away.

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