AFL Round 2 – Geelong v North Melbourne: A new kind of old

Score a footy and Cats gear

Score a footy and Cats gear

One of the hallmarks of the Geelong teams in this great era has been their refusal to yield. Ever. Regardless of the circumstances, score or time remaining in a game, they are never beaten. Never. They are relentless to the final siren.

In what ended as a brilliant game of football, the Cats had no right to win. North dominated the first half and were simply too tough, fast, skilful and accurate. At the main break, the game was gone for the Cats and yet somehow, they won.

I bumped into a mate on my way out of the ground.

“How did we win that?” he asked. Despite the many close wins we’ve seen, the many comebacks the Cats have launched, this was a common question amongst Cats fans. I’m sure Kanga fans were asking the reverse.

For the second week in a row, the Cats looked a little unsure of themselves in the first half. They could not get near the ball, and when they did, there was little system, and no cohesion or fluidity. It required a number of individual acts to keep them in it. Allen Christensen showed he’s ready to step up in class.

The Kangaroos on the other hand were irrepressible. With Andrew Swallow and Jack Ziebell providing grunt and drive, Drew Petrie dominating the air, Lindsay Thomas consistently brilliant, and the Cats allowing them to play to their game plan, North controlled every facet.

And for the second week in a row, the Cats were a completely different team in the second half. They abandoned their zone defence which gave North space in the first half and went to Plan B. Playing a more man-on-man defence, they put the Kangas under much greater pressure.

Last week, it was Joel Selwood who lifted the team against the Hawks. This week, it was James Kelly. His third quarter was outstanding. And with Paul Chapman and Joel Corey turning the clock back, the Cats came with a typical withering burst to get within two goals before North steadied and pulled away again.

Chris Scott then pulled the pin on Mitch Brown who was probably lucky to not have been subbed off earlier. Jared Rivers cemented his position as the third tall defender without even playing.

Matty Stokes, who came on as Brown’s replacement, obviously had a point to prove because he was instrumental in moving the game back in Geelong’s favour. At the end of the third, the Cats were only 9 points down.

In the manic final quarter, the Cats speedsters in Travis Varcoe, Steven Motlop, Taylor Hunt, Allen Christensen and Billy Smedts opened North up with their pace. At game’s end, the Cats only got home by four points meaning they were only 13 points to the good for the last quarter, but they were dominant and should have won by more.

This win was a new kind of old. The “old” is of course that the Cats won another tight one. The “new” is that rather than through system, poise, strength and skill so prevalent in recent sides, this win came on the back of leg speed – something Geelong has not been particularly known for since 2007. Given the leg speed was possessed by the relatively inexperienced, the last half, and last quarter in particular, was a series of manic thrusts forward in hope rather than with purpose.  Seventy one inside fifties to forty one for a one kick win suggests as much.

Even Jimmy Bartel got caught up in the excitement. With 40 seconds to go and with a free kick from the goal line, he hurried his kick rather than run the clock down, giving North a 25 second window of opportunity. Hearts were in mouths when the ball was kicked into the Kangaroos’ 50 where a big pack of players converged. A mark or free to North and they would have been kicking for goal after the siren.

Still, this was invaluable experience for the new crop of Cats. And so thorough is this club that it would not surprise me – well, almost not surprise me -if they orchestrated these close games to teach the next generation what is required to win close games; to come from losing positions; to never, never, never surrender. Better to have these experiences with experienced champions beside you.

These are exciting times for both teams.

For the Cats, there is improvement to come. The young and the old are still in transition. They are still gelling as a team. And yet they have won twice against strong opposition. Amazingly, the Cats only had a list of 27 players to choose from for this game. For most teams, this would be a major issue and reported as such in the media. For the Cats, it’s business as usual. That they can select such competitive teams from such a limited list speaks volumes for their depth, development and system. And this week, we could see the unveiling of yet another first gamer. With Rivers unavailable and Jordan Murdoch “iffy”, Jackson Thurlow is a chance to come in for Brown. I predict that Thurlow will in time be an absolute star.

For North, they have definitely improved and will be very much in the mix come finals time. They are strong, physical and have real weapons from the midfield forward. The backline is tough, disciplined and well organised. They are without a win, but have played the two best teams of the past six years; teams that appear destined to be amongst the best again this year.

One thing I noticed about the game brought a smile to my face. North set up and played a lot like Hawthorn in the first half. In the second half, the Cats set up the way they do against Hawthorn. If my observations were valid, and that trend continues, it could be a while before North beats the Cats again.


GEELONG 4.0 6.4 13.8 16.16 (112)
NORTH MELBOURNE 7.1 12.3 15.5 17.6 (108)


Geelong: Christensen, Hawkins 3; Chapman, Motlop 2; Selwood, Podsiadly, Lonergan, Duncan, Caddy, Bartel.

North Melbourne: Thomas 5; Petrie 4; Tarrant 2; Bastinac, Mullett, Atley, Anthony, Adams, Wells.


Geelong: Christensen, Selwood, Chapman, Kelly, Varcoe

North Melbourne: Ziebell, Swallow, Thomas, Bastinac, Goldstein, Grima, Petrie

Umpires: Stevic, Nicholls, Findlay

Official crowd: 34,152 at Etihad Stadium

Our votes: Swallow (NM) 3, Kelly (Gee) 2, Christensen (Gee) 1


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