AFL Round 2 – Geelong v North Melbourne: The Reverse Paen Ultimas

The AFL revels in its dedicated rounds. We have grown to love the Indigenous Round concept and the more traditional Anzac Day and Queen’s Birthday Rounds. There is also another unofficial round that sneaks in each year; the Penultimate Round. The first and last rounds of the season draw the greatest media hype, pre-finals at least, but Round 2 – a lonely no name brand.

I am adding to the chorus of support (1) for naming the 2nd round of the year – the ‘reverse penultimate’ or more strikingly, the ‘Reverse Paen Ultimas’.

Derived from the Latin – paen (almost) and ultimas (last) this name also sounds suspiciously like a hold used by the ‘Golden Greek’, Spiros Arion, from the World Championship Wrestling days of the early 1970’s: all the more reason to embrace it and promote Round 2 with this nice, retro touch. Andrew Demetriou would, I daresay, appreciate the cultural symmetry.

At half time of this Round 2 classic between the Cats and the Roos, with the Roos enjoying a handy and thoroughly deserved 35 point lead, I was, as a Cat’s man, feeling a distinct ‘paen’ in my ’ultimas’.

Another reversal of sorts had taken place over the last few years of this great modern Cat era. An  earlier ‘let’s regularly say die’ attitude (very prevalent in the Geelong teams of the 1970’s) had been replaced by the ‘never say die’ contemporary variety. It is a trait that now draws almost universal admiration and it was with this knowledge, and despite my ‘paen,’ I suspected the Cats would somehow mount a fight back and therefore a win, albeit unlikely, was not out of the question.

Yet, it should have been. Despite the joint training drills the Cats and Roos engaged in over the pre-season, instigated in Mrs Scott’s lounge room as her twin sons enjoyed a cup of tea and a catch up, Brad simply referred back to his notes from Round 3, 2012 and said to his chargers before they entered the arena, ‘Same again boys’. And so it was. De je vu – but with a cruel, unknown twist.

The pre-game talk was that Geelong model 2013 had an injection of speed (should I write that in these troubled times of whatever it takes!) and would have learned from the defeat North inflicted on it last year. Geelong has been known as an innovator and certainly not a slow learner.

Yet, by half time the stats were almost identical to 2012. North were trouncing the Cats by running harder, spreading better, knowing where to be and being able to execute their plan – almost at will. The Cats were all at sea. The only thing keeping them within distant touch was a few hard earned Tom Hawkins marks and Allen Christensen goals against the run of play. Without Corey Enright and Joel Selwood, the Cat’s cause would have been already lost. I suspect also that had Drew Petrie goaled when Geelong were under total siege, the lead may have been beyond pegging back. Desperation by hooped defenders played some part in him failing to convert what appeared his easiest chance of the afternoon.

Andrew Swallow particularly was murdering the Cats with his in and under work and getting to the ball first, especially at clearances. He had a band of young and skilful mates falling in behind him with fluid ball movement and great endeavour. Unlike in previous seasons, Lindsay Thomas couldn’t miss, Petrie was marking most balls that came quickly into his sphere of influence and RobbieTarrant was taking some big grabs as well, converting truly.

A pernicious element of this contest right from the outset had been the surprises each umpire would spring with their interpretations of ‘in the back/caught in possession’. It was a lottery and a blot on the game that helped conjure up the last minute twist.

Despite an early arm wrestle in the third, (half nelson, reverse paen ultimas) some good combination plays between Chapman and Motlock saw two quick Geelong goals. Varcoe then tackled with manic intent and the Cats were totally ‘on’ and irrepressible. Just as a steamrolling was looking likely, this very inexperienced North side stole back some momentum by kicking three successive goals of their own, showing that their composure, skills and dominance had not been an aberration.  It was impressive stuff and they remained more than four goals in front.

The Cats then made two decisive moves by bringing on the small Stokes (to some a surprising sub after his 29 possessions the previous week) for the taller Brown who had found the key North forwards a handful. They also quietly moved Harry Taylor across to Drew Petrie. The commensurate link man, Mathew Stokes, went about his business with verve and calmness playing crucial assists in two more Geelong goals and then finding Mitch Duncan with an astute pass he duly marked and converted as the siren sounded. The Cats were within nine points.

The last quarter had everything bar common sense. It even had rain that allowed spectators at an ‘indoor stadium’ to get wet and the last fifteen minutes of a highly skilled game to turn into a slippery and dour affair. Cats refused to concede. Roos would not yield. The Cats had more possession but were wasteful going forward. They did hit the lead with some great play between Stokes (yes, again), Varcoe and Caddy but then squandered several gettable shots, one from another dubious ‘in the back’.

Then the penultimate moment from Round 2’s Reverse Paen Ultimas.  With under five minutes remaining  on the clock, Daniel Wells marked on the half back flank. He went to kick and lost his footing, quickly got to his feet to kick again when Duncan, who had been on the mark, ran in. Wells had not played on apparently so Duncan had encroached over the mark and was penalised with a 50’ that took the North speedster to the half forward flank. As Geelong fans vented their ire as one, Wells duly slotted as if there was no rain, distance or pressure at all. His had been a fine game.

Geelong then went forward in desperation where Jimmy Bartel was either pushed in the back or dispossessed fairly? Firrito, always a possible candidate for losing the plot, kicked the ball away knowingly or not and was also penalised fifty metres. It seemed as harsh as the Duncan call. Bartel was brought to where he couldn’t miss. The Cats had stolen it back with only seconds left. They put extra men behind the ball and the siren sounded soon after the final centre bounce that the Roos won; as they had for most of the day.

The Houdini Cats had done it again, two – from two. What a stirring Round 2 clash from the inaugural Reverse Paen Ultimas Round.

The cruel twist had come. There was no consolation for North, their second close defeat to another power team to start their 2013 campaign. They had been the better side for the better part of the game and lost. They were classy and will win soon whereas the Cats will eventually stumble if they continue with lamentable first halves. North can be spurred by the words of Winston Churchill who, it is said, enjoyed a good battle or two.

‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of   the beginning.’

Indeed, the very essence of the Reverse Paen Ultimas. And, as Guru Bob would have us do – ‘think about that!’

 

Geelong                               4.0 6.4 13.8 16.16 (112)

North Melbourne            7.1 12.3 15.5 17.6 (108)

GOALS

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

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

BEST

Geelong: Enright, Kelly, Christensen, Selwood, Stokes

North Melbourne: Swallow, Bastinac, Wells, Thomas, Petrie

Umpires: Stevic, Findlay, Nicholls

 

Official Crowd: 34,152

Our Votes: 3 Swallow (NM) 2 Enright (Geel) 1 Kelly (Geel)

Comments

  1. Nice report Simon. I’m still trying to come to grips with this game. So many questions, so little time. The next round is almost upon us.

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