AFL Round 4 – Geelong v West Coast: We Can Win This

The Eagles entered this game on top of the ladder. Lord knows how.

To achieve their percentage of 216.6 after the first three rounds, they kicked an average 19 goals per game and conceded less than 9.

Clearly they used a different game plan than what was on display at Kardinia Park on Saturday night, where they repeatedly bombed the ball long into a forward line crowded by Geelong defenders and midfielders; and allowed the Cats to run unimpeded through the corridor on their way to the wide open spaces of their forward line.

(When I offered a similar critique of Fremantle’s game after a similar thrashing at Geelong last year I was told they had half a dozen of their best players out. This defence could well be wheeled out by West Coast fans. No excuse for a lack of effort though. These Eagles didn’t work hard enough on the night.)

Geelong was allowed to play on its terms and they did it to devastating effect. Their midfielders ran back when the ball was in the hands of their opponents. When the inevitable long kick from West Coast came, there were six tall defenders deep in defence, with midfielders of the quality of Varcoe, Duncan and Guthrie waiting at their feet. And still the long bombs reigned.

The ball from defence found players of the ilk of Selwood and Stokes on the half-back line all night, with a choice of players further down the field. Even when West Coast filled their defensive 50 with players, it was no trouble for Geelong to find space for a shot at goal, such was the lack of pressure.

It was hard to find a winner for West Coast but the Cats had many. In Junior footy parlance: Team played well.

This Geelong side looks a better team than the 2013 version – which lost the preliminary final by 5 points.

The 2014 version of Travis Varcoe is confident. After resuming from a long injury layoff last year, he was bereft. He made super position in Geelong’s final game, but wasted every disposal because he didn’t back himself. Tonight he worked hard to be at the foot of the ball and found someone in better position every time. He was stung when his name was dangled as trade bait in the off-season and he looks determined.

Mitch Duncan said at the start of last year he wanted a breakout year like Dayne Beams had in his third year. He didn’t. You could see he tried hard – and could see he placed too much pressure on himself – but he plateaued. He was clearly a year early on his prognosis as this year he is influencing matches through hard running, smart decisions and goals (like the 55m bomb he kicked Saturday night).

Cam Guthrie is the new Cameron Ling in every football sense. He locks down on key playmakers (Priddis at one stage tried to prevent Guthrie from making a contest), finds the ball and uses it well. In and out of the side last year, he was almost BOG for Geelong in the final against Fremantle. Turns out it was the start of greater things to come.

George Horlin-Smith (captained the Under 16 Australian cricket team I’ve been told more than once) demonstrated in the first 10 minutes why Chappy was moved on. Shown there’s a spot for them, Geelong’s young players work hard to make it theirs. Horlin-Smith took a falling chest mark near goal that Chappy would have been proud of. No shortage of talent either.

The Big Fella from Barnawartha is the new Mummy. I’ve missed Big Mummy since he fked the Cats over for a four-year deal with Sydney. It was a shocking and disappointing move, but how can you stay mad with a giant aggressive ruckman who tackles like Joel Selwood? Big Simpson is now in his 7th year but the penny has dropped. He throws his weight around, tackles, and is working on becoming a big marking option. Expect Melbourne to offer him a four-year contract soon.

Geelong has been able to modify its game plan now we have two strong ruckmen to play in the middle, Hamish McIntosh now proving his worth (and in the forward line too).

First-year rookie and former steeplechaser Blicavs was beaten in the middle all last year, forcing Chris Scott to start our attacking set-up from half-back. The midfielders now receive first dibs in the middle. This allows Scott to play Bartel up forward, as he was playing as a midfielder at half-back last year. First use for Selwood in the middle and Bartel as a forward – good move Supercoach. An interesting season ahead for Blicavs, who just had to see the ball and chase it last year, but now has to read the game to find it. If he does this, he will be unbeatable on the wing with his pace and size.

With Bartel, Selwood, Stevie J (couldn’t hit the side of a barn by foot on the night but as entertaining as ever), Kelly and Hawkins (sans sore back) all in top form, and Christensen and Motlop to come back, We Can Win This.

About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Cookie Horlin Smith was a extremely good batsmen who was considered with in cricket circles a genuine chance to go on to wear the baggy green , future aust captain was a comment made by numerous people in the no he is such a natural leader a very rare quality . People who had written the cats off were not taking in too account that they finally had fit ruckmen and the quality of the youngsters coming thru
    The traditional Easter clash looms as a side point from a non supporter of either is how are the cats and hawks foot disposal skills seemingly in another universe to the majority of the rest of the competition ? Thanks Cookie

  2. Who cares. The outdoor Rumanian movie was passable. The chardonnay and garlic prawn pizza excellent.
    Here is the email I sent the proprietor of the Catmanac at 11.06am last Sunday 6 April 2014:

    “I am sitting here trying to get motivated to write something about the Eagles Saints game. Sigh………

    Cats by 10+ next week (goals not points).

    NicNait is either third up from a long spell and flat as a tack – can he borrow Oscar’s carbon fibre blades? Or Simpson is trying to teach him how to be a footballer instead of a circus act – handball don’t kick; don’t take hangers – and he is now completely lost/joyless.

    Les Everett will be cheering for him at East Perth if this continues. We are top heavy – but Cox and Sinclair are going much better than Nic Nait. Sigh.

    LeCras and Hurn out long term. Scott Selwood should be out for a month with his ankle – but he’s a Selwood – so its only a flesh wound. Same with Masten. Wellingham? Has a soft tissue injury – fortnightly? Never buy a used Collingwood player – witness Daisy.


    PB & AE”

  3. Nice work Cookie.
    (Surprised to read a show of respect for D Beams.)
    When hope is all we have, it’s a grand thing to believe you can win it.

  4. David Zampatti says

    I really hope Naitanui doesn’t end up at East Perth, Pete (although after their abject capitulation to the mighty Cardies yesterday, they sure need something).
    The Eagles’ audacious strategy of playing their mascot is a breath of fresh air in the increasingly milquetoast AFL. There’s been nothing iike it since Bill Veeck sent Eddie Gaedel out to bat for the St Louis Browns all those years ago.
    More power to them.

  5. Sean Gorman says

    I cast the monocle over the fixture and cursed the footy gods at the ease of the Toast’s ride for this year. It’s good for banking the points but coming up against teams like the Cats et al it simply gives one a very stiff reality check – as I think we may get this arvo. As for Leathal’s critique of Sandi I’d like to know what he made of Naccer Nooi’s effort.

  6. Dearest Les and David,
    The evidence against AFL clubs’ (plural) abduction of the local WAFL competition continues to gather pace. Now that East Perth and Peel are just concubines to the great and mighty, we can expect vast fluctuations as these ‘kept women’ fall in and out of favour with their Emperors.
    The trouble with East Perth yesterday is exactly that. Only the remnants of a once proud footy club remained to take the field, with most senior players sent to Stalingrad in defence of the crumbling Empire.
    I love the Eagles, but I love footy more.
    As confidently predicted on these pages last week – the unsullied West Perth and Swan Districts will fight out the WAFL GF.

  7. Mr regnans, Beams is a fine player, but the proliferation of sleeve tattoos at Collingwood is a disgrace to the competition.
    Mr Baulderstone, your team was a disgrace to fine supporters of the ilk of your good self and should take a good hard look in the mirror (unless they do that too much, and this is probably part of the problem).
    Mr Ashwood, thank you for sharing your knowledge on the Hyphen. Seems any kid the AFL poaches from cricketing ranks was destined to play for Australia. Looks like Geelong has one that actually could have.
    Mr Gorman, reality check for the Eagles. Check.
    Mr Zampatti, the AFL ruined the VFL and with the AFL clubs now wanting standalone teams, who knows what the future will bring. Very sad it treats all state leagues with little regard.
    Thank you all

  8. It does appear that the inclusion of genuine ruckmen has had a major positive impact on the Cats and yet they are 17th for clearances and 12th for hitouts.

    Is it deliberate (as it was mooted to be last year), or are the Cats still coming to terms with having real ruckmen? In any case, they have added an air of confidence to supporters at least, and to the playing group I suspect.

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