AFL Round 4 – Sydney v Geelong: Footy is kicking goals again

Sydney came out firing in the first quarter. Playing a brand of football more akin to Geelong’s than their own, their skills were sharp, their ball-movement instant and their finishing clinical. An eight goal opening stanza was a brilliant return and one which, on the vast majority of occasions, would have set them up for a comfortable win.

On this occasion though, they were playing the masters of that game style and whilst they bested the Cats at the first siren, they were only five points to the good.

In the first half of the second quarter, the Swans reverted to type and when 19-points in front, they seemed to be taking control of the game. But Geelong is not a one-trick pony. Joel Selwood, Joel Corey and Jimmy Bartel bunkered down in the Swans forward half to deny them the space they were using to great effect. With Sydney’s fast-break game plan stifled, the game became a grind. Although the Swans reputation is built on tough, contested, in-and-under football, it is the Cats who relish these conditions more than any other team in the league as evidenced by their record in close games in recent years.

By half time, the margin was only 5 points again.

In the premiership quarter, the Cats extended and the Swans, as honest as they are, could not go with them. It was a breathtaking display of determination against quality opposition playing on their home turf.

The final 20 seconds summed up what had transpired in the previous 31 minutes. When Corey Enright kicked out from full back to a contest, it seemed only Sydney could score in the time remaining, particularly with Ryan O’Keefe in the best position to mark. Enter Selwood who made the spoil by punching the ball towards the centre circle, then sprinted past Nick Malceski, dived on the ball and then whilst sitting on his backside, handballed to Matty Stokes who handballed to Taylor Hunt who goaled from 55 metres with two seconds on the clock.

It was inspirational stuff which prompted a flood of text messages proclaiming how lucky we were to be following the Geelong Football Club. That the Swans closed the gap on the scoreboard in the last quarter is irrelevant. The Swans had the stuffing knocked out of them and though two goals in a minute to the Swans gave the commentators the opportunity to sell the promise of a close finish, the Cats steadied and then put the cue it the rack with the game petering out to a crawl when compared to the first quarter sprint.

On the Saturday morning, I was looking foward to reading the papers. It’s probably my Geelong bias but it seemed to me that the general view was that the Swans lost it due to being un-Swans like rather than Geelong winning it by being Geelong like.

Fair enough if the Swans had lost to any other side but Geelong have made a habit over a period of years of making even good sides look ordinary for periods in a game. In every game this year, when Geelong has been under pressure, they have produced a sustained burst that has simply overpowered their opponent. Whilst the wins against North and Carlton may not be highly rated, their wins against Hawthorn and Sydney should be.

What has really interested me over the previous six seasons is that although Geelong has been the dominant side, clubs have fallen over themselves to implement defensive presses or traipse off to Arizona for high-altitude training.

Is it easier to teach players how to be defensive rather than attacking? Are there too many backmen as coaches? Or is it just more important to be Collingwood-like than to win premierships?

Thankfully, fast and attacking football is now being spotted on a regular basis, even at games involving teams coached by poster boys of the defence-is-everything academy, and Friday night’s first quarter was the greatest sign yet that kicking goals as well as stopping them is a valid strategy. Whether Geelong’s sustained success has had anything to do with what appears to be a change in philosophy , or it’s just the wheel turning naturally is not known to me, but I hope the “attacking footy”  sightings become the norm.

It’s exactly what the AFL needed given the spectre of defensive floods (later to evolve into presses) threatened to deliver of soccer-like scorelines. The Cats have scythed their way through opposition defences with a focus on kicking goals, and it has won them three flags.

And it may just be that attacking footy is also one of the keys to Geelong’s sustained success; a reason for why the veterans seem as hungry and inspired as ever. Having to play stodgy, defensive football which inhibits both instinct and expression must surely diminish the spirit over time. Playing footy the Geelong-way may just be a tonic that rejuvenates the spirit; keeps players in love with the game for longer.

I know that watching the Cats play has had that effect on Cats fans. We not only love the Club, we love the way they play. Not just over the past six years, but for my whole life as a Cats fan, and for much of their  history if anecdotes are to be believed. It’s been a great ride, and it’s a ride that looks set to continue for some time yet.

That’s a good thing.  For me, footy is about kicking goals and whilst the Cats are at the top of their game there is sure to always be at least one team with that on their mind.


  1. Pete – you make a good point. Footy is about kicking goals, not about forcing your opponent to not kick goals.

  2. Great read, Pete! I think Scotty said something to the effect that attacking footy being back ‘en vogue’ was just a matter of time early last year.

    I love that playing footy “the Geelong-way” is a thing. It’s almost always been our way, and it’s downright entertaining. I concur 100 per cent re: confusion about clubs emulating Collingwood. If I was an AFL coach, I know who I’d be trying to mimic…

    Selwood is sensational. Chappy is a star.
    The young guys and Stokes are outright exciting.
    We’re darn lucky to be Cats supporters.

    What a club.

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