AFL Round 4 – Sydney v Geelong: We got the best Selwood

The Swans have opened the 2013 season with games against GWS and the Suns at home. According to my research this represents the softest start a reigning Premier has had since the Romans launched 340 BC with a crushing victory over the Latium states. And back in those days Emperor Imperiosus Torquatos (related to Demetriou on his mother’s side) hadn’t yet introduced the stipendio cap, so mismatches were far more prevalent.

The soppy season openers would have been a peculiar experience for the Swans who generally prefer to play footy like a bloke passing a kidney stone.  Admittedly the Roos gave them something of a fight the previous week, until the shinboner’s spirit was once again proven to be as solid as a Sorrento fog.

But the Cats would be relishing the opportunity to take on the fresh-as-a-daisy Swans (who are playing their third home game in four weeks) even though the Cats players are still extracting splinters from their backsides after the round one encounter with the unsociable Hawks, and despite spending their nights in ice baths after coming off three six day breaks. The Cats would be hoping that in despatching the new franchise teams so readily the Swans may have developed a false notion that a game of footy is like having your belly tickled.

The first quarter is a celebration of long kicking, big grabbing, play-on football. It’s beautiful to watch. There is hardly a hint of defensive pressure. Both teams are playing like naughty school children who’ve been left unattended in the classroom. They propel the ball up and down the ground with frightening speed and open space is plentiful, which is remarkable given that the SCG is about the size of an out-house.

George Horlin-Smith immediately catches my eye by nonchalantly slotting a left footer from 45 metres out. This kid can really play. Who does he remind me of? Perhaps a little bit Stan Alves, a little bit Cameron Ling? There’s a touch of James Kelly’s neatness there too. There is a suggestion that he is a combination of Glen Kilpatrick and Liam Pickering. That sits comfortably with me as well.

Moments later Chappy kicks one off the ground near the goal mouth whilst wrestling with a Swan defender. I spontaneously scream “Aloisi !!!” . Footy like this is so much fun. At the other end McVeigh and Goodes are slipping the noose. The Swans kick eight for the quarter and the Cats kick seven. Chris Scott and Longmire point a finger at each other and say “He did it.”

The opening stanza transports me back to the MCG in 1993 when Geelong played Essendon in one of the best shoot outs of all time. Ablett kicked 14 at one end and Salmon kicked 10 at the other. A total of 42 goals were kicked that afternoon. Apparently a video of those footballing feats was sealed into a time capsule and blasted into space in the hope that other life forms might find it and see what we do here on earth. Some of my closest internet friends (kooks and conspiracy theorists mostly) believe the capsule has been found and that the little space creatures enjoyed the game so much they sent a reply that read:

“Dear Mr AFL House. Stop. Thanks for the video. Stop. We’ve actually been watching you for a long time. Stop. Could you please send a copy of the ’89 Grand Final up here too? Stop. The 2011 Grand Final wouldn’t be bad either. Stop. Don’t bother sending any of Ross Lyon’s teams’ games. Stop. Sadly we have a ‘no returns’ policy. Stop.

P.S – we didn’t shoot Kennedy.”

Just wait til Caro gets hold of this story.

At quarter time the commentators were suggesting that the coaches would be displeased. Displeased at what I wonder? The skills? The courage? The obvious joy of playing? The crowd’s involvement in the contest? I bet Malcolm Blight would be smiling, perhaps recalling 1993 as well. He’d be hoping the final scores might be 29 goals to 28. I share his view of the world.

But footy is different now. Games are built on defence. Run and risk need to be measured. The second quarter sees the game return to type. After LRT and Hannebery kick the first two the Cats slip 19 points behind. I suspect the Swans might be about to apply the sleeper hold. (Remarkably, the Swans won’t kick another goal for 42 minutes). Motlop curls home a beauty from a tight pocket then Pods nails his first for the night and the Cats are back within five points at half time. It’s enthralling.

With LRT on the boundary wearing an ice pack on his right knee the size of Uluru, and Hannebery appearing to be one testicle short of a picnic after an errant knee ploughed into his groin, perhaps the Swans were always going to struggle in the third quarter. They hung in for the first ten minutes until  the Cats split them open with some audacious dashes straight through the guts of the ground, including one play where the ball travelled from the Swans forward pocket to the Geelong goals in seventeen seconds.  The Cats had kicked seven goals to one to essentially kill the contest; though it is dangerous to ever pronounce the Swans deceased. They kept coming. Malceski and his beard were conspicuous, and Mike Pyke was clunking grabs ala Mick Nolen (minus the midriff). However, Corey was blanketing Kennedy, McVeigh had gone the way of the thylacine, Taylor and Lonergan had Reid under wraps, and Enright ensured none of Hannebery, O’Keeffe, or Jack got space in the forward 50.

There are some players who just get it; they grasp the moment and understand that each contest is a potential match winner. Their focus on the Sherrin is so intense that it becomes a homing footy; home being regularly in their grasp. Hodge is one of those players. Joel Selwood is another. His third quarter will probably become part of the SAS training manual so fierce was his attack on the pill.

One contest in the last quarter of Friday night will remain with me for a long time. The ball was lobbed into centre half forward for the Cats. Motlop sort of had the footy like only Motlop can. He was leaning back on his opponent in an effort to create space for himself. He was not entirely in possession, but not lost of possession either.Despite not really having the ball he still assessed his options. Meanwhile Selwood was charging straight at his target (the footy) like Lohnro about to service Black Caviar.

Motlop saw him coming. Perhaps in fear of his life (apparently Selwood can sometimes be jumper blind), or perhaps conjuring up the spirit of Matty Scarlett, he in-step poked the ball in the Selwood direction then prepared for impact. It was a deft touch. The ball looped into Selwood’s vision but he was travelling too fast. His arm was bent at the elbow, which is his natural running style, so whilst the ball passed his line of sight it landed is his bent arm so easily it was as if Motlop had aimed for it.

Instinct took over. Selwood knew he had the ball, he just couldn’t compute where it was. So he swivelled his way out of the pack as the ball worked its way loose and began rolling up his backbone. He kept an arm twisted around it, like a bloke reaching for an itch in the middle of his spine, all the time sprinting into open space. Once clear he regained control of the agot and speared a left foot pass onto Hawkins’ chest. The Hawk dutifully slotted the sealer, if indeed a sealer needed to be slotted. It was astonishing to watch, though I’m still mystified as to how Selwood extricated himself from the press of bodies. It seemed to defy the laws of bio mechanics.

Pleasingly for the Cats it is the young brigade that is orchestrating the wins at present; Motlop, Christensen, Stokes, Hawkins, Smedts, Selwood, Duncan, and Harry (oh how I wish I could include Menzel), leaving Jimmy, Smithy, Johnno and Boris to be the bit part players. At one stage on Friday night Bartel was at fullback; unthinkable just a few seasons back. Time will tell if they can carry it for the whole season. Should the youngsters wilt perhaps Jimmy and Co. will take the reins.

One can’t help but wonder if the Swans are simply underdone. Certainly they uncharacteristically dropped their intensity as the game wore on. Their season is certainly not lost and maybe a big bloke called Kurt, who is currently sitting in the sin bin, can tip it back in their favour upon his return.

Geelong: 7.2  9.4  16.7  19.10.124

Sydney : 8.1  10.3  11.3  16.7.103


Geelong: Motlop3, Hawkins 3, Taylor 2, Chapman 2, Stokes 2, Horlin-Smith, Podsiadly, Smedts, Johnson, Selwood, T Hunt, Christensen.

Sydney: McVeigh 3, Goodes 2, Bolton 2, Hannebery 2, Malceski 2, Reid, Roberts-Thomson, Pyke, McGlynn, Kennedy



Best Players

Geelong: Selwood, Taylor, Motlop, Stokes, Corey, Horlin-Smith, Mackie, Enright, T Hunt, Johnson.

Sydney: Malceski, Hannebery, Pyke, Jack, Richards, McVeigh


Umpires: Donlon, Stevic, Stewart.


Official Crowd: 31,060


Votes: 3 J. Selwood (Geel), 2 H. Taylor (Geel), 1 S. Motlop (Geel).


About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Stephen Cooke says

    Sydney – WHACK! GWS/Gold Coast – WHACK! North Melbourne – WHACK! Dips not afraid to pull punches. I guess he does have Joel Selwood backing him up

    p.s. Agree with all of this.

  2. “charging … like Lohnro about to service Black Caviar”

    My ribs are too sore from yesterday’s opening match of the cricket season to endure such an amusing simile.

    Did not catch the game on TV so the excellent report is greatly appreciated.

    (I did witness the 93 goal-fest – banging on the window in the top bar so much as to leave the palms and fingers red-raw.)

  3. Selwood is a genuine freak. Just hope he doesn’t serious injure himself with his complete lack of regard for personal safety!

  4. I really enjoyed the game on TV on Friday night, and your report encapsulated it beautifully Dips.
    Dunno about Joel being unique among the Selwoods though. I saw Scott pull off that manouevre 3 times on Saturday night. He hit Yarran lace out with his pass each time.
    I love ‘smart’ footballers and Harry Taylor has been top of my tree for a while. He just reads the ball so well. Maximum result for apparent minimum of effort. I am hoping he will be in blue and gold next season.
    The player who really surprised me was Stephen Motlop. Without Varcoe he really stepped up. Skill, speed and work rate – you can’t ask for more than that. He went from “flashy and flaky” to “seriously good” in my lexicon Friday night.

  5. Peter B – I wish you would stop going on about Harry Taylor going back West. You had your chances to recruit him as a youngster. Hasn’t Geelong already given up enough (G Ablett jnr) for the good of the group?

    PS – your coach must be feeling a little pressure.

  6. Rick Kane says

    Sydney think “a game of footy is like having your belly tickled”. Brilliant. And so many one liners. What, are you Rodney Dangerfield? Love your work Dips. Side-splittingly funny and detailed and incisive. Keep em coming. Cheers

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Entertaining read , Dips . Pembroke college are still shattered that , GHS picked footy over cricket they thought ther was a , Aust test captain in waiting . Great bloke and really hope ,14 is his break out year . Selwood love him and all the crap he gets for ducking hid head yes occasionally he does but in general h does what you try an teach kids and does it with out fear in getting down low to pick up the ball not ducking hid head when he has it genuine elite player ! Loved the space invaders bit
    Thanks Dips

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