Cats v Hawks, Another Thriller, What did we expect?

Hawthorn v Geelong
Rd 12 MCG 7.10pm

Wow! What a game! We all know the recent history of the Cats and the Hawks but can we keep expecting them to deliver every time they meet?
Every time they play it’s built up and anticipated as a huge clash of FIERCE RIVALS, and unlike other “Big Games” that promise much and deliver little, Geelong/Hawthorn games promise much and deliver more!
More pressure, more intensity, more drama, more excitement, more skills and more thrills. And if that isn’t enough, they also manage to deliver edge of the seat cliff-hanger thriller finishes every time they play, even when there is only a seven week break since the last time they played as in last night’s encounter.
The round five game was a comparative blow-out with a margin of 19 points but that didn’t reflect the closeness of the game.
Last night was not a goal for goal slug-fest with neither side able to break free.
It was a game of intense and sudden swings of momentum where both teams looked capable of running away with it at times before the other hauled them in, overtook them and sprinted ahead, only to be unable to shake off their pursuer.

Last time Buddy and the Hawks – a passable name for a 50’s rock n roll band I feel – raced out to an early lead before the Cats awoke and began to claw their way back. Last night it was Geelong who started the better and built a three goal lead by quarter time on the back of a virtuoso performance by James Podisadly. The JPod was irresistible. Every time the ball came his way he marked it and goaled and when he didn’t mark it, he crumbed it and goaled and on one occasion even marked it and hand-balled it to Travis Varcoe who goaled. Gone were the JPod’s yips that threatened to destroy the Cats hopes of victory against Collingwood. Last night he was cool calm and confident in front of goal and never looked like missing.

But just when Geelong looked comfortable Hawthorn came on a charge and kicked five goals in a row. Franklin was in the right place at the right time to capitalise on the good work of Mitchell, Shiels and Rioli further up the ground.
A soft 50 as a result of a melodramatic dive from Buddy from a Bartel bump lead to a Hawks goal and they were up by 13 but footy karma would remember what happened.

Hawthorn were on a roll and the game was in the balance when suddenly it was Geelong’s turn again. Bam bam bam and the Cats were in front. JPod bagged his sixth goal of the half. It came as a shock but it shouldn’t have.
Five goals without reply and the Cats were cruising into half time.

Until the last 90 seconds of the half that is, when Renouf and Franklin goaled for the Hawks and the margin was cut to just six points. I was really disappointed with the way the quarter ended. Our advantage was wiped out, momentum shifted back to the Hawks, the game was delicately poised and a nagging doubt that with every successive Geelong victory post 2008 we moved inevitably closer to a loss to Hawthorn. How long were they going to accept coming second to the Cats? They hadn’t lost a game since we played them in round five and the amount of media focus on Geelong’s recent domination must surely burn them up.

I was worried at half time. Imagine how I felt at ¾ time after they had held us goalless in the third term? The Hawks had finally decided enough was enough from JPod and double-teamed him for the rest of the game while kicking four goals themselves. They were 17 points in front at the final change and I said to Sport Boy, “I’ve got a feeling Hawthorn are going to kick the first couple of goals and run away with it”.

Ever the confident one Sport Boy chided me and said “I reckon we’ll win by two points”. I wished I shared his faith but despite the evidence of the last eleven weeks that the Cats are the most resilient, hard-working, never-say-die team in the league and can never be written off, I thought this was the game we were going to lose.
I watched the Cats huddle intently through the binoculars at the break and did not pick up any sense of urgency or detect any sign that they were worried. It looked matter of fact and focussed, as if they knew what they had to do and it was now a matter of doing it.

Last week Luke Breust came on as the sub for Hawthorn against the Bulldogs and kicked three goals. Early in the final quarter last night he took a mark in the forward pocket and lined up for a set shot that would put the Hawks 23 points in front and surely in a game-winning position. There were no heroics for the young Hawk this time, his shot missed everything and went out on the full.
The first few minutes of the final term were all Hawthorn, they just couldn’t get a goal to capitalise on their dominance. Then the game took its last and most decisive shift of momentum. Joel Selwood who had been quiet all night seems to have a special reserve of something extra: determination, desire, commitment, courage, will to win; whatever it is he turned it on in the last quarter and on two separate occasions forced the ball forward under intense pressure and both times Steve Johnson goaled as a result. The Cats were not done, the margin was 5 points and the embers of hope were being fanned back to life in my doubting heart.

Then came the worst moment of the night. At a boundary throw-in Jarred Roughead dropped to the ground as if shot and immediately hailed the trainers. His Achilles tendon had snapped, his night and his season was over and with it perhaps the Hawks hopes of victory were also gone. After the ambulance carried his forlorn figure from the ground Jimmy Bartel kicked the ball forward again, the Cats piled on the pressure and Daniel Menzel kicked the third goal of the quarter and Geelong were in front. They had done it again, they would not be denied. They kept pressing and had several chances to seal the game but successive behinds and missed shots saw them only manage to grow the lead to 5 points. The door was still open if the Hawks were good enough. Their problem was that Geelong’s backline put on a master class of defensive skill and coolness under pressure with the usual suspects, Scarlett, Taylor, Lonergan, Enright and the AFL’s oldest super-sub, Darren Milburn continually marking across half back and repelling wave after wave of Hawk attacks.
Sport Boy and I were literally bouncing in our seats it was so tense. The Hawks sent the ball inside 50 one last time. Buddy lurched forward. Lonergan’s hands were suspiciously positioned. The Hawk fans screamed for in the back. The whistle blew. Andrew Mackie was paid the mark, no free-kick. Mackie cleared. The siren sounded. The Cats had won again. I could hardly believe it even though I’d seen it with my own eyes.

As we made our way out of the MCG Sport Boy said to me, with a completely straight face, “The footy’s getting a bit boring Dad…Geelong always win…the margin’s always less than a goal…I dunno if I want to keep coming!”
Cheeky little bugger!

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