Finals Week 1 – Port Adelaide v Geelong: Yesterday and tomorrow




The volume was turned off. No match reviews have been read. No beer drenched opinions of mates at the pub, or in sheds, by fires. Just the sound of cold south-easterlies blowing through the treetops around the property, as I watched the footy.


Here’s my take.


Hawkins had the kicking yips. He’s a heart-on-sleeve bloke, so it was painfully obvious. Dixon had marking yips. He couldn’t catch a balloon. Blind man could see. Which makes a game hard for their teammates, but I found it fine. Power versus the Cats came down to the teams themselves.


Yesterday’s versus tomorrow’s.


Don’t blame the Geelong forward line. Port, as a team, is a bit faster than any the game has seen before. Their forwards and mids apply so much pressure. They get that nudge on, hook that finger into a jumper. Catch that tackle. Their harassment across Geelong’s half black line was nothing short of brilliant. The work of their on-ballers to stop the loose man was pure, unnoticed, defensive G&D. The ball came into the Geelong half forward line high and ugly. And beyond that rarely.


Geelong had the big names around the ball, but you never once saw them running free, breaking packs, bursting into the clear. When the Cats’ players got it, they wanted to use it. Basically, they played yesterday’s game. And got harassed, annoyed, scragged. Rushed. They preferred to get tackled and create a stoppage then turn it over. When Port got it, they slapped it on the boot. Just like the throwbacks to the `70s have been pleading for, for over 40 years. But be careful what you wish for. It does not make for pretty, Geelong-style football.


It was so obvious!


Geelong: take a second to look for a target. Versus Port Adelaide: pressure, bang it downfield, eyes closed, don’t let them breath. Have faith in your setups.




Geelong have long had the best football department in the AFL. They recruit like no other. But the Power had the better spread at every contest. And contest to contest is how they play football. There was always someone in any direction to feed it off to. Where as too often, Geelong were taking on the tackler. Does Port have the better individuals? Maybe not. The better structure? Absolutely.


When Geelong got in in tight, which finals are, they were tackled four times out of five. When Port got it in tight, they went caveman. Threw it on the boot. Gained yards. Backed their fitness to have the numbers around wherever it went to. Physically stronger? No. Faster, fitter.


Last time these two teams played it was all about the Ken Doll versus the Thug. Tom v Charlie. Six goals to none. Everybody trashed the Port man and sprinkled praise on the Tomahawk. But people can be like that. It’s rarely so straightforward.


Go back and look at the highlights of that Round 12 game. Please! Better yet, watch the whole thing. You will never, ever see a more black-and-white cause and effect picture. Every one of Hawkins’ goals was with him one-on-one, in an open forward line. Every single contest of Dixon’s was in traffic. One fearless defender after another putting their ribs on the line, backing into the brute, leaving his opponent to punch from behind.


This is finals, though. Players tackle harder. It’s. That. Simple.


Port backed their around-the-contest structures. Their harass, spoil and tackle.  Then slapped it forward. To more structure. Organised shitfights. That’s it.


No second drafts. No whispers. No stats, ever. Nobody stood out. I watched in silence and saw two very different generations of coach, teams, and footballers.


Thank you Hawkins. Thank you Dixon.



PORT ADELAIDE     2.1     4.2     7.4     9.4     (58)

GEELONG                1.4     3.7     4.8     5.12     (42)



Port Adelaide: Motlop 3, Ebert 2, Dixon, Rozee, Ladhams, Marshall

Geelong: Stanley 2, Tuohy, Selwood, Dangerfield



Port Adelaide: Rockliff, Powell-Pepper, Ebert, Motlop, Wines, Hartlett, Butters

Geelong: Parfitt, Selwood, Dangerfield, Guthrie, Duncan, Taylor



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  1. Football Analyst says

    This is my take. This current Geelong is simply not as good as the Geelong teams which won flags in 2007, 2009 and 2011. They have a glaring weakness in the forward line, except Tom Hawkins. There hasn’t been suitable consistent replacements since the days of Paul Chapman and Steve Johnson, who were goal kicking match winners in Geelong’s golden era of 2007 to 2011.
    How Ratagulea could not get into this team is beyond comprehension. He is the best Centre half forward at Geelong. How Jack Steven is not in Geelong’s best 22 is also beyond comprehension. Jack Steven would walk into the St Kilda team as a midfielder. He is not a half forward flanker. He should be at least on the bench for Geelong. If not, let St Kilda have him back and St Kilda will then be a top 4 team.
    Gary Ablett Jnr is not the player he was and likewise Harry Taylor. I believe both are retiring at the end of this year.
    Geelong need to invest more in youth. Sometimes, you need to go backwards to go forward. I know Geelong don’t get high draft picks because of their ladder position each year.
    Geelong has been topping up in recent years because they want Patrick Dangerfield to go out with a flag. They will be hoping they play West Coast next week, not Collingwood as Collingwood have a better recent record against Geelong in finals and home and away games. However, every match is different. I don’t believe in hoodoos. Your team is either good enough or it’s not.
    Chris Scott is a very good coach. He has had more top 4 finishes than any other coach from 2011 onwards, with a list that overall is not as good as 2007 to 2011, in terms of depth.

  2. Ironically as you describe,Old dog a rewind to a lot of Ports successes in the Sanfl in years past may be not the most talented but pressure and harass and keep it simple stupid

  3. Must have been interesting to watch with no sound on. Might do that when I get to the replay this arvo, having been there, it was very loud indeed. Is it fair to trot out the old cliche that a champion team beat a team of champions? Good stuff, Matt, and thanks.

  4. Yeah, this is good, Matt. Slap it on. Trust the system and the team. Richmond did the same to The Cats, who must stop and weigh options.

  5. Agree with much of what you say, Old Dog.

    Port were hotter at the contest in that third quarter. That decided it.

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    Great analysis Matt and well described. Thanks.

  7. I’m with Footy Analyst. When Cats played the Eagles mid season I said Ratugolea would be the making of their forward line as it gives opponents another good marking tall to worry about. I get that his kicking is erratic but he would make Hawkins a much more dangerous option.
    Cats lack of a ruckman is still a huge issue (best recruiters – spare me – they sold Motlop who cut them up). If Rhys Stanley is the answer I dunno what the question is. Blicavs was great but it also takes away their best rebounding defender. Harry Taylor is 2 years past it.
    Best football department??? If ever a bloke inherited a flag with a team that coached themselves its Chris Scott in 2011.
    Bomber Thompson is Clarko’s equal as the best footy brain of the last 20 years. Like the Saints with Blight modern clubs prefer KPI’s to genius.

  8. Agree Old Dog. Agree with the analysis. Keep it simple. Play hard. Gain ground. Play hard. Trust each other. That was Port. Geelong? Not sure. Scott has a knack for complicating the simple. That leads to confusion.

  9. Matt Zurbo says

    Geelong are not as good as ’07-”11, obviously. That was a once in a lifetime team. Who could possibly expect that forever? But their footy department remains quite amazing. What other team has finished so high for so long, decades, despite the draft system? None. All while rebuilding a state of the art stadium. Thats is not just coaching. That’s list management. Scott inherited a stable club, full of champion players, solid recruiters, and an impossibly strong and productive link to their local region. Ask any club president, any CEO, the key to success is stability. Benny Gale told me this, two years before RIchmond’s recent run of success started. When there were calls to ditch Hardwick. All the board leaders did. Stability. Recruiting. Coaching. They are all linked.

    Geelong’s actual coaching department, to me, seems steady as she goes, without obvious brilliance.

    As for Harry, of course he is past his best! But is he still good enough? Well, he spanked Dixon. And then there are factors beyond that. Is it a young backline? How is his leadership? His talk and organising skills? Do they have a ready replacement? Or is there someone who can play alongside him for a year or two, and learn to go from 3rd tall to key defender? All good questions. It’s rarely as simple as ditching a player because he’s not young anymore. He has done his job when I’ve seen him, holding steady, freeing up younger blokes charge around him. But I have not watched him specifically enough to comment further.

  10. Well, well, well…

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