Round 1 (2016) – Geelong v Hawthorn: Cats Out Of The Cradle

Its Easter Monday afternoon. I’ve just collected from the bookies at the Stawell track after backing Dunmall for the Stawell Gift Final and Exum each way in the Women’s Final. Not a bad afternoon’s work. We wander over the broad asphalt street to The Gift Hotel which sits opposite the hallowed turf of Central Park Stawell.


It’s been a positive day. Everyone in our party who punted on the Gift had a win. We are buoyant. We order a few pots. The TV in the outdoor area gets switched from a horse race meeting at Oakbank to the mighty MCG. The Cats v Hawks battles in recent years have been memorable. This one has a finals feel about it even before the ball is bounced.


There is something about the light. The MCG is bathed in a gentle autumnal glow. Buts it’s a fresh glow; a new light that is distinct from the burnt yellow, blazing sun of summer. The seasons have changed. Indeed, a lot has changed. The Cats have new faces and new hopes. The players emerge from the race and enter the stadium in their freshly pressed guernseys. The jumpers look like they’ve just been taken out of their plastic wrappings. The hoops are resplendent against the dowdy brown and yellow of the Hawthorn strip.


I have images of the game as I wrote nothing down. There are moments, there is anguish, there is yelping and hollering for joy. The Cats hit in hard. McCarthy takes a pearler of a grab early in the game. Zac Smith looks as tall as a light tower. And he runs and tackles too. The Hawks defence looks to be panicking a bit. Geelong’s forward 50 height is worrying them. Duryea turns back into trouble and gets pinged. Stratton pushes in desperation. Kicks are thrown onto the boot like a C Grade reserves fullback. This is not the smooth, brutal, efficient Hawthorn. Hodge can’t get his hands on it.


We breathe at quarter time.


“Good start.”

“Yeah, good start.”


The second quarter is the same. New blokes in Geelong jumpers are a delight to watch. A bloke from Adelaide via Moggs Creek is killing them. I study him. What is it about P. Dangerfield? He doesn’t fall over. He hits the footy at full pelt. He tackles like a bull dog. His kicks hardly miss the target. But there’s more. Yes, there it is. He can bend and pick up the footy without missing a beat; like oil flowing downhill, like the workings of a Longines watch, like the feel of a Hermes silk scarf. Class. It’s hard to quantify the difference it makes. A bend of the knees, a lowering of the hips, and sure hands on the footy. Nothing slows down. He puts the “E” in engine room. It’s disconcerting for his opponents. If they wait for him he’s gone. If they attack him he swerves. We haven’t seen this at Geelong since G. Ablett junior went north.


Half time. A fresh pot of Caaaaarlton Draught. Expectations are high.


“They’ll come at us.”

“Yep they’ll come at us.”


And they do. In the third quarter the Hawks flick a switch and awaken from their near mortal slumber. Suddenly the ball is traversing the ground with precision and speed. It’s frightening because it’s almost unstoppable. Mitchell’s deft touches hurt and Hodge makes his presence felt. Blond Langford wills himself to the footy. Puopolo gets his little legs pumping like a tractor engine. When he’s charging at the footy I almost expect to see the black exhaust of diesel fuel being expelled from his rear end. They hit the front.


Where did this come from? But there is a positive. The Cats are turning the footy over whilst attacking the goals. They haven’t gone into their shells, they are momentarily outgunned. The only way to beat Hawthorn is to beat Hawthorn. There can be no waiting for them to wilt. At three quarter time we still feel very much in the contest.


“Some #@!* needs to nail Mitchell” advises a casual observer whose attention fluctuates between his pot of draught, the form guide and the TV.


The last stanza is tense and tight early. The teams trade goals. Then Darcy Lang roves the footy at a stoppage and kicks a ripper left foot goal. It’s like the Hawks have taken one hit too many. Hodge knees Bartel in the head then gets cleaned up by Duncan. Karma. Caddy dobs a beauty, and Lang another. Our rucks aren’t getting any shorter. In among all this Dangerfield threatens to finish the contest early. He misses two sitters from 20 out, then hits the post with a left foot snap from the boundary. These are 3 of his 43 touches for the day.


“Pity he can’t kick” says a wag at the bar “because he’d be OK if he could.”


The Cats prove too willing in this contest. They run harder for longer. The Hawks have missed Roughy’s presence and are still carrying a bit of pre-season rust in their play but they were beaten at their own game. It’s a mighty win for Geelong. One that could set up a season.


We return to the camp fire with pizzas and a bottle of red. The game is dissected and discussed. The end of the Easter camp is always a bit depressing, but there’s no sign of that around the fire tonight.


Votes: 3 P. Dangerfield, 2 J. Selwood, 1 S. Mitchell.

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. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Dangerfield is the best player I have seen gathering the ball below his knees while going at full pace and may well end up having a far bigger impact at his new club that the last two big names to transfer clubs.
    As a Crows supporter losing,Dangerfield means the Crows will not challenge for between 3 to 5 yrs at least but I will still love watching him play he is a super star thanks,Dips a enjoyable read

  2. E.regnans says

    Dips- love it.
    The new hoops.
    The pub.
    The campfire,

    Excellent stuff.

  3. Sounds like a ripper weekend all round, Dips.

  4. The Wrap says

    The hangover from Stawell will pass Dips. And so will the elation from Easter Monday.

  5. Grant Fraser says

    Soooooo two years ago

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