Round 14 – St Kilda v Geelong: GroundCat Day

After Geelong’s losses to GWS, Collingwood and Carlton (and against others in recent years) the team mantra was, ‘that’s what happens when you’re a fraction off your game, the competition is so even – we have to learn from it.’ Or words to similar effect.

 

Perhaps ‘slogan’ is a better description because the above reasoning has lost meaning through repetition, is increasingly spoken without conviction, as a part-explanation – words to offer up when you don’t know the answer, or if you do, are reluctant to admit it.

 

Leading up to Saturday night’s game against the Saints I was hopeful, though a little concerned after Chris Scott expressed confidence that we were well prepared and wouldn’t drop our guard this time’. Those words had the ring of repetition about them too.

 

In my own GroundCat Day I have previously posted comments about flat patches and how they’ve cruelled our past five seasons, and suggested Chris Scott was a great people manager, but not yet a great coach, and how do you instil hunger in players when they don’t have it, is he in denial about the troops etc., etc? Of course, there have also been many good days, and we’ve played well enough to get into a position to succeed.

 

Loved every minute of the drawn Cats/Saints match last year, but expectations are higher now. On Saturday night I was at Etihad with two Saints fans, Brendan and Chris. The stadium was only moderately full, so we found a clear possie standing against the fence at ground level. Brendan had identified a recurring pattern with the Saints as well: a win, followed by an honourable loss, followed by a thrashing. This week was the turn of ‘honourable loss’. Except, last week’s win over the Blues may have already upset the sequence, but I didn’t think of that then.

 

The Saints impressed when they were on song this year, and for a young team they’re big bodied, which is handy if you’re to succeed at the pointy end of the season. I expect them to start well, but that we’ll prevail. Surely this time!

 

True to trend, the Saints are sharp in the first quarter, playing the hunter. We’re flat, but when that mood continues in the second quarter, enjoyment turns to annoyance.  Some mindset lessons aren’t being learned. Immediate evidence, as also previously documented, is the inaccuracy, half-chases, lack of tackle intensity, habitual handball, and casual decision-making. We’re in the opposite of whatever being in the zone is – zoned out, doing a Walter Mitty? At one point Harry Taylor stands five metres back from a Saints player’s mark. Not long after Motlop does similar, but eventually, slowly, moves up to offer token, dejected resistance. The Saints sense these attitudes and become more confident.

 

The Cats fire up somewhat in the second half, but the doubts sown were too many. We’re more desperate, but with rushed rather than a controlled urgency. Lincoln McCarthy is livewire and showing excellent skills on either side of the body, a potential Chappy, but inappropriate passes  allow St Kilda back in.

 

The Saints though, are brilliant, playing intense, instinctive team footy free of any fear of failure. Now they have set a higher standard, living up to it will be a harder challenge.

 

Tom Hawkins is one of those players who doesn’t get free kicks others often do, and is likewise penalised. Is he handicapped for being too big? In the dying moments, from a distance, it appears he is tripped and pushed in the back while attempting a lead. No free kick.

 

Arguments aside about whether a player in front, and going for the ball, should get the benefit of the doubt, I’m happy for umpires to err on the side of not blowing their whistle. Furthermore, umpiring decisions are not why we lost the game. The Saints deserved victory because, in simple terms, they played better footy.

 

Hayden Kennedy’s post-match attempt to back the umpire, however, was a reasonable audition for the Comedy Festival. It was apparently Hawkins’ fault because he clipped Dylan’s leg; the Pythonesque subtext being that he was to blame for being too close to the player behind him? Undoubtedly, had he been chasing the reverse logic would’ve applied.

 

There is GroundCat Day about controversial 50/50 decisions toward the end of close games against the Saints. Last year, Motlop was denied a goal when called for running too far, and in the 2010 qualifying final, Mooney was penalised for ‘in the back’ denying Cameron Ling a winning goal. No doubt Saints fans will hark back to a dodgy goal in 2009. None of the above decisions could be blamed for losing, though.

 

That night in 2010, coach Mark Thompson was livid, as much with his players as with the free kick, saying if they weren’t prepared to turn up for the first half the following week not to bother playing for the club. Or words to that effect. Our season effectively ended that night and it was Thommo who left.

 

Chris Scott claims not to address players immediately following a loss, preferring a more measured, later truth. I think he could borrow from the Thompson approach. Sometimes players need to be stung into action, probably even want it.

 

Scott, though, has admitted there’s a problem, but doesn’t know what the answer is. That’s a start. Cam Guthrie refutes there’s an attitude problem. Where’s Chappy when you need him?

 

Brendan, meanwhile, is worried about the Suns next week. But the Saints have broken their cycle.

 

The Cats now have to break theirs, cast away a millstone before starting the second half of what was mooted as an easy draw, and emerge from the slumber of GroundCat Day.

 

Will Pivotonian Phil predict a prosperous pointy end?

Comments

  1. That loss really stung, mostly because the Cats just didn’t look up to it. The first half was full of lazy efforts.

    I really rate the Saints. They should have beaten North, they would have beaten the Hawks (maggots saved the Hawks’ necks), and now they’ve beaten Geelong. They have a strong, young list.

  2. Cam Guthrie refutes there’s an attitude problem. Where’s Chappy when you need him?
    Paul, I loved that line. If there’s no problem you can’t fix it. I said to anyone who’d listen (very few these days) it was a danger game. There are some blokes there who care more about their little Mexican restaurants than winning. Motlop is either thickheaded or kindhearted. Either is a vice for a footballer these days. Kersten is the sort of footballer the opposition doesn’t have to think about. Hardly marks it. And they can run off him.
    Motlop goes to the Magoos to kill his kindness. Kersten goes to… well, he just goes.

  3. I must give credit to the Ctas. For the second year in a row they’ve helped me curtail my betting on the AFL. I can lose my money on more meritorious causes; horse racing for example.

    Seriously every pair of eyes saw the way Hawkins was man handled in the dying stages. I own’t ask Ray Charles his opinion, he can sing it better than i can say it! A definite free with a goal to follow. Geelong home, me in the money. But it’s more than that.

    How can a side that is a premiership favourite coming of a roll of victories over contendes find itself five goals down against a side for whom the finals is a dream , 2 to 3 years down the track? A pumped yup Geelong believing their own hype.

    This season t looks a bit like 1997, with avery even finals grouping. Geelong finished high up in 1997 to go out in straight sets. Touche, 2016.

    Glen!

  4. The truth hurts

    Not a little

    A lot

  5. Paul Spinks says:

    BTW – for those that don’t know, a GroundCat can be found in sleepy hollows.

    Dips: yes, us disappointing and the Saints were very good. It will be interesting to see how they go from here.

    ajc: I reckon Motlop is kindhearted. He probably needs more love than I’ve given him here – maybe wouldn’t respond to a bake. Tends to hold onto the ball too long IMO – keep it simple (he’s not Steve J.)? Kersten looks capable of more, but perhaps that’s his best – others are pushing up from VFL at present.

    Glen: I hope you’re wrong – we went out in straight sets in 2014. But we’re heading down that path if we continue to gloss over glitches. You could’ve still been in the money If the umps wanted to be really technical and really cruel and ping the Saints players for diving on the ball in the dying seconds. It was as ‘there’ as the decision against Guthrie and a couple of others that weren’t paid. I wouldn’t have agreed with it, though.

    Dave: yes, the truth can hurt. And it can be easy to take pot shots, but I pays me dues, as they say. Behind most fans criticisms is a desire to see their players do well and be proved wrong. Hope Cats cause pain no more. True footy following means never having to say you’re sorry?

  6. Patrick O'Brien says:

    “No doubt Saints fans will hark back to a dodgy goal in 2009.”

    There’s quite a long list of umpiring howlers from 2009, actually. I can send you my spreadsheet and special DVD if you like? It’s called ‘Building a Bridge’ and comes with a bonus section on Wayne Rooney’s dive over Sol ‘Big Sol’ Campbell’s leg at Old Trafford to end Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten run back in 18-whatever-it-was.

    Still, only the three paras whinging about the umps after saying you weren’t going to whinge about the umps. That’s positively magnanimous for Geelong ;)

    Patrick

  7. Paul Spinks says:

    Patrick – I don’t think I said anywhere I wouldn’t whinge about the umpiring. I said they couldn’t be blamed for the loss.

    Only made reference to 2009 because I knew it would be on the tip of many a Saints fan’s tongue. And other references were partly thematic. Don’t worry I could, and probably will, spend a lot more time whinging about umpiring and how the standards could be better. Just that I’ve moved on from thinking they’re the difference between winning and losing. Overall, in this game they were good in that they didn’t interfere too much, but were often inconsistent when they did. McCartin got a roughy too, if you want more balance.

    And I had some good things to say about the Saints as well, but it wasn’t really a post about them.

  8. Samuraisaint says:

    And it doesn’t stop there – I think Cam Mooney said something to an umpire at a critical juncture right at the end of the 2010 Qualifying Final to the effect of “You’ve cost us the game,” which was caught on microphone.

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