Round 16 – Geelong v Sydney: Appreciation Night

A clear, still night and a ground in good nick welcome the Cats and Swans. Couldn’t have asked for better considering what the weather dished up all week.

 

Fireworks salute the players after they enter the arena. A skinny security guard, who may or may not have been here courtesy of a 457 visa, or after seeking asylum, and doing whatever job was on offer, applauds the pyrotechnics. I hope, for his sake and slight stature, the rabble don’t rouse too much, though I’ve personally never witnessed more than verbal stoushes at the footy. But who knows, he could be an unobtrusive martial arts expert, or a master in hand-to-hand combat. Standing room is barely half full, so little crowd control required on that front.

 

How would the two teams respond after unexpected losses? The answer is soon provided by ten minutes of Swan desperation. They’re playing like against Collingwood in round one. I observed then if they kept that intensity up all season they’d burn out. They chose the right time to reintroduce it – sadly for us. We look unprepared, and there are even less excuses for that than against the Saints. Our every kick and mark is under the hammer, our forward line congested, and our backmen sleepy in an open Sydney forward half.

 

JTH sent a group email during the week about appreciating what’s important in life. Our backs, at times, look as if they’re not only taking footy life for granted, but are absent minded – they keep forgetting which way we’re kicking, going backwards and sideways with casual kicks and routine handpasses that disrespect Sydney’s pressure.

 

Kieren Jack appreciates the chance to simply play footy following a tumultuous week, and kicks the opening goal.

 

I’ve complained about it before and I hope to never again, so I’ll repeat this three times now in the wish it appeases complacency gods and forever banishes the Cat curse: dumb handball, dumb handball, dumb handball!

 

Thank you.

 

H. Taylor lets the footy slip between outstretched palms and through the Swans goal, telegraphing to us all that minds aren’t quite right. Though, in fairness, the pill probably did have some float about it.

 

Hawkins is staying home and wrestling, but delivery to him is haphazard. For all the criticism of Shane Kerston, I feel we miss his presence. How much improvement he has in him will be hard to discover if he’s always in and out of the side. Another forward dispensed with during our end-of-year bargain basement sale might’ve been handy too, but that would be living in the past.

 

We fight back in the first, and our start to the second quarter is even better. We have Sydney making errors, but we’re still scrappy and having to work hard to score.

 

For a brief, breathtaking period, the Sherrin pinballs chaotically from one desperate contest to another in our forward half.

 

Aliir and Cockatoo attack a ground ball, but Nakia, arriving first, turns his body side on. Aliir lunges head-on and ends up unconscious and face down on the turf as play continues around him. It seems an age before runners appear. They leave him on the field, however, a wobbly figure before eventually being taken off. Surprisingly, he returns and becomes an effective backline presence.

 

We get our noses in front, but are unable to sustain the intensity. Sydney continue being able to hit free targets outside the contest; we’re slower to react and move the ball from one contest to another.

 

The security guard guy is watching more footy than doing crowd control, though occasionally he glances behind to the spectators, possibly wondering what sort of battlefield was this, among the shouts of “ball!”, the chorus of boos, the groans, and the cheers, ironical and celebratory. Perhaps he appreciates the scene as a comparative paradise, that there’s little more here to worry about than a battle of wills on the field and a war of words off it.

 

The crowd is riotously noisy, though, as they perceive injustice heaped on previous weeks’ injustice. The umps are typically inscrutable and holding-the-ball interpretations hard to fathom. Sometimes, a game’s intensity pushes the contested envelope creating a different umpiring yardstick.

 

An Asian couple with a baby, and no obvious footy affiliation, stand a row back and a few metres across. Had they come here by mistake? Misdirected by tourist info? Expecting a night of theatre (they certainly got that)? Confused Great Ocean Road for Great Australian Game? Making decisions about whether their child should play this strange sport? I imagined they were from somewhere like Beijing, but for all I knew they were from Bentleigh.

 

By half time the writing was on the wall, if it hadn’t already been there in the first ten minutes. I contemplate leaving to watch the second half on telly, but stay on with overpriced mid-strength in hand. Be thankful for small mercies.

 

Sel-field plays admirably, Menzel tries, Cockatoo has moments, Bartel and Lonergan contest well and some, but not enough contribute. The Swans are a collective, so much so I find it hard to identify their best player.

 

The crowd cheers an awarded free kick – it has a hollow ring – as if there’s nothing left to celebrate as the realisation dawns we’re not up to it.

 

The script written on the wall needs an edit – plot points were set up early, the climax soon passed, but now the ending is being drawn out. A bit like this post.

 

Thoughts turn to Jan Courtin somewhere among the throng, who wrote about her bitter disappointment with Sydney’s effort against the Bulldogs. She is likely loving every moment of this game. Six days is a long week in football. I can’t begrudge her. Sydney were masterful, we were students in a tutorial.

 

The revolving door of premiership favouritism keeps turning. More than any other, in a long time, this season is up for grabs. It could be the Steven Bradbury year. And the Swans beat us here in 2011 too, as I desperately seek omens.

 

The script I’d like to see next penned at Kardinia Park is “Get Lingy”. As an assistant with plans for succession – make him an offer he can’t refuse that doesn’t involve equine body parts.

 

While disappointed with the Cats tonight, the Swans were on song, and will be hard to beat if they can keep it up.

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Thanks Paul.

    The future is Steve Johnson.

  2. Paul, what is the plan with Vardy ? We all know he’s been cruelled by injuries but when does he get a chance to consolidate his place in the senior line up.

    Do you retain Clark? Listening to Jonathon Brown speak Clark has played his best football as the number one ruckman, or the number one forward. This is not going to happen at Geelong. As a player he does not have the on field attributes to remain at Geelong.

    One last point to jog my memory. Yep Sydney won at Kardiniai Park in 2011, when else have they won there this century ? I reckon this win is their third at Kardinai Park in the 22nd century.

    Glen!

  3. jan courtin says:

    Well, Paul, that was certainly a surprise – to see my name printed in your story! I would have thought that the last thing on a Cats fan’s mind on Friday night was a happy Swannie! Thank you.

    Yes, I certainly was there. You might have noticed the one and only Swans flag being waved in the group of red and white supporters sitting just in front of the standing area. Well, that was me.

    You guys obviously had an “off” night, and as my “traitor” sister (was South now Geelong) said after the game “You should have won by 80 points the way we played”. “We just stood there, and the Swans kept moving”, she added.

    The 2011 omen! Oh dear, don’t like to think of that one!
    Thanks

  4. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Well captured Paul.
    I like your observation about teams needing to know when to use full throttle. The Swans did well to apply it at Kardinia, esp with the Hawks coming into view on the Thursday night horizon.
    The Terrace is an excellent place to watch footy.

  5. Good one Paul. I think most Cats supporters were just completely aghast at the performance put up by the players in such an important game. I think you have nailed it, the Cats were simply not up to it.

  6. Paul Spinks says:

    Peter: back to the future – I like it. Starring a team made of father and sons?

    Glen: the club probably has to roll the dice with Vardy and see how capable he is. They’ve been willing to take a punt on players with injury histories, Clark is a different issue (and a more sensitive one) – suspect the next few weeks will tell. I would’ve thought the Swans had won again at KP too, but apparently not – only twice in this, still young, century, as far as I can discover.

    Jan: no probs. I heard your pain, so it wasn’t difficult to imagine your pleasure. Hard not to admire good team footy – and Cats don’t have much reason for animosity against the Swans – apart from a certain final in 2005.

    Mathilde: thanks. Looking forward to Swans V Hawks. The Terrace is great, and still one of footy’s best kept secrets – not promoted, or helped when games are continually referred to as sell outs. Hope it has a future.

    Dips: thanks. A team needs at least a few uncompromising players to go all the way, and I think we’re lacking in that regard. Some pennies need to drop. Haven’t given up, and still time to turn it around, but history of recent years seems to be repeating.

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