Round 4 – Geelong v GWS: The wisdom of youth




Geelong v GWS

1:45PM, Saturday April 13

Kardinia Park


“Mate, I haven’t been this confident since the 2008 Grand Final.”


The pause is interrupted: “Dad, we lost that game.”


“I know, but I was very confident beforehand.”


I marked this down as a seven-goal win for the new-look Cats. Interstate teams tend to lose their way when at the Cattery and the Giants would be no different.


My son was nervous but didn’t have the benefit of experience.


It was a no-brainer for old mate at the Aireys Inlet store, too.


“Going to the footy? Who’ve you got? The Giants? No contest. 7 goals.”


“Told you mate,” I told little mate. “Old mate reckons we’ll win by 7 goals too.”


“I’m still nervous.”


When little mate was born, yet to realize who he would be following, it pleased me greatly to know he would be able to regularly visit a traditional home ground in the era of consolidation.


The remodeled GMHBA Stadium has amplified this experience.


The Stadium is not only comfortable but instils a great sense of pride, retains a local feel and honours the history of this great club. The concourse is an open air museum with equal emphasis on all eras.


Geelong’s VFA premierships have equal status to VFL/AFL premierships; every player to pull on the blue and white hoops is named on a wall of fame (shout out to great grandfather Walter); there’s even a huge image of Peter Riccardi celebrating his kick after the siren in 2002.


It was a nondescript game against Carlton at the Docklands, but I was there and remember it vividly, so the image brought me great joy.


Taking my seat in the Players’ Stand and watching latecomers look for their seats restored memories of sitting in this (Doug Wade) stand before it was reconstructed.


You could be jammed tight on the wooden benches and have to accommodate four more people, each grumbling about having held the same seats for 30 years and what an outrage it was.


Their discontent should have been directed to the club, who (I’m sure) would reduce the space between the painted lines on the bench every summer to squeeze more people in.


You could do that with wooden benches and it was to my unbridled delight that I would later see a section of them hoisted high in a section of the concourse.


The Geelong Football Club gets it.


With little mate sitting next to me in his newly purchased jumper (number 35), the game began.


The Cats started strongly and their new style of locking the ball in the forward 50 was enjoyable to watch. I had initially feared this implementation, predicting the selection of players who can tackle but with no ability to create a goal from the slightest of chances.


What I saw was Luke Dalhaus sprint bull-at-a-gate for every loose ball – to the shock and awe of unsuspecting opponents – and use that creativity once gathered.


The Giants had no space and the Cats were on their way to consecutive premierships. What a time to be alive.


The Giants showed in the second quarter that their ineptitude in the first was an aberration but late goals by the Cats led me to believe the 7 goal win was still in hand.


With the game won, my thoughts turned to more important matters.


How would Doug Wade go at full forward in today’s game? Sitting in his former stand, the image of the big barrel chested forward standing in the goal square led me to believe he’d at least break even.


If the ball hit the ground, it’s fair to say he’d be in trouble, but surely he’d be good enough to kick five most days if his modern day teammates bombed it in the air above his head, those huge mitts squeezing the air from the Sherrin.


He would have been in his element this day in the second half as Geelong reverted back to the dumb kicks I’ve seen too often at this ground. Over and over, players would slam the footy on the boot, either high in the air giving Hawkins little chance, or straight to a Giants player.


Chris Scott’s game plan unraveled as the third quarter progressed. That’s the inevitable result when pressure falls away and players don’t man up. For once, I didn’t blame him.


Jeremy Cameron had no competition in the air; the ball came out of Geelong’s forward 50 far too easily; their run from half-back was unimpeded; and without Tom Stewart and Kolodjashnij, the result would have been much worse.


The Cats looked confused on the field. Their fans weren’t confused.


Charged from a solid 3-0 start to the year, it dawned on the crowd in the Players’ Stand that nothing had changed. This team still lacked the grit and resolve of our golden premiership era. Heads turn to others when momentum is against them. That doesn’t win premierships.


The feeling in the crowd was palpable. Genuine disappointment lingered long after the final siren. I’ve seen plenty of angry fans at this ground, particularly when Kent Kingsley was playing, but not this sense of deflation.


They were sold a premiership side and realized it won’t happen. Not this year. The future’s bright though. Parfitt knows he belongs; Clark takes the game on every chance he gets; Stewart can be the leader in defence we’ve missed since Scarlett, and should be told his time is now.


The second siren rings and the sprint for the middle is on in earnest. Little mate and I move onto the ground for a kick. He’s kicking from the spot Dangerfield did. I’m kicking from the spot Garry Hocking did. This is our ground. It’s a treasured feeling. It’s why the result is of little consequence to me.


We leave the Stadium and Kardinia Park is full. There’s been a local game on the adjoining oval and families are continuing their kick to kick in the park next door.


As the sun sets, little mate and I fall one short of our record of continuous marks. As I steer us back to Aireys Inlet, the thought of that final dropped mark lingers longer than the day’s result.


The silence is punctured by little mate.


“Dad, you know how you said today and before the 2008 Grand Final that you’ve never been more confident?”


“Yes, mate.”


“Never ever say that again.”



GEELONG                                              4.3   7.6    10.8   11.9 (75)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY              1.1   4.3    10.7   11.13 (79)


Geelong: Hawkins 3, Ablett 2, Rohan 2, Kelly, Miers, Taylor, Dangerfield
Greater Western Sydney: Cameron 3, Finlayson 3, Lloyd 2, Himmelberg 2, Buntine


Geelong: Parfitt, Duncan, Stewart, Hawkins, Selwood
Greater Western Sydney: Whitfield, Coniglio, Hopper, Cameron, de Boer, Kelly


Our votes (Malarkey Medal): Cameron (GWS) 3, Coniglio (GWS) 2, Stewart (Geel) 1


Crowd: 28,780



  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful to see your words back on the Almanac Cookie!

    Great piece, love the very wise words from Cooke jnr at the end. And yes, what Geelong have done at Kardinia Park is magnificent. Wish Victoria Park had received the same treatment.

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