Round 7 – Geelong v West Coast: Cats Hungry, Eagles Just Peckish

Let’s face it. For thirty seasons now there’s been little in the way of affection between these clubs and their supporters. Respect yes, even envy at times. But that’s about it.

Even now we older Cats fans shudder when thinking about those Grand Final losses to the Eagles in the 1990s. A year or two earlier they pipped us in a tight Preliminary Final in atrocious weather conditions out at Waverley. The fact that ‘too old, too slow’ Hawthorn thumped the boys from the west in the ‘Batmobile’ Grand Final a week later provided scant consolation.

It was to be another twenty years before Geelong finally beat the Eagles in a big one, winning a relatively lacklustre 2011 Preliminary Final at the MCG. The loudest roars that day came when Steve Johnson emerged from the rooms and walked confidently around the boundary after suffering what looked to be a season-ending knee injury. Understandably, the roars of approval were even louder seven days later.

In the lesser home and away fixtures, honours have been about even, with both clubs winning most of their home games and losing away.

While the Cats triumphed occasionally in the west, most notably in 1993 when they had to win in the final round to keep their slim finals hopes alive (alas they just missed), the Eagles managed to inflict a couple of devastating losses on the Cats at Kardinia Park.

In both cases, one in the mid-1990s and another in 2006, Geelong appeared to be cruising to comfortable victory. They’d charged out to lead by around 40 points during the third quarter in the 1990’s game and by an incredible 54 points in 2006. The sensational Eagles comebacks and the Cats ineptness and misery in defeat had to be seen to be believed.

Surely such a turnaround in fortunes couldn’t happen again. Could it?

As my mate Craig and I settle into our seats behind the city end goals we notice a couple of things.

Firstly there is a steady wind blowing towards the other (river) end, to which the Eagles will be kicking in the first quarter.

Secondly there is a strange looking three storey structure on the western side of the ground where the Brownlow and Jennings stands used to be. Somewhat reminiscent of a third world cricket pavilion it will temporarily house the media contingent and the Geelong coaches box until a new stand is finished in 2017. It looks a bit odd and is very Geelong. Maybe they should name it the Addy Stand in honour of the famous local newspaper.

In a must-win game for both sides the Cats start the better against the breeze. Selwood and Motlop are noticeable early, setting up scoring opportunities as the Cats attack in waves. Blicavs is paying close attention to Shuey and limiting his effectiveness, though Gaff is getting plenty of the ball for the Eagles.

In a major setback for Geelong, McCarthy and Cockatoo leave the ground within minutes of each other with apparent leg injuries. Nevertheless the Cats manage to regroup and trail narrowly at quarter time, having missed several set-shot opportunities.

Stanley, who has been holding his own against Naitanui, finds himself in the umpires book after a late bump on Sheppard in a marking contest early in the second quarter. It doesn’t seem to faze him as he kicks a long goal after some good set-up work from Dangerfield.

Both sides continue to attack relentlessly. Most of the Eagles moves forward are easily repelled by the Geelong defence, even though the breeze has dropped to nothing. At the other end goals are coming from everywhere, especially Motlop (three goals for the quarter) as the Cats charge to a six goal lead at the long break.

Relentless pressure from Geelong in the form of smothering, tackling and cleaner disposal appears to be the difference at this stage.

Selwood, Motlop, Dangerfield and a rejuvenated Bartel have set up numerous scoring opportunities for the Cats while apart from Gaff, Masten and one or two others the Eagles have been poor in providing opportunities to key forwards Kennedy and Darling. McGovern has been solid in defence, but Priddis, Shuey and LeCras have been quiet.

The game continues along much the same lines in the third quarter with goals to Kersten and Guthrie as well as a few more misses from set shots. The Cats are wasting opportunities but have cruised to a 51 point lead. Cockatoo is back on the ground but doesn’t appear to be able to get out of a slow jog. The tape around his calf is a giveaway. McCarthy appears gone for the day.

Just as Geelong supporters are savouring the possibility of a ten or fifteen goal win the game changes. Completely.

Naitanui, who has played well but been largely negated by Smith and Stanley in the ruck, suddenly begins to dominate. The West Coast midfield lifts just as some of the Cats seem to step back to admire their own work. Big marks and goals to Lycett, Kennedy and Darling and an excellent kick from the boundary by Hill have reduced the margin to three goals, seemingly in the blink of an eye.

Surely the unthinkable is not going to happen – again! A late goal kicked from a few metres out by Caddy while lying on the ground eases Cats supporters’ nerves a little, but it’s definitely ‘game on’ in the last with the Cats a mere four goals up and the Eagles having kicked five of the last six.

The first goal in last quarter was always going to be vital and the Cats midfielders manage to scramble the ball forward to the top of the square. Hawkins can’t quite get control but the ball falls Cockatoo’s way out of a large pack. Almost unbelievably he manages to snap an outstanding goal despite his obvious leg injury. An excellent effort from a young player with a bright future.

Soon after, the Cats force another stoppage at the top of the square. With Blicavs going third man up the ball is forced out to Motlop who snaps his fourth. After a set-shot miss by Duncan, Mackie gets hold of the ball and rolls one through from sixty metres. The game looks over.

The Eagles manage to get the ball forward for a couple of relatively soft goals by Jetta and LeCras who have hardly been sighted all day. Meanwhile Hawkins kicks a couple to maintain the Cats lead deep into time-on.

The game concludes with a free to Kersten for an effective tackle on Schofield, trying to run around the mark and force the ball forward. Kersten coolly slots the goal from near the fifty metre line on the boundary and sends the Cats fans home happy.

Despite their admirable comeback in the third quarter the Eagles were unable to match the Cats intensity and clean disposal for most of the game. Their key forwards were given few opportunities and their smaller players, Gaff aside, were generally quiet.

While Priddis, Shuey and Masten lifted as the game progressed they could not match the effectiveness of the Geelong on-ballers, especially Selwood, Dangerfield and Bartel. Motlop was outstanding around the packs, especially in the front half and the key forwards did their job. Kersten in particular looks to have taken a big step forward and is giving Hawkins great support while kicking a few goals himself.

Blicavs deserves a special mention for his strong tackling and effectiveness in setting up scoring opportunities for others at stoppages while closing down dangerous opponents. He’s like a bigger version of Cameron Ling. Let’s hope he can maintain the standard.

For the Cats this turned out to be a creditable win after a nightmare scenario loomed in the third quarter. They responded to the challenge as good teams do. Early days and many challenges ahead, but the finals beckon. Geelong look hungry again.

For the Eagles it’s yet another heavy loss away from home. It’s hard to see them lifting the Premiership Cup until this monkey is off their back. Do they have the ability to go all the way? Definitely. Will they? Unlikely at this stage.

No big comeback victory for the Eagles this day, but the Cats were reminded that you can’t take your eyes off good teams for a second. A valuable lesson indeed.

Geelong 2.4 9.7 12.11 18.15 (123)
West Coast 3.1 4.2 9.5 12.7 (79)

Goals Geelong: Motlop 4; Kersten, Hawkins 3; Guthrie 2; Menzel, Duncan, Caddy, Bartel, Cockatoo, Stanley

West Coast: Darling, Kennedy 3; Lycett 2; Cripps, Hill, Jetta, LeCras

Best Geelong: Selwood, Motlop, Blicavs, Bartel, Dangerfield, Henderson

West Coast: Gaff, McGovern, Naitanui, Sheppard, Wellingham, Priddis

Crowd: 25,429

Umpires: Dalgleish, Jeffery, O’Gorman

Our Votes: Selwood (G) 3, Motlop (G) 2, Blicavs (G) 1


  1. Very comprehensive and fair match report Burkie. Kudos to CScott and Blicavs for the tagging job on Shuey. He is the only Eagles midfielder with the disposal skills to hurt opponents. Motlop looks a much better footballer now that he can play third banana behind Selwood and Dangerfield. Much freer and more confident when he is not copping close attention.
    Tale of the Tape – Disposal and disposal efficiency.
    Cats – Motlop 25/84%; Dangerfield 26/77%; Selwood 35/77%
    Eagles – Gaff 36/64%; Priddis 28/57%; McGovern 21/67%
    Says it all really – when our key possession winners can’t hit the side of a barn with a handful of wheat (by hand or foot – week on week under pressure against good opposition). Houston – or Adam – we have a problem.
    And our small forwards – LeCras, Priddis and Hill are exerting no physical or scoreboard pressure. Oh for a Puopolo.
    I reckon Simpson will have had the jigger and electric cattle prods on Jetta this week.
    September is fading if we don’t get our act together. It’s not the travel it’s the skills and lack of intensity.

  2. A surefire method of lifting a bloke to AFL standard is to have me declare in public the he is not up to AFL standard… never will be. Kersten just my latest triumph.
    Also performed the same magic for S Waugh in test cricket. There could be money in this. Anyone need a lift?

  3. Peter Flynn says

    Love the Decoy

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