Round 9 – West Coast v Geelong: No Country for Old Footballers

The Avenging Eagle is a natural optimist.   I am the opposite – always looking for a reason the bread will fall buttered side down.  Springtime in May at Subiaco on a still, sunny 22° day.

I scanned the Cats team list.  Lots of good footballers there – 10 premiership players by my count.  Fortunately the game is not played on paper or in the memory.  It’s a relentless running, physical contest played in current time.

The first quarter was even, clean and hard.  The Cats were mentally on and led by a point at quarter time (3-1 to 2-6) but their defensive pressure was harassing and pushing us wide.  Best quarter of footy I’d seen at Subiaco this year (not counting the Dockers first – I had my eyes closed for that).

The second quarter was arguably the Eagles best for the year.  We dominated a Cats side lacking run and wilting at the relentless Eagles tackling pressure.  At half time we led by 9 points (4-17 to 5-2).  Go figure.

We kicked 2-11 for the quarter to 2-1 by the Cats.  The Eagles must have been watching me putt yesterday.  Always close from well out and then marching tempo from in close.  Left, left, left, right, left.

Thinking is the most insidious curse for any sportsman – professional footballer or unprofessional golfer.  The contagion affecting even good kicks like LeCras, Hill and Cripps.

Still we were working hard and dominating possession.  My nephew Brandon was sure that we would eventually convert our pressure and forward entries into goals.  In my mind it was 1978 in the SANFL Grand Final with Sturt 8-15 to Norwood’s 5-10 at half time.  This is Rulebook’s regular wet dream so you know how that one ended (his Redlegs by a point with 9 less scoring shots).

Nic Nait and the ever-improving Callum Sinclair were dominating the rucks.  Rhys Stanley was well beaten and departed by half time with a quad complaint.  The Eagles match committee had done a number on Mark Blicavs, and Scott Selwood parked the bus on his toes to block his third man up at every ball up and throw in.  Mitch Clark looked devoid of confidence up forward with several dropped marks and miskicks, before he also succumbed to a calf injury early in the second half.

The third quarter was goal for goal.  Or more accurately goal, point, point for goal.  Eagles led by 18 points at orange time and that was 0-18 (not 3-0, 2-6 or 1-12).  I googled – Sturt led by 3-11 at the last break in ‘78.  Gulp.

But Norwood had legs.  Geelong had pension cards and downhill skiers.  The last quarter put the game in its rightful perspective with the Eagles kicking 7-3 to 1-1.  It was a massacre.  We won by 56 points (6-20) and it really should have been a 15 goal margin.

Nic Nait took his annual hanger in front of us in the right forward pocket at the city end in the last quarter (and kicked the goal from the angle)!  It will sell a lot of memberships and party wigs, but is not his real strength despite the highlight reel.  His tapwork has been outstanding all year and his tackling and handball is always damaging.

Josh Kennedy is a dominant forward and his constant leading, crashing of packs and nimble recovery at ground level must have Richard Pratt asking Beelzebub for a refund.  A fit Jack Darling after the mid-season break will give us a really potent forward line.

My pre-match concern was the big Cats forward line up against an underweight, running Eagles defence.  Hawkins always looked a threat but he just got too little quality delivery.  Clark and Kersten did little.  For us McGovern continues to leap like Nureyev and kick like the chorus line at the Folies Bergere. Wellingham, Hurn, Sheppard and Butler run and create from defence.

But our previously dubious midfield has become the Eagles real strength with relentless tackling pressure, quick hands and improving footskills.  The midfield whole more than the sum of its parts.

Geelong looked a sad case.  Taylor, Lonergan, Stevie J, Kelly, Mackie and Rivers need to find a porch and a rocking chair as soon as possible.  Joel Selwood had his worst game I have seen, but is still a warrior who always creates for his team mates.  Steven Motlop is an enigma.  He would be a star in a top side, but doesn’t work hard enough to get his own ball in a struggling one.  Clarko must have his eye on him.

Corey Enright continues to rage against the dying of the light and was the Cats best.  Blicavs was brave and will be a star if he can play as second or third tall and utilise his run and athleticism. Hawkins was a lone hand up forward and Caddy the best of the kids.

I don’t get Chris Scott or the Geelong game plan.  He puts men deep behind the ball in defence, but the 2015 Cats lack the leg speed or footskills to run the ball out.  It looked like the game plan for the team he used to have, or for a team trying to limit its losses.  (Chris or Brad?  Discuss.)

The Eagles mid-season run of mid-table competitors is off to a good start.  Kangas next week in the Hobart mud will be a different challenge.  Bombers and Tiges before the break.

We have tickets to Paris in the first week of September.  The Avenging Eagle will consider all reasonable offers.

WEST COAST    2.6   4.17   9.21   16.24   (120)

GEELONG           3.1   5.2     9.3   10.4   (64)

GOALS West Coast: Kennedy 6, Hill 2, Naitanui 2, Sinclair 2, McInnes, Cripps, Shuey, LeCras

Geelong: Hawkins 3, Johnson, Caddy, Gregson, Murdoch, Stokes, Kersten, Mackie

BEST  West Coast: Kennedy, McGovern, Naitanui, Gaff, Priddis, Shuey, Masten, Sinclair, Wellingham

Geelong: Enright, Blicavs, Caddy, Hawkins
Umpires: Fisher, Farmer, Dalgleish

Crowd: 37,676

VOTES: Kennedy (WC) 3; McGovern (WC) 2; Naitanui (WC) 1



  1. Peter Flynn says

    Enright is incredible.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks for the mention PB 1978 Norwood 16-15 111 def Sturt 14-26-110 ( no need to google that ) my parents made me go on a bloody school camp so it is the only
    Norwood GF I have missed in my life time I will get over it soon unlike the Sturt supporters..The Eagles achievements after losing your 2 key defenders Brown and Eric Mac a farce he was not all aust last season has been remarkable,McGovern a revelation .
    The cats yes the query on Scott re game plan is justified I am not convinced that he is adapting to the cats no longer being a super power

  3. PB – how much for the tickets to Paris?

  4. MGLFerguson says

    “…I don’t get Chris Scott or the Geelong game plan. He puts men deep behind the ball in defence, but the 2015 Cats lack the leg speed or footskills to run the ball out. It looked like the game plan for the team he used to have, or for a team trying to limit its losses…”

    This also became abundantly clear to me yesterday.

    The ease which teams make their way down the field against the Cats suggest that they set up to defend at halfback (which aggravatingly I can’t really see for sure on TV coverage) so that they can rebound off intercepts like it was 2011. But the way other teams swarm up the field (keeping most of 18 men within one kick of the ball) means that the Cats’ attempted rebounds get intercepted over and over and over and jammed right back down their throats. Or else the men downfield are badly outnumbered at every contest. Ball skills – both by hand and foot – no longer seem to have the precision to work through the presses, either. As a Cats fan, it’s a hard watch these days, more so when getting up at 2:30 AM to do so.

    Your Eagles look good, PB.

  5. David Zampatti says

    Away for the first week in September, Pete? What were you thinking? You’ll miss WCE v St Kilda in Rd 23.

    Put it back until the first week of October is my tip. You won’t be missing anything.

  6. E.regnans says

    Well played PB and well played West Coast.
    No country for old footballers- great headline.
    Midfield run run run is the modern way.

    Ahh, to be travelling to Paris with an optimistic tread…
    Picture it: a lazy morning recovering from gastronomic indulgence, flicking on the web for an AFL update, rolling over. Win, lose or draw, the whole thing done & dusted before setting out for café et bagette s’il vous plaît.
    Game? What game?

  7. They are a long way from the side that played Brisbane all those weeks ago, although they still won that match by a mile anyway.

  8. Raj Singh says

    The Eagles are a massive suprise packet to date. This weeks game shapes as a cracker

  9. PB, the Eagles made us look second rate yesterday (we are second rate) but have they beaten anyone of note yet? Geelong not the scalp they once were.

    I’ve believed for some time ( that Scott gets outsmarted by better coaches – and over the last few weeks I think he’s been too smart by half. He’s tried to engineer moves that just don’t work. The Blicavz- Stanley third-man up combo worked well but has been found out. What next?

    HOWEVER, you can’t blame Scott for yesterday. The Cats didn’t run. it’s like they got off the plane and thought it wasn’t the day for them. Waves of Eagles all over the ground yesterday with nary a blue and white hoop in site. This is normally Motlop’s game (not working hard, not running both ways) but he had plenty of mates yesterday. That was the most disappointing aspect. You can’t play Carlton every week and it looks like these boys want to.

  10. Eagles 4.17 at half-time , 9 points straight at one time, a frisson of fear went down my arms with Adelaide losing to the Dockers on the back of bad kicking for goal a recent memory.But, Blicavs is not Naitanui No Stanley,no Clark,no chance and so it proved.The most behinds kicked by a team in a gamein 15 years including three posters,five snaps,but ten from less than 30 metres, to go with two out on the full.It might have been a 100 points, just as it might have been the Crows by 20.Very gratifying to see that five different media commentaries gave each of Masten, Gaff,Naitanui,Kennedy and Shuey top votes for the match. Darling,Yeo and maybe McInne and,Colledge in there this season or next. Lamb, Tunbridge and Cavka injured but should play some games this year.Duggan gets better every game. Where’s the old slow,frail midfield we used to see?
    The Roos in the cold and the wet after their stinging loss will be another test.

  11. Very disappointing, although I thought a few of them really thought they could pinch it – Enright, Mackie, Hawkins, Blicavs.

    Interesting observations from a non-Cat fan PB. Pretty much how it looked on the TV as well.

    Kersten – twos please, for a while. Motlop – what next? Johnno?

    Re WC: I reckon Gaff and Shuey are now back in town (what happened for a couple of seasons?). Whoever that No 22 is can really play. Add Darling in there, and get Le Cras back into form, and you’ve got a serious forward line. Nic Nait to rest up there for a few minutes each quarter as well.

    Harry was asked to do so much.

    4.17 is a beautiful score, especially up against 5.2.

    I wonder if Gigs can find us some classics. I recall Hawthorn kicking +40 behinds.

  12. Excellent summary Peter. I’ll be very surprised if the Eagles aren’t in the Big Dance during September/October. Forget Paris. Dips and I will be happy to go instead, won’t we Dips.

    For the Cats things need to change in the senior team, age-wise. With about one third of the list unavailable due to injury (multi-year in several cases) or departure (Hartman, Toohey), more kids need to get a go provided they’re putting their hands up in the seconds.

    Let’s have a good look at Luxford, Kolodjashnij, Jansen, Horlin-Smith, Blease, Cockatoo and Gore. Let’s give Walker more than one or two games in a row for a change. Let’s rest two or three of the old blokes each week to make it happen. Gregson, Thurlow, Blicavs, Lang and Bews have shown what’s possible when kids are given the opportunity.

    Another thing I’d like to see is Motlop and Murdoch learn to kick on the wrong side. Maybe Lingy can give them a few pointers.

    Bring on the Bombers – and more kids in the hoops.

    Cheers, Burkie

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