The Footy Almanac 2007 Week 1 Finals – Geelong v North Melbourne: Finals nerves, changing routines

The first printed edition of The Footy Almanac came out in 2007, before we had a website. In the absence of a real 2020 season, we will be publishing the 2007 pieces for the first time ever on www.footyalmanac.com.au. Follow the season!

 

 

FIRST QUALIFYING FINAL

Geelong versus Kangaroos

2.45pm, Sunday, September 9

Melbourne Cricket Ground

JOHN HARMS

 

I AM SITTING IN THE ALPHABET CAFÉ IN WESTGARTH. With The Handicapper. She’s having the chicken parma. I’ve panicked. I’ve gone the dips. And a red.

 

I never go the dips before footy. And I always have a beer. Why don’t I just stick to the process? Why do finals unsettle me?

 

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

“I feel bad,” I say. “I feel this great sense of foreboding.”

Cat Stevens cranks out Wild World. It’s sort of reassuring. Cat is singing it. But it’s melancholy. If not morose.

 

We get the train to Jolimont and walk through Yarra Park. I still feel bad. Like I’m being wheeled into an operating room and I’m not going to come out of the anaesthetic. How silly do I feel standing next to the Dennis Lillee sculpture not far from Gate 1 at the MCG? With other Cats fans looking just as worried, and me saying this Sunday afternoon reminds of that first Sunday of the finals in 1989, when the brilliant Cats, expected to win, were trounced by Essendon. And others agreeing.

 

What will it take? The Cats have lost just one match since the ANZAC Day round, have played a dazzling style of footy, have fitness and strength and experience, have thrilled the footy public. Everyone’s saying it’s our year – except us.

 

As the players take their positions, I’m still uncertain. Just get the game started so we’ve got something to focus on. Ottens attacks the first bounce like he means it. A good sign. Bartel is first to the fall of the ball. He earns a free kick. I settle.

 

The Cats win the footy in an intense opening. The physical pressure is wild. Ling shadows Harvey. Enright takes Wells. Rawlings goes to Corey. Archer has the job on Chapman.

 

Ottens flies for a magnificent big man’s mark on the wing. It’s a statement. It’s the spirit of Reg Hickey. This feels alright. It’s tight, until Enright gets clear in the centre and runs straight towards goal. He links with his skipper who has run to support. Harley belts the ball in quickly. Mooney contests. Chapman crumbs. Across his body. Goal. “Chappyyyy,” says The Handicapper.

 

Aaron Edwards replies, after out-manoeuvring Josh Hunt. I don’t like this match-up. At a stoppage Gary Ablett gets a soft free kick and registers Geelong’s second. The Cats play dashing footy, which opens the game up, and gives Firrito a chance. He runs, weaves, has a bounce, and kicks truly from fifty for an inspirational goal. Scores level and it’s turning into a good one.

 

At the centre bounce Leigh Brown shirt-fronts Cameron Ling. The Paddle Pop Lion is flat on his back, hands in the air. But we watch the footy which winds up with McIntosh who kicks another running goal from outside fifty. The Kangas have hit the front. I’m worried again.

 

I needn’t be. Joel Selwood comes off the bench and has an immediate impact. He gets clear of his opponent with ease, and he chooses Diesel-like options. The Cats’ physical pressure is telling. A series of holding the ball decisions falls Geelong’s way. Brown: gone. Pratt: too slow. Kangas fans: going nuts.

 

But the Cats keep missing, and at quarter-time North are well and truly in the game. The signs are OK for Geelong though. There are many kids in the Ponsford Stand. They wave their flags. The Kangas fans sip beer and complain about the 12-3 free kick count.

 

If anything the Geelong pressure intensifies after the break. Chapman beats Archer again and Mooney gets on the end of a lightning forward move. The Cats play team footy.

 

Selwood initiates one of the goals of the year. He wins the footy in traffic on the half-back flank. He performs a combination of body movements which cause all diving, gymnastics and wrestling scouts in the crowd to reach for their notebooks. In an instant he twists, turns and backs out of trouble, and just as the Russian judge is putting up his card with 10 on it, young Selwood comes up for air. He senses everything around him and loops a handball to Gary Ablett. There are five Kangaroos in the vicinity, but such is Selwood’s feel for the game the handball falls in the optimal place. Ablett, equally adept in understanding matters of time and space, gives a handball to Ling, and keeps running. Ling recognises the classic one-two, and gives it back. Ablett finds Stokes, who also keeps running. He gets the footy to Mooney who kicks a memorable goal. The North players look perplexed. Like they’re honest and earnest ANZACs who’ve been fleeced of their cash outside the bazaar in Cairo.

 

From then on the ascendancy is with Geelong. And the Kangas know it. Even their skipper’s frustrations show. When the unflappable Simpson is made to look like a donkey by a clever Harley mark, he throws his counterpart to the ground. Fifty metres. Harley misses, as do many of his teammates. They go to the break having kicked 10.10. It could have been 15.5.

 

The game is still alive, but only just. And the Cats kill it with another surge during the third quarter. This is top versus fourth, but Geelong look like they have 25 players to 14. They pile on the goals. This is just brilliant. The players know it. When Mooney nails his set shot after the three-quarter time siren every player runs to him.

 

Nothing changes in the final quarter. In fact, the Kangas save their energy and the Cats win by 106 points. Some people immediately ask questions of Dean Laidley. And his team. But the Cats have just had a day out, and when it was obvious the game was lost the Roos put the cue in the rack.

 

We played a genuinely brilliant brand of footy; the sort of attacking, free-flowing footy which has been the hallmark of the finest Geelong sides – throughout our history. Cats fans left deeply contented, wondering where that sense of foreboding had come from.

 

It’s the players who are making us get over it; convincing us we have every right to feel confident. Helping us to feel it’s our year.

 

 

Geelong  3.5  10.10  16.16  23.18 (156)

Kangaroos  3.0  4.1  6.1  8.2 (50)

 

GOALS

Geelong: Mooney, Chapman 5, N. Ablett 3, Enright, G. Ablett, Ottens 2, Bartel, S. Johnson, Stokes, Mackie.

Kangaroos: McIntosh, Grant, Brown, Petrie, Firrito, Edwards, Harvey, Wells.

 

BEST

Geelong: G. Ablett, Chapman, Bartel, Ottens, Scarlett, Selwood, Mackie.

Kangaroos: Firrito, Simpson, Harris, Rawlings.

 

MILESTONE

Wells (Kangaroos) 100 games.

 

UMPIRES

Margetts, McLaren, Jeffery.

 

OUR VOTES

Ablett (G) 3, Chapman (G) 2, Bartel (G) 1

 

CROWD

77,630

 

 

For more Round by Round reports of the 2007 season click HERE

 

Printed copies of The Footy Almanac 2007 can be purchased HERE.

 

 

2007 Footy Almanac

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo12, Anna11, Evie9. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

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