On a blissful Sunday afternoon, the Cats made the trip up to the Sydney Cricket Ground to renew hostilities with the Swans. As is tradition when these two teams play the endless reminiscence of “NICK DAVIS, NICK DAVIS!” is played ad nauseum.
Both teams were hunting a victory. The Cats were smarting after a bitter loss to their arch-rivals, Hawthorn. The Swans were seething after failing to overrun the Dockers in a frantic final term.
The early signs were ominous for the Cats as the Swans took the early ascendancy on the back of some good defensive footy that saw the Cats turn the ball over on multiple forward thrusts. The Swans were controlling the play, switching the ball and running it through the Geelong defensive structures.
With only four goals kicked in the first quarter, this game looked destined for another dour defensive struggle. The game however, sprung to life in the second quarter with the Cats kicking five goals to the Swans three. The Cats best work came from the centre bounces where Zac Smith started to assert some dominance after a forgetful first quarter. The Swans kept the Cats from breaking away with steadying goals from a couple chaos balls up forward which the Cats struggled to deal with.
The third quarter saw the Cats kick themselves into the lead. They dominated the footy in the first half of the quarter and simply starved the Swans of any opportunity to peg them back. The Cats leaders around the footy and their pressure up forward began to shine through as they hassled and harassed the Swans into coughing up the footy in their back half – something they weren’t doing early in the game as they ran the ball and switched the play as they came out of defence.
The last stanza was a back and forth affair. The Cats threw the early punches to give themselves plenty of breathing room. However, the Swans responded, putting themselves back into striking distance following some big individual efforts and some good finishing from Isaac Heeney. The Cats then extinguished the small flicker of hope in the space of five minutes when slammed home three quick goals to “ice” the match.
This game was very turnover fixated, with both teams focusing on cracking the other team’s attacks to launch their own. Plenty of high midfield numbers due to the ball living between arcs. However as most big games are, this game was probably lost by the Swans bottom six players just not being up to the standard of the game. Or at least not being as up to it as Gelongs bottom six.
The Best Stuff
Tom Hawkins had a day. The Geelong lynchpin returned to form in his milestone match in a way that people only write about. Five goals, 17 disposals, four contested marks and ten score involvements. Hawkins, much like most of his teammates had experienced a lull after the mid-season bye. Having struggled in the past against the Swans matched-up against the likes of Rampe, Aliir and Grundy. In this game though, Hawkins used his strength and positioning well and capitalised on some good delivery from the Geelong midfield. Hawkins timed his run well to deliver a prominent performance on his milestone day and help deliver his team an important win. Not in terms of ladder position, but in terms of regaining crucial form in the lead-up to the finals.
Despite Hawkins impressive day, Rampe himself was a wall down back. When not trying to quell Hawkins, Rampe was delivering the footy out of the backline. His move away from Hawkins in the second half likely favoured the Swans as it allowed Rampe more ability to provide run out of defence. His 25 disposals at 92% efficiency show just how much quality he was delivering the footy with. Considering the increasing amount of pressure the Cats applied, in their forward half as the game went on, it is a credit that Rampe maintained such a high standard of disposal and was one of the key reasons why Sydney fought their way back early in the last quarter.
Josh Kennedy has largely gone unnoticed this season. Its not the greatest season of his career but he is still playing a very serviceable role for the Swans, averaging 27 disposals, six clearances and six tackles a game. Today was another celebrated performance from the veteran. 28 disposals, seven tackles, six inside 50’s and five centre clearances, indicate that Kennedy had a fair bit of say in the middle of the ground. His very nice quick-snap goal in the second quarter also deserves a mention.
One word can describe Selwood’s performance. Vintage. After suffering knee issues for the bulk of 2018 and being pushed to the wing for the first half of 2019, Chris Scott has now shifted his captain, and arguably best genuine midfielder, back into the guts. His stats for the game don’t show it, but Selwood was arguably the most influential player on the ground. 24 disposals, five clearances, six inside 50’s and five tackles are solid numbers but not exceptional. Include the fact that Selwood continually had hand in here, or a smother on a kick there (showcased by his nine intercept-possessions) and you realise he provided such a key presence around the footy to help lift his teams intensity.
The Good Stuff
The highest possession winner on the ground. Kelly was classy in this game. He glided over the SCG turf and delivered into the Cats forward half. I don’t see Kelly polling votes in this game, despite some of his numbers, though. There were too many strong mids on the ground, for both teams, most of whom couldn’t even break into the “Best Stuff”. 31 disposals for Kelly in a smooth moving performance. Not that he had lost much form but it was good to see him playing well as part of an effectively functioning midfield for the first time in a few weeks.
A beast of a game from George Hewett today. 27 disposals and seven clearances. Hewett operated at the coal face right alongside Kennedy. He has really come into his own as a contested midfielder and will really need to fill the shoes of Kennedy once his time is up.
The rise of this guy has been quite impressive. Probably wouldn’t have been on most Cats fans raider at the start of the season. I don’t have access to hardcore stats like one-on-one number, but I reckon O’Connor would be right up there. And this game was no different. O’Connor consistently beat whatever opponent he was put up against and not only halved the contest but won the footy.
Played one of his best games of the year. Enjoying a move op forward for the Swans Dawson showed his creative side and his goals sense with some clever passages of play and some brilliant individual efforts and goals. This is particularly relevant for a young player playing against one of the best overall defences in the competition. Hopefully John Longmire sees his potential as a crafty half forward.
A very solid game for Mills. But not elite. His lack of efficiency with the footy hurts his case. 26 disposals at 62% efficiency with 10 turnovers. Mills still had 567 metres gained (a game high). Mills will need to clean up his disposal to return to the elite levels we have seen from him.
Classic Dangerfield game. 25 disposals at 56% efficiency. Two goals and seven turnovers. Some amazing feats of physical power and agility coupled with some really poor decisions. Overall, he was a very solid player for the Cats and definitely assisted them with winning the game. He just needs to clean up his disposal or he may hurt the Cats in an important one in the near future.
The Not So Good Stuff
THAT OSCAR PERFORMANCE
Mark Blicavs effort in the shadows of half time. C’mon Blitz. He really needs to get that out of his game. He has already got the respect of the football world, through his remarkable journey form prospective Olympian to bona fide AFL star. Now he just has to make sure he doesn’t lose it with unnecessary staging.
Papley just couldn’t get into the game. Very well blanketed by the Cats small defenders in Bews, O’Connor and Kolodjashnij. Four disposals (50% Efficiency) and one goal for Papley. Talk about a quiet day at the office. I wouldn’t be surprised if Longmire asked if Papley wasn’t the late out instead of Oliver Florent.
Young flyin’ Gryan definitely didn’t have the best game of his short career. Only 11 disposals and no goals. His pressure as part of the Geelong forward line served him well and helped get him into good positions, but things just didn’t fall his way.
CAMERON GUTHRIE…’S FIRST HALF
Guthrie had six disposals at half time and five clangers, plus a couple free kicks against. He probably saved some face with a respectable second half showing, but with the pressure now building thanks to impending return of Sam Menegola, as well as Gary Rohan and Zach Tuohy, someone is going to be left as the odd man out in the Geelong side.
Speaking of Swans players having a quiet Day. Robbie Fox deserved to be in losers’ corner with Tom Papley. Only six disposals for the game (None in the last quarter!). Top that off with only seven pressure acts. Fox is still only starting his career at the Swans but will need to lift his level to something we are all more akin too if he wants to stay in the side beyond next week. Considering he did 2.4 kilometres of running at high speed, it seems he is doing the work, but just not getting into the right spots.
The Other Stuff
If you looked at the Stats, you would think big ‘Sav’ had not done too much during the game. But he was incredibly close breaking it apart on multiple occasions. His agility and intensity at the footy is surreal and his chase down late in the third quarter shows his commitment to the “Wolf Pack” ethos.
I really liked the game of O’Riordan. He took some telling marks and had some real presence early before fading slightly in the second half (and he wasn’t alone). Kept fighting and was one of the Swans better players on the day.
I really rated Zac Jones toughness around the footy. Sure, he does get caught sometimes, as was the case today, but you cannot fault his endeavour for the Swans, which I think is more than commendable. On a different day, he also could’ve torn this game apart. His 19 disposals at 94% efficiency
Today was such an opportunity for Smith in the Ruck. Replacing Rhys Stanley after a run of poor form and coming up against the inexperienced Hayden McLean. Smith had patches of the game, such as in the first half of the second quarter, where he took control of the midfield game. Considering the calibre of midfielder on the ground today, that was no easy feat. Smith, However, found ways to continually let himself down and not take advantage of his match up. Only 12 disposals and five clearances in what could’ve been a performance to stamp his place in a finals-bound team.
GARY ABLETT – DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?
There were two very interesting instances involving Ablett. One where he took the ball near the boundary line and, for some unknown reason, chose to kick the ball 10-metres down the line and directly over the fence. Not only did he kick it out on the full, he also kicked it in the wrong direction. He wasn’t under any sort of immense pressure at the time. It was a truly puzzling piece of play.
The second was later in the game where he marked the ball around 55 metres out form Geelong’s goal about 10 metres in from the boundary. In typical Ablett fashion he turned around and steadied on his right boot to deliver the ball inside 50. I personally thought he might have a shot. Alas, Ablett sent the ball about 20 rows deep into the crowd as the ball came off his boot on the in-step and rocketed into the crowd.
It must also be noted that he seemed to not hit every contest at 100% in this game. Considering his age and importance to the team in the months to come, I think we can forgive him for that. He still had a respectable game on the stats sheet, but it won’t make the highlight reel.
The Wrap Up
Overall, it was a good game of footy that both teams can take positives out of. The Cats finally seem to have built some form in preparation for a critical September campaign for Chris Scott’s legacy. The Swans were competitive, and their youngsters showed plenty against a quality and experienced team.
The Cats will take some confidence out of this game but still have plenty to work on. A slow start, but a strong finish will give coach Chris Scott plenty of ammunition to critique and encourage his players on both sides of the ball. The Cats now travel to Perth to play Freo and should expect a similar sort of game.
The Swans play the Giants in the Battle of the Bridge next week. If they want to continue to build on their rivalry with their cross-town rivals, they will need to pull one out of the box as the Giants seem to have found some form in the last few weeks. The Giants also have a strong recent record against the Swans.