This game was definitely never going to be the most popular fixture, hence it was slotted on the Saturday evening for those residing on the eastern side of the country. Fremantle were looking for the win after some tough scrutiny from the West Australian media. Did someone say mole? Ross the Boss was at his frosty best during the week. He sent some serious shade the media’s way following the Dockers’ embarrassing loss to the Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium. Geelong were trying to continue building on the form they began showing during the latter stages of their win against the Swans. Back to back interstate trips on different sides of the country meant the Cats had spent their week in Perth to prepare for the match.
As it Happened
It was the Cats who took the lead at first break. After a slow start and trading a few goals, the Cats slammed home a few late ones to take an early lead. Tom Hawkins was everywhere. The big fella caught everything short of a cold in the first quarter. The Dockers pressure and intensity was there, but they just couldn’t capitalise moving the ball forward. The Cats kicked straight which assisted with establishing their lead and the Dockers squandered some chances. Overall it was fairly even despite the scoreboard disparity.
For the most part of the second quarter, the Cats seemed to be able to hold off the Dockers charge. With a relatively young line-up, it seemed that the Dockers were going to be happy to go into half time within striking distance, having shown plenty of endeavour to placate their supporters and coaches. However, the Dockers gameplan clicked into gear late in the second quarter and they scored the last two goals to find themselves in front at the main break. They had come to play, but how would the Cats respond?
The Cats apparently responded quite well. They kicked two early third quarter goals to put themselves back in front by more than a goal. The Dockers showed a level of maturity though and steadied the ship with a couple goals of their own. The game was then locked for the remainder of the quarter until Fyfe increased the lead in the shadows of three-quarter time.
Finally, it was Dockers who stepped up to be counted when the game was there to be won. Fyfe, Walters, Hill and Langdon. All the big names were there. Even David Mundy rose from obscurity to put his stamp on the match. Geelong held a slight hope after Mundy kicked his first, but just couldn’t find any rhythm going forward as Ross Lyon’s men seemed like they were working back harder than the Cats were working forward.
Now let’s get into the stuff that mattered.
The Best Stuff
MICHAEL WALTERS – 007
A licence to kill you say? If Ross Lyon gave one player a licence to do as he pleased, I have a feeling would be Walters. This is guy is pure class. He is one smooth moving customer and he took the Cats apart around the ball and on the break away to deliver shot after shot, in a manner that can only be likened to James Bond simply bypassing henchmen on his way to Dr. No.
NATHAN FYFE – THE PURPLE POWER RANGER
If you Google “powerful Men” you will see names like Putin, Trump and Jinping. Nathan Fyfe needs to be added to this list on two fronts. His raw physical power which he asserted on the Cats today, and the amount of influence he carries on a football field. Fyfe’s power attracts a crowd, which generates space for his teammates such as Walters,. However, Fyfe also has the ability to just beat his way out of the crowd on his own terms. His marking ability also shone through in the wet conditions. His two strong marks and subsequent goals in the third quarter really set the scene for the Dockers’ win.
THE CROWD – BRINGING THE THUNDER
Going into the game the crowd wasn’t looking too good. The game was far from a sell-out and I was doubting if it would have a suitable atmosphere if the Dockers made a real game of it. I actually really enjoyed the crowd noise today. WA fans have a bit of history with being poor sports. Nothing was better than the Dockers faithful hounding the umpires for almost the entire second quarter as they felt hard done by early in the game. The atmosphere ended up being electric and I have no doubt the crowd helped lift the home team, particularly after the rousing send-off they received at halftime.
TOM STEWART – ALL HEART
One of Geelong’s few winners on the day. Stewart applied himself and was rarely beaten in defence for the Cats. He must’ve felt fairly alone in the rooms after the game when Chris Scott was asking which players believed they won their match-up for the day. Stewart showed the consistency of his effort on numerous occasions as he followed up his work
BRAD HILL – THE CHEETAH
Now I don’t want to go all national geographic on you, but Hill is a Cheetah on the Serengeti. The guy literally just ran around the ground today and was not given a hell of a lot of attention by the Cats. Hill just looked pure on the Optus stadium turf as he carved up the Cats. Moving at a high speed more than any other player, Hill dominated the outside play and was incredibly effective in setting up Fremantle’s scoring chains. Hill has been linked with a move back to Victoria at the end of the year, although I can’t imagine why Fremantle would want to let him go. They will surely be driving a hard bargain for the outside midfielder.
The Good Stuff
TIM KELLY – THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Kelly is a smooth mover like Walters. Although his team failed to salute, it was no fault of Kelly’s. He has some seriously slick hands and slotted a very nice goal early in the third quarter that had some shades of Dom Sheed about it. It was quite interesting how “at home” Kelly seemed on the Optus Stadium turf, particularly after the game when he was very friendly with all the Fremantle players. Call me a sceptic, but I am firmly in the camp that Kelly will be going home to WA at season’s end (most likely to Freo). However, I also believe that it has not impacted his footy one iota and that he is giving 110% for the Cats.
DAVID MUNDY’S LAST QUARTER
In what I can only liken to the Simpson episode where Marge bakes and sells Pretzels (stay with me). The episode ends with a brutal mob-fight on the Simpsons front lawn, with Marge dragging Homer inside while he complains that the little guy in the white suit hasn’t done anything yet. David Mundy was that guy today. The commentators mentioned Mundy numerous times as having not had much of an impact but that he remained a threat. You probably could’ve heard the screams of the Geelong faithful as Mundy launched in the last quarter. Sure, it was only three disposals, but it was two crucial goals and a goal assist that nailed the coffin shut on Geelong’s last piece of separation from the chasing pack of teams below.
AARON SANDILANDS – THE TOWER OF TERROR
Chris Scott must have nightmares about Aaron Sandilands. From the 2012 Elimination Final, to the 2013 Qualifying Final, Sandilands has monstered the Cats for nearly a decade since the retirement of Brad Ottens. It seems that no matter what ruckman Scott has tried, Sandilands has just loved playing the Cats. Scott would’ve been having a great time over the last couple of years while Sandilands has battled injury, but much like how Stephen King’s IT returns to Derry, Sandilands returned for one last torment of his favourite bunnies.
A stand-up performance from Ed Langdon. Similar to Brad Hill, Langdon has been rumoured to be on the way out at Freo. Well his efforts today definitely will not have done his price any damage. He may even be worth keeping, Freo fans? How much are you willing to offer? And if he wants to go, what would you want in return?
The Not So Good Stuff
BRANDON MATERA – THE SHOTGUN APPROACH
Matera had a very interesting day – a definite day of what could’ve been. Early on you could’ve almost accused Matera of sapping Fremantle of their confidence as he butchered his shots at goal. Luckily for him, his teammates were having a better time of finding their accuracy. Matera’s pressure was still good, although he will likely have to spend some extra time on the track practicing his goal kicking this week. It was probably fitting that he found his target when it mattered early in the last, in what you could argue was his toughest shot of the day.
GEELONGS BOTTOM PLAYERS
Last week I stated the Cats won because their bottom few players were slightly better than the Swans. This week, the Cats’ biggest factors in their loss were their bottom few players. The likes of Clark, Henry and Miers will be having some sleepless nights this week. With some more senior names set to come back into the side, these three players have all experienced a dip in form at the wrong time of the year, that may see them out of a potential September contender. Don’t believe Chris Scott will remove out-of-form players because they have had a few good games earlier in the year? Just ask Rhys Stanley. To be fair to Stanley, he may come back in due to the form of Zac Smith, who has not impressed since coming in.
ADVANTAGE OR NOT ADVANTAGE
Jordan Clarks’ poor decision to try and take advantage on the wing with four minutes remaining was terrible. But what exacerbated the situation was that Clark stopped and decided NOT to take the advantage after taking a few steps – the umpire had begun calling advantage. Bad luck, Jordan. This situation is not that uncommon, with the umpire usually halting play and instructing the ball to be returned to the original recipient of the free kick. It will be interesting to see the AFL tick the decision off when it goes against the grain of almost every other situation of a similar nature this season.
The Other Stuff
SOCCER GOAL SPECIAL
Ed Langdon is surely a shoo-in for goal of the week after his mercurial effort early in the first. Greasy, overcast conditions and he just threw the slipper at it and watched it curve into the goals like he had it on a string.
Tom Hawkins is too unselfish. There I said it. The man is probably one of the best set shot kicks in the AFL, and should be taking more ownership of the moment when the ball is in his hands inside 50. The amount of times Hawkins attempts to pass the ball from scoring positions must drive Geelong supporters mad at some stages. The pass to Dangerfield in the first quarter was a prime example.
Tim Kelly’s effort mid-way through the third quarter will probably come under review from the Geelong Coaches. Receiving the ball on the move in the forward fifty, Kelly was under some serious Fyfe pressure and decided to try and curl the ball home, only to be rundown by Fyfe. If only Kelly handballed the ball to Jordan Clark two metres away and shepherded Fyfe, Clark could’ve strolled in for an easy goal. This is also not the first time Kelly has done something like this and it is probably a part of his game he needs to temper. Understandably the best players take responsibility, but they are also smart enough to know when to dish off, and that decision by Kelly contributed to a shift in momentum that had the ball living in the Cats half, only for the Dockers to clear the footy and score.
A huge win for Freo. They are still alive in the finals race. With games against other finals hopefuls in Essendon, St. Kilda and Port Adelaide to come in the final three weeks, the Dockers’ fate is almost back in their own hands.
The Cats must accept that they are not playing their best footy. This does not discredit them from playing deep into September, but if they don’t want to do follow a similar path to the Hawks over the last few years’ finals series, they will need to do something quickly to find their form. Next week’s game against North Melbourne looks like a belter. They then go up to the Gabbatoir to face the white-hot Lions, which may just be a playoff to see who gets a home final in the first week.