The Cats went into the half time break 21 points up. Jack Graham had a dislocated shoulder, Dustin Martin had a slight limp and Jack Riewoldt had just one touch.

The Tigers were shot, right? The Cats were playing all over them, right?

My missus looked over to me as the third quarter was about to start. “Are they too far back to come back,” she asked?

I just smiled. This was the modern version of the Richmond Tigers she was asking about. This is the team that had faced adversity all bloody year. They’d lost their captain, their All-Australian defender, their full forward – you think three and a half goals was something that had them running scared going into the second half?

They welcomed the pressure. They ate it up and spat it back out in the face of the Cats, and the Cats didn’t know how to respond to this ruthless band of Tiger cut throats.

Goals to Tom Lynch and Dustin Martin dragged the Tigers back as the Cats stopped to a halt. Castagna goaled and Lynch added another one to give the Tigers the lead, and you could feel it then… it was over. The scores were still pretty tight, but the air had gone out of the Cats. Their older players started to look old, and the younger ones started shrinking, moment by moment.

The Tigers rolled over the Cats in the end, and moved into the Grand Final and a chance at redemption against either the Pies or Giants.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

 

THE BIG FELLA UP FORWARD

So, this recruit form the Gold Coast looks okay, doesn’t he? He might just go places.

Five goals, 19 touches, ten marks and 12 score involvements were enough to see Lynch become the difference between the teams. He was strong in the air, and nimble on the ground, making up for a bad day at the office for his counterpart, Jack Riewoldt.

Lynch matched up with Harry Taylor early, and kicked two quick ones on him before Taylor steadied for a period, running off the Tiger spearhead to provide some great supply further up the ground. However the Cats were either too tentative or not skilled enough to capitalise on any run and carry, and were often burnt on the rebound.

Lynch out by himself in the last quarter as Dustin Martin held off Mark O’Connor, allowing his power forward to leap at the footy unopposed, mark and goal to put the Tigers up by 11 points at a crucial point in the game. It stemmed from another stupid Geelong turnover at the opposite end of the ground, but to be so hopelessly caught out of position seemed to be a bit of a Geelong trademark this evening.

There were points earlier this season where Lynch was kicking goals but was looking a little iffy below his knees and his second efforts left a bit to be desired. He has turned that around in the second half of the season. His five goals tonight made it the thirteenth time this season he has amassed 3+ goals in a game.

Initially, I was a bit reluctant to admit this was a great signing by the Tigers. I wondered whether they’d be getting the fantastic 2016 version of Tom Lynch, or the broken down 2018 version. As it turns out, they got the 2019 version, and that version is an absolute weapon.

BACHAR HOULI

Another who was able to really step up while his partner in crime struggled a bit, Bachar Houli rounded into the game to prove to all and sundry that he was a deserving All-Australian this season.

He had nine rebound 50s to lead all players among his 32 disposals and once again, he was damaging with the ball in hand, running at 81% efficiency. When the Tigers started to run from half back in the second half, it was usually starting with the work of Houli, who patrolled that area and picked off the errant Geelong hacks inside 50 with a clinical precision.

Houli notched 14 intercept possessions for the game – double the next best interceptor. He took 11 grabs for the game, had nine contested touches and ran rings around the normally high-pressuring Geelong forwards.

At 31 years old, Houli is in the midst of a career-best season, and just over two years ago there is a huge chance he was robbed of the Norm Smith Medal. Well, next week he gets a chance to rectify that. His partnership with Nick Vlastuin often sees both men rack up big numbers in intercepts, but with Vlastuin concentrating on defending, it was Houli ruling the roost this evening.

Do we think he’ll be in trouble for his “hit” on Gryan Miers? Initially I didn’t think so, but later they showed an angle where it looks like he elbows or forearms him right in the neck. I’m sure Houli will happily accept a fine, but I do think Miers went down a little too easily on that one.

DION PRESTIA

Another seven clearances for Prestia in this one – an equal game-high with Dangerfield as he burrowed in and extracted the ball very effectively, particularly early in the third quarter.

But unlike Dangerfield, Prestia was able to drift forward and hit the scoreboard in a big way in this one. He kicked two telling goals, himself, but he also clocked up three direct goal assists as his precision delivery made Tom Lynch and company lick their lips when they saw him streaming toward goals.

Prestia has flown under the radar all season, and with long term Mongrel reader Paddy Farrelly singing his praises all season, I almost started believing he might sneak his way into the AA team. It wasn’t to be, but with another nine inside 50 deliveries tonight, and the ability to completely shake off the defensive attention of Cam Guthrie to power the Tigers over the top of the Cats in the third, Prestia was instrumental in the Richmond surge that put them in a winning position.

KOLODJASHNIJ AND O’CONNOR ON RIEWOLDT

I could have done one of two things here. I could have added Jack Riewoldt to the bad section, or these two to the good section, because their tag team work on Jack Riewoldt was absolutely sublime in this one.

Kolodjashnij was all over Riewoldt early in the game, wearing him like a glove and able to overpower him in one-on-one contests. Riewoldt couldn’t get a run at the ball either, but Kolodjashnij putting a body on him whenever Jack tried to get a jump at the footy.

And whenever his fellow defender was off attending to other duties, Mark O’Connor was able to slot in and handle Riewoldt just as effectively. At three quarter time, the duo had held the former Coleman Medallist to just two disposals. Seriously, that is some A-Grade defending.

Riewoldt would have to be a bit of a worry for the Tigers. His attempts at being selfless are a little over the top at the moment, opting for difficult knock-ons and taps when taking possession of the footy is probably the desired course of action. Those taps are brilliant when they come off – and last year he was pulling them off all the time, but in a final you want players like Jack getting both hands on the ball and taking possession. If that means they get taken to ground and a stoppage ensues, so be it.

Sadly for him, whenever he did attempt to take the ball in this game he had O’Connor and Kolodjashnij breathing down his neck ready to pounce.

Can the Tigers win the flag if they have to carry Jack to the extent they did tonight? It’s a big ask. He needs to pull his weight irrespective of how well Lynch is playing beside him.

COTCHIN V ABLETT ON THE BOUNDARY IS A METAPHOR FOR THE GAME

There was one passage of play that spoke volumes about where the teams were at in this game.

Midway through the second quarter, Gary Ablett led in the race for the ball on the wing. Despite getting there first, Ablett was outmuscled, outworked and out-thought by Trent Cotchin, who simply seemed to want the ball more.

Gaz had five metres head start on Cotchin but the gap was closed within two seconds. Ablett then went to ground as he was unable to grab the ball below his knees – it would not be the only time this occurred during the game. The desperate Cotchin threw a boot at it, kept it in play and Brandon Ellis was able to run onto it and go long to where Dusty waited and marked.

That was a definite 50-50 ball but Cotchin made it his. He has been under an injury cloud most of the season and is nowhere near the consistent player he has been in recent years, but it is little acts like that which make him some a valuable leader on the park. He is not one to point fingers and say “do as I say, not as I do.” He is a leader who demonstrates the behaviours he wants to see reflected in his team, and far out he showed that in this one little instance against one of the greatest of all time.

Sadly, I think this was also quite indicative of where Ablett is at, too. This may have been the last time we see him grace an AFL field. Without disrespecting the man… he looked cooked. No power, no pace and below his knees, he was nowhere near it. I was wondering whether he had the ability to turn the clock back one more time and produce something special this finals series.

Unfortunately, the answer was a resounding no. I would not be surprised if it comes out he was carrying an injury late in the season as there was just nothing exceptional about his finals outings at all.

Thanks for everything, Gaz, but it appears as though his body simply will no longer allow him to be the player Geelong need him to be. What a great career.

GRAHAM’S GUTS

We saw enormous courage from Charlie Cameron last week, and we saw it again this week, with Jack Graham re-entering the field of battle after badly dislocating his shoulder in the first quarter.

Graham plays a physical kind of game. He is a pressure player, and to have your shoulder pop out in the middle of an attempted tackle must be excruciating. He looked like a broken man as he half-ran and half-walked to the bench, bending over at the waist to reduce the jolting that a jog would have produced.

He knew what he’d done and knew that the Tigers would struggle being down a rotation, so down he went into the change rooms, got it popped back into place and got back on the park.

He was not a match winner in this game, but seeing him out there after looking like his night was well and truly over must have inspired his teammates. It inspired me, and I don’t even barrack for the Tigers. If he can’t get up to play next week, the Tigers should have an extra premiership medallion made for him.

SHEDWARDS

I don’t like to pat myself on the back… much, but I’m going to do it here. Earlier this season, Shane Edwards was spending a fair amount of time off half back, collecting touches and running about freely through the middle. In one of the Tigers reviews, I speculated that I thought we’d see Edwards move back into the midfield rotation when the heat came on in September, as his ability to extract as well as his creativity with ball in hand were hard to compensate for.

I reckon he made the AA team last season based on how many scoring opportunities he created out of nowhere for his teammates. Well, as Richmond move back into the Grand Final, Edwards is well and truly back in the midfield rotation, which makes me wonder whether Damien Hardwick was taking a bit of the load off Edwards earlier this season?

Over the past two weeks, he has averaged six tackles to go along with his 23.5 touches and 5.5 clearances. And more importantly, in the last two weeks he has had a direct goal assist in both games. Prior to finals, he’d had just eight for the whole season compared to 31 last year.

Edwards has a penchant for popping up at precisely the right moment to make a difference, and he was at it again in this one. A couple of his desperate lunges opened the door for teammates in the middle and his front and centre read off the pack to set Kane Lambert up was roving perfection.

It’s time to unleash the goal assist beast, right in time for the Grand Final.

MIERS V BAKER

This was a contest that ebbed and flowed for the whole game. Early in the piece it was Miers, with his creativity and ability to set teammates up, which stood out.

However, as the game wore on and mistakes started creeping in, Liam Baker found his feet and started to get the better of the dreadlocked Cat.

Miers was close to best on ground in the first half but turnovers and some poor decision making plagued him (and basically his whole team) after half time. Baker fought back valiantly, and though Miers finished with 22 touches, his seven turnovers really hurt his team, particularly as the Cats were surging forward and his errant foot skills saw the Tigers take possession and go the other way with all the Cats out of position.

Miers has done some good things in his first season, and it is maybe a little unfair to expect big things from him and Tom Atkins in a final, but if you’re out there, you have to put in four quarters. Miers fell away, but that’s what Liam Baker was able to do  – he emerged as a pivotal player down the stretch as he worked hard to draw a free kick, following Miers down from half back to earn a shot at goal.

BYE TIM

Now the trade games begin, don’t they?

Tim Kelly just played his last game for the Cats, and he made it a ripper. Forget Dangerfield – he went missing in the third quarter in a big way, allowing the Tigers back into the game – this one was a game where Tim Kelly was permitted to shine.

He had 31 touches and a couple of his clearances via Esava Ratugolea were like poetry in motion. He slotted three goals to keep the Cats in it, had seven inside 50 deliveries and four clearances as he more than held up his end of the bargain.

An All-Australian blazer in his second year… I don’t know what West Coast have to offer for this bloke, but it better be good. I’m kind of hoping he goes to Freo, personally.

THE BAD

KANE LAMBERT’S FIRST HALF

I’m not sure I’ve seen a worse half of footy from Kane Lambert than his effort in the first half tonight. He looked slow, ran into trouble consistently and seemed to have no idea what to do with the footy once he got it.

His kicks inside 50 were to no one, and he had a fair bit of ‘deer in the headlights’ about him in the first half. He is a quality player, and I know several Richmond readers thought he was a shot at an AA berth last season, but his first half tonight was some of his worst footy.

He made up for that in the second half, when he was able to sneak forward and get goal side at a stoppage, which saw the resulting kick forward from Shane Edwards fall to his advantage and he was able to stroll into goal. All credit to Lambert for the goal, but it was one of the absolute worst defensive set ups you’ll ever see from Geelong at that stoppage.

How the Cats allowed Lambert out the back, matched up on a slower Lachie Henderson is one of the great questions coming out of tonight. Bloody horrible.

Lambert finished with 18 touches, but there were several instances I bet he’d like to have over again.

BRUISE FREE JACK GRAHAM

Do all the players get a “spirit of the game” memo or something this week?

I did not see one Geelong player crash into Jack Graham to test out that shoulder when he re-entered the field of play and I have no idea why. At times he was standing Dangerfield at stoppages – why wouldn’t someone take the bit between their teeth and crash into him? Fairly and all above board, of course, but if he is going to be out there why not test him out?

It’s an indictment on the Geelong side that Jack Graham was able to play out this game and not cop a bump or at least a hard tackle. They completely let him off the hook, and as much as it says for Jack Graham’s courage in being out there, I reckon it says as much about Geelong’s hardness in the contest.

Or lack thereof.

BIG BLOKES SHOULDN’T TRY TO BE CREATIVE

What was Rhys Stanley thinking when he tried to handball to a teammate who wasn’t looking whilst running through centre half forward in the third quarter?

Wait… was he thinking anything at all? Because it looked to me like a monumental brain fade and it probably cost his team a shot at goal, and in the second half, the Cats just weren’t getting those shots at goal.

He had Menegola running to the outside, but even had he been looking, Stanley’s handball would have missed by a good five metres. It was a nothing handball and it set the Tigers off and running via Brandon Ellis. The ball ended up with Tom Lynch running inside 50 but Mark O’Connor executed a lunging tackle to bring him down as he was about to have a ping.

But none of that happens if Rhys Stanley exercises some semblance of intelligence and doesn’t completely cough the ball up.

I thought Stanley competed really well in the air against Soldo and Nankervis, who looks like he’s going at about 80% at the moment, but with ball in hand he looked clumsy and oaf-like, and I don’t know why the Cats continually gave the ball to him when it was apparent that the heat was on, and Stanley was struggling to handle it.

THE UGLY

MISSING IN ACTION

Righto, let’s point the finger.

Quinton Narkle – had 11 touches at half time and was looking dangerous. He took on tackles, fended off and generally looked like he belonged. Did the Mon-Stars come down at half time and steal his talent or something? He finished the game with just 13 possessions. Two disposals running through the guts in a whole half of footy. That’s absolutely horrible, and if you’re looking at how marked the change was in Geelong after half time, look no further than the performance of Narkle. He was a ghost in the second half.

Cam Guthrie – had 12 touches in the first three quarters. He finished with 12 disposals in total. He did spend a third of the game on the bench so I am guessing a chunk of that was in the last quarter, but far out… more than one touch in the last quarter would be nice. He was front and centre for many stoppages but could not get his hands on it after the first quarter. Meanwhile, he was the preferred option to Tim Kelly at centre bounces after the break?

How about Tom Atkins? The Cats needed him to step up. He stepped down and away. He had 11 touches for the game. As for his lauded tackling pressure… he had two. Yep, just two. I’m not sure whether his offence feeds his defence or vice versa, but when he tackles well, his disposal numbers are up too. Today he didn’t tackle well at all, and his disposal count reflects that.

Mark Blicavs on the wing? Looked lost as he went about collecting ten touches. I’ll touch a bit more on this soon.

And then there was Patrick Dangerfield. After 19 touches in the first half, Danger added just eight in the second half as his desperation and attack on the ball went largely unrewarded. His impotent third quarter efforts allowed the Tigers to run over the top of the Cats without too much resistance. His two disposals was exactly the sort of output people have been critical of him about in finals before, and with an MIA third quarter, Danger critics will load up again.

In preliminary finals you simply cannot have passengers. Guys like Joel Selwood and Tim Kelly cannot carry a side where half the team is doing bugger all.

Geelong supporters have a right to feel frustrated. They have a right to feel angry. Their team had the ascendancy and blew it, and they blew it in a spectacular fashion. See the next point for a glaring example.

TIM KELLY NOT IN THE GUTS

Where the hell was Tim Kelly to start the third quarter? With the Cats needing to cement their lead, one would think you should have your biggest guns in at the first bounce to make something happen, right?

Nope. Not if you’re Chris Scott, who seemed hell bent on outsmarting everyone in this game, including himself.

We had Danger in the guts, which was great. We had Selwood… and you will never hear me say a bad word about him; I love the bloke, and you had Cam Guthrie.

Yeah… given how Guthrie was travelling, we probably could have done without him in there.

Tim Kelly started on the half forward flank. As the Cats cleared the ball out to Rhys Stanley – yep, give the ball to the least able to get a kick away – he was collared by Trent Cotchin and the Tigers swept the ball forward, with Dion Prestia lacing out Tom Lynch for the first goal.

The dye was cast and the stage was set for the Tigers comeback in the first minute of the third quarter. It was Guthrie’s man who ran forward and hit Lynch, with Guthrie largely redundant in the play, trailing out the back as Prestia made the play.

And so we head back to the centre. Would you think Scott would send Tim Kelly in for this bounce? I mean, he was Geelong’s best clearance player all season – surely you’d have him in there to win the footy and get things back on your terms?

Nope, and again it was Prestia getting his hands on the ball as Guthrie trailed him to the footy. Kelly came running in off the half forward flank but the ball was already going Richmond’s way.

Too little, too late.

How can you not have your All-Australian on-baller on the bloody ball to start the half of footy? The Tigers are battle-hardened. They only know one way of getting their hands on the footy – they win it. You have to match them, and beat them – Tim Kelly is one of the few players that had the capability of throwing a spanner into the works of the Tiger machine, but playing him out of the action to start the third quarter played right into Richmond’s hands.

In short, it was a cock up. Chris Scott, your cock up opened up a door.

And a Tiger barged in.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR GOLD COAST

Sorry to move away from both teams, but watching this, I had to feel for the Gold Coast Suns – not because they lost Tom Lynch this time last year, but more because of what Lynch was doing tonight and how it sends a strong message to his former teammates.

Imagine sitting up there on the Gold Coast. Sure, the weather is nice and you’ll get some nice sun over the next week or two, and you’ve been on holidays for four weeks already. You switch on the TV, and there’s your former captain clunking marks and kicking goals in front of over 90,000 fans at the MCG with the entire football world watching on. And you could walk outside right now and barely anyone would recognise you even if you were carrying a footy around and wearing your Suns polo..

I know a lot of players want to leave for family reasons or to “go home”, but seeing Lynch playing like this must raise an eyebrow or two for young Suns players who are on their rookie deals up there. Why stay and play in front of 10K maximum when they could pack up their gear and head down south to play in front of crowds like this?

I admit, there was part of me that wanted Lynch to play an average game tonight, and there was a part of me that wanted Richmond to lose. Not that I was biased against them or because I hate them  – but because Lynch playing well and the Tigers moving into a Grand Final is probably the worst thing that could happen to an expansion club looking to get their young talent to stay.

But far out he was good, wasn’t he?

QUICK BITS

So, a quick question for Geelong fans – what the hell is Chris Scott doing with Mark Blicavs? They looked an agile big defender short down back, yet there is Blicavs, who was definitely in AA contention until Scott started screwing with his line up, wandering around the wing getting no footy?

I couldn’t believe it when I saw him out there, clueless as to where he needed to run to be effective. This bloke is a shut down artist, and he was stuck out on the wing attempting to do… something. This is one of those decisions that will probably haunt Cats fans and I am sure Chris Scott had his reason…. actually, I am not sure Chris Scott had reasons for playing him there other than a little bit of pig headedness.

Not going to buy into the Dusty hysteria in this game. I saw that the fans on Google voted him as best on ground… are you kidding me? He was well below his best, and some of his kicking wasn’t anywhere near great, but what I do want to do is praise his ability to work through that corked thigh and continue to contribute at a high level. The way he contested and then tore the ball away from Kolodjashnij on the wing like he was taking chocolate from my daughter when she’s not looking (don’t tell her!) was brilliant, and it was Dusty at his powerful, brutal best. The commentators were almost calling for a hearse for him in the first quarter and a limousine in the last. He was good, but I reckon he may be saving his best until next week.

Would love to know how he was continually able to get space out the back by himself in this game. I saw Cam Guthrie going with him early, but I reckon Dusty uses the switch when he goes forward to his advantage better than anyone in the game. He loses his opponent often, and manufactures situations that lead to goals just by working up and back and creating confusion between opposition defenders and mids.

How loud was that Tiger roar as their team made their way onto the ground and ran through the banner? Deafening stuff. You have to give the Tiger fans all the credit in the world – they show up in numbers and they are loud! What do you think something like that is worth? An extra goal? Two? I have to say, as someone with no dog, or cat, or tiger in this fight, I know I would love hearing the kind of support the Tigers were receiving from their vocal supporters. “Yellow and Black” is still the best part of any footy theme song in the game.

How was the difference in Geelong’s ball movement after half time? Gone was the precision kicking and the kicking into holes further afield. In it’s place were long kicks down the line in hope. I reckon the Tigers lapped that up once fatugue started setting in and the cats could no longer pinpoint targets. Richmond’s chaotic runs forward create absolute havoc, and truthfully Geelong’s defence did remarkably well not to leak goals.

Nice to see Shaun Ryan coaching again instead of making decisions. After his “leave Britney alone” moment with Charlie Cameron last week, he gave Tom Stewart an eternity to move out of the protected area as Tom Lynch marked at half forward and looked to move the ball on in the third quarter. Second week in a row I’ve mentioned that umpire by name in the review… that’s not a good thing.

I love Joel Selwood, and it was no surprise to me that he went for 30 touches in this one after 26 against the Eagles last week. He is an absolute warrior and with game 300 on the horizon next season, I think it is safe to say he’s the best Geelong captain I’ve ever seen, and probably right up there with the best captains in general.

Loved the game of David Astbury. I remember there was a time when it was Dylan Grimes and David Astbury that were underrated. Well, now it’s only Astbury. Never biting off more than he can chew, his job is to stop forwards and let everyone else get the accolades, and he was right on script for that tonight.

The Tigers have some room to improve. Daniel Rioli was ordinary, as was Shai Bolton, but with Bolton… does he have the best change of direction in the game? His moves are so sudden and explosive… he reminds me of the way Penny Hardaway would play basketball before his knees gave way.

Two contested grabs for Ratugolea in this one. I reckon he needed four to get the Cats home.

Interesting to see Sydney Stack named to play in the VFL Grand Final this weekend. With both Graham and possibly Broad sidelined next week, do you think there might be a glimmer of hope he gets a run?

And do the Tigers ant the Pies or Giants in the big one? I reckon they’d be torn. Taking on the mantle of “Redeem team” they would love to knock over the Pies, but realistically, I reckon they’d feel like they are a more realistic chance at knocking over GWS. I guess all will be revealed tomorrow.

So, do you like this review? People, we’d really appreciate your support to continue running the site. Please see below for ways to support us.