Ahh, round one. The time of year where everyone has a fleeting moment of hope until half their teams lose, and they say the season should never have been played.

It was a ripping first quarter. The Giants launched their season in white-hot style, kicking the first three goals of the game in no time at all. They finished the quarter with four, already surpassing their Grand Final tally (get used to that being brought up, Giants fans). The Cats then evened the contest and clawed a couple of goals back.

It was a good contrast of styles with the Giants spreading hard from the contest and linking up through the corridor when they could, and burning the Cats a few times.

It was Geelong controlling most of the play during the majority of the second quarter, but the Cats just couldn’t put the score on the board. Meanwhile, the Giants were making every trick a winner. It evidenced at one stage where the score read seven goals straight to six goals and five behinds.

The Giants then made the Cats seriously hurt for their inaccuracy by punishing a poor Esava Ratugolea dropped mark, surging the ball forward through Toby Greene and eventually Stephen Coniglio, to score a goal right on the half time siren. It must be said the Cats seemed to be sharing the footy around a bit more, and that there weren’t any one or two players standing out.

For the Giants, it was a rollcall. Their midfield is just scary.  Whitfield, Coniglio, Hopper and Kelly. If Jacobs can just half the ruck against the elite ruckmen, I struggle to find a midfield that has as much top-class talent. The best showcase of this was the tackles. Geelong laid eight tackles to half time. It’s not like the Cats weren’t putting on any pressure, it’s just that they couldn’t get a solid hold of the Giants midfielders.

The Giants continued the punishment in the third quarter. Perryman, Green and Cameron slammed home the first three goals to put the Cats right onto the back foot.  And from that point on they really didn’t give the Cats too many chances. Geelong pushed hard late in the quarter, sensing the game was slipping away, but the resolute defence of Haynes, Davis and Shaw stood tall.

Geelong tried it’s best to make a contest early in the last. They had a nice little purple patch with some of their older stars rising to the challenge, but like all of us, as you get older, you can’t go for as long.  Sure enough, the Giants closed the game out like professionals (because, you know, they are!).

The margin probably didn’t reflect the closeness of the game, but you can put that down to the Giants quality kicking at goal. The is no pressure like scoreboard pressure.

Some things that caught my eye:

Boy oh Boy, Poor BT

I reckon you could almost hear BT losing his mind as he watched Daniel a-Lloyd get off to such a hot start, slotting the game’s opening two goals. And with the commentators failing to live up to BT’s usual flare, I reckon he would’ve been tearing his lustrous hair out as they bumbled their way through the telecast. Can someone tell me why we even had crowds when the game is so good without them? Do they realise they are talking to the people who usually ARE the crowds?

 

Does he have an opposite?

There few players in the competition like Patrick Dangerfield. He sits comfortably in the upper echelon of modern footballers along with Fyfe and Martin. But there aren’t many players that get the ball 55 meters out and swing onto their opposite foot and put the ball five metres past the goal umpires’ hat.

The Shutdown

On Dangerfield. He renewed acquaintances with one Matt de Boer. Now Dangerfield still had his impact at centre bounces, but once de Boer got him in traffic and around the ground, he blanketed him.

Danger simply couldn’t find enough space. He only had 16 disposals and a solitary mark for the game and gave away five free kicks. De Boer seems to bring the worst out of his opponents, doesn’t he? He has claimed another Geelong scalp to add to his cabinet. But I’m sure like many of his teammates, he is just happy to do his part for the win.

“Mean” Toby Greene

The guy everyone else loves to hate. However, there is no denying how good this guy is. He is mercurial, hard-working, cheeky and tough. The full package for a small forward. He was best on ground in the Bushfire relief game, and he hasn’t shown an inkling of slowing down since. He had four goals tonight and some classic Toby Greene moments along the way, like when he nearly kicked himself in the face to soccer a goal on the goal line. He made that moment look so hard but so easy at the same time. A strong start for one of the pre-eminent small forwards of the game.

The Sauce and The Fort

I know it’s a bit rich to focus on a match up that didn’t really impact the game too much. However, I was interested in how this ruck match-up would shape the contest. Jacobs is coming into his new club after falling out of favour with the Crows, but still possesses the attributes to match it with the league’s best big men. Fort was the surprise selection for Cats fans. Geelong has struggled with its ruck situation probably more than any other team over the last three years. They just can’t decide who they want and what they want out of their ruck. I can tell you one thing Cats fans want – consistency!

The first half was about even between the big men. Same number of disposals and hit outs to advantage. Although I was leaning more towards Jacobs due to his disposals seeming to be more meaningful in linking up with his teammates in attacking thrusts. I also felt his taps to advantage were a greater benefit for GWS’s clearances. But it’s definitely not something I hold against Fort. It’s hard to be a major part of the clearance when Dangerfield can brush off a tackle and explode out of the middle as he does.

In the end, I gave the points to Jacobs. He just had more of an impact on the game. My key indicator in the washup was the tackles. Jacobs laid five. Fort laid zero.

The Haynes Plane

No this is the other Haynes plane (The good one). This guy just patrols the Giants defence, roaming the arc as though it was his personal property. Haynes delivered what is becoming a usual standout performance in defence. Often overshadowed by high profile teammates and lost outside of the Victorian bubble, Haynes is a seriously underrated player. Double-digits in intercept possessions for the game are becoming an expectation now. My only knock is that he wasted the footy a bit tonight, however the Cats failed to make him pay.

Nails Narkle

Quinton Narkle had an unenviable situation in the first quarter. Fumbling a footy along the half forward line, the ball sprung up as he bent down, and pressure was applied. The end result was a dislocated finger pointing in the wrong direction for the youngster. Not to cause any fuss, he strode to the boundary, but was met by the Cats doctor halfway. The doc made a quick realignment and Narkle jogged on to the next context without even leaving the field. I don’t know about you, but I’ve dislocated a finger or two, and usually takes me a few minutes to recover. Narkle just went up a notch in my book.

The Big and Tall Department

I felt like the key match-ups at either end finished up about even.

In the Blicavs v Cameron match-up, Blicavs held the Coleman Medallist pretty much statless for most of the night, with Cameron searching down towards halfback for some easy touches to get into the game early. However, in the second half Cameron got going and made sure he took his opportunities when they presented.

A couple strong marks against Blicavs and his inability to miss gave oints to Cameron. Those three goals were incredibly telling in the end as Hawkins inability to replicate the accuracy made them worth even more than a standard goal.

Davis vs Hawkins was a slightly different contest. Hawkins got his fair share of the footy, and had he kicked straight, this match-up would’ve been an easy decision. Davis got his share of the footy as well and was useful in supporting his teammates in the air, particularly when Hawkins wasn’t on the field. In the end I still felt Hawkins won the contest. His ability to continually be the Cats focal point in attack and produce for his team is high quality. Sure, he didn’t kick as straight as Cats fans would’ve wanted tonight, but you can’t question his value to the team or his ability to put teammates in scoring positions. You only have to look at the Geelong burst in the last quarter, where Hawkins was involved in every goal they kicked. Geelong scores run through the Tomahawk. Stop him, and you go a long way toward stopping the Cats.

The Perryman

Toss a coin your Perryman? That’s what the Giants will be doing this week. After 36 games he had kicked four goals in his career. He doubled that tally tonight. Talk about a breakout game. Perryman did it all. Playing on the wing, he got back deep and assisted his defence and then hurled himself forward to get some just rewards for his efforts. 20 disposals to go with his four goals and a top-notch performance.

Mitch Duncan

I tell you what, coming off the short run-up, Mitch Duncan shone bright tonight. He was the Cats best player in the end. Although Tom Stewart, Zach Tuohy and Gary Ablett all played their part. I’d love to see what Duncan could do off a full pre-season. Time will tell if he can back it up. Duncan has been threatening to take the next step for the Cats for years. And it didn’t take long for one of my fellow Mongrels to ask the question “Maybe this is his year?”.

If you don’t mind, Umpire?

The first incident occurred in the second quarter – Harry Perryman took a fantastic intercept mark in front of Cam Guthrie. Perryman’s momentum carried him backwards and he tumbled, with Guthrie then standing the mark where he landed. Only for the umpire to come over and signal a 50-metre penalty. With no other conceivably reasonable explanation within the vicinity, one can only assume that the umpire adjudged Guthrie to have taken liberty with the location of the mark. A harsh punishment for a couple of centimetres.

The second incident occurred when Tom Hawkins and Phil Davis went back toward a long ball inside the Geelong forward-50. As the ball came in, Hawkins turned completely toward Davis and straight-up shoved him in the chest and sent him flying. To me, this was a clear free kick to Davis, and it’s one that absolutely would’ve been paid had the roles been reversed. I like the AFL’s push to protect forwards going for mark, but surely there is a limit, and surely the same action applied to a defender should be punished as well.

Ablett

He had an “almost” night, did Gary, probably unlucky not to kick three goals in this game. Maybe if the broadcasters didn’t do their best to put “The Mozz” on him every chance they could, things would be different. With Ablett, I look for his lateral movement and his strength through the hips. He was at his evasive best tonight. Turning and crossing over GWS players all over the ground. It wasn’t exactly vintage Gaz, but he can hold his head up high for his efforts. And he has made this Mongrel rethink how much father time may have caught up with him. Perhaps the old dog has a few tricks left for us on his final tour.

The Cog

You’d think Stephen Coniglio covered himself in Lynx Africa before the match, because it seemed like no Geelong player wanted to go near him. Coniglio patrolled the middle of the ground with unabated tenacity. His poise around stoppages and ability to locate teammates through heavy traffic is sublime. Cogs was red hot early, and just never slowed down, in terms of his movement and ferocity. A wonderful first official hit out as captain.

Josh Kelly

Of course, with a midfield that flaunts so much talent, someone has to do the tough stuff. We’re not talking players like Dusty and Fyfe, who are great players, no doubt, BUT they are players who don’t defend, aren’t they? They have lesser midfielders do that job for them so that they can be as deadly as possible for their team going forward.

Not all elite midfielders need such support.

“Who?” I hear you ask…

Josh Kelly, that’s who. He is the complete midfielder. With just your lazy 18 disposals, to go along with his game-high seven tackles and 30 pressure acts, there is no doubting Kelly is one of the best genuine two-way midfielders in the game. How GWS can use Kelly in such a way that he isn’t their premier ball winner, is the sort of talent-laden issue other teams dream of.

The Invisible Man

No, not that stupid Hollywood remake out in cinemas at the moment that totally doesn’t have this Mongrel throwing salt at every corner of his house every time it squeaks. No, this invisible man is far more real.

Zach Guthrie.

If you checked the stat sheet at three-quarter time, and picked any stat,  I think you’ll find his name somewhere near the bottom. He had a flurry in the last quarter to make it seem like he only had a bad game, but it was so much worse. I hate getting down on players, but “Zuthrie” really did himself no favours tonight. From being effectively stat-less at quarter time, as well as giving up costly goals early, he is a perennial whipping boy of Cats fans in recent years, and tonight followed that script. I think he’ll find it hard to break back into this team, should he fall out this week.

 

The Wrap

It would’ve been an incredibly frustrating night for Chris Scott. His players got enough looks to make the game competitive but failed to take their chances. Meanwhile, the Giants boasted a score line of 13.1 at one point during the third quarter.

Everything felt hard-fought for the Cats. Meanwhile, the Giants’ goals flowed with far greater ease. It was as if the Cats were paddling against the current and every time the made some ground, they had expended so much effort, that the Giants just put in a couple of strokes the other way and blew past them. This is a sign that one team is noticeable better than the other, and that the lesser team is having to work so much harder to stay with them.

I’m not about to write the Cats off, but things will definitely need to go their way, (rather than against them in previous years), if they want to be a serious contender. They’re still good, but they just didn’t seem at the level tonight.

Meanwhile, there is a seriously BIG sound coming from the west of the town.  This Giants team doesn’t show the signs of being mentally scarred from last years Grand Final. Rather it seems to have given them a steely resolve that oozes confidence now that they know exactly what it takes to be the best. And in this Mongrel’s opinion, they are.

 

What’s Next?

The Giants travel to the MCG to play Melbourne and who know what the Demons are going to serve up in 2020? They’d want to hope they’ve got some of their 2018 “secret stuff” lying around if they’re going to be competitive with this Giant group of Mon-Stars.

The Cats head back to the safety of Kardinia back and look likely to square the ledger against a Gold Coast side that seems to have picked up where they finished 2019. Dismally. If the Cats fail to punish the Suns in ruthless fashion, you would start to have some serious doubts about their season.