This game had incredibly fitting opposing storylines. On one hand you had the Cats celebrating two of the all-time greats in their storied history. Joel Selwood, the club’s greatest captain playing his 300th game and Gary Ablett Jnr, arguably the game’s greatest player, playing his 350th. On the other, you had the Gold Coast, riding on the back of a wave of youthful talent led by Matt Rowell and Ben King.
It was all Geelong in the first quarter as Tom Hawkins got on the end of a few good passages of play. The Cats were incredibly efficient at getting their numbers back and launching attacks from their halfback line. It was the opposite of their game style from last week, as the Cats looked to move the ball on and overlap the Suns defensive structures. The Suns seemed to get caught in the bright lights of Kardinia Park. Matt Rowell going off injured probably did none of their spirits any good.
The Suns would rally in the second quarter. They increased their work rate and steadied themselves with ball in hand. They didn’t seem so panicked by the Cats pressure and started applying some serious pressure of their own. They also stopped heedlessly bombing the footy down the line, which plays right into Geelong’s hands. I don’t know what Stuart Dew said to the Suns at quarter time, but it bloody worked.
Gold Coast had the fast start in the third quarter and actually hit the lead, which looked highly unlikely in the first quarter. At one point the Suns had kicked six of the last seven goals of the match and their big forwards were dominating the air against the Cats defence. After the Suns quick start, the quarter evened out to a battle of wills. It was highly contested and living between the arcs. But in this chaos the Suns would make a couple costly mistakes and the Cats will have suddenly accumulated a 15-point lead.
The Cats got the crucial first goal of the last quarter and stretched the lead to an almost unassailable 21 points. When Jack Steven slotted his first goal in Cats colours with six minutes left in the game, the match was sealed. The Cats would then turn to getting one of the milestone men involved. Gary Ablett wound back the clock and kicked a monster goal form outside 50 and the Suns were done. The Cats would actually hold the Suns scoreless in the last quarter as their experience shone through.
Let’s get into the stuff that mattered.
THE BEST STUFF
This guy is seriously underrated. Midfielder, Defender, forward. Menegola was everywhere in the first half of this game. A little quieter in the second half but he still had some telling touches. Not highly noticed by most fans, Menegola is a mister fix-it for Chris Scott. He doesn’t star the way Dangerfield does, but he just does the right things. In this game he owned the outer wing and destroyed his direct opponent for the night in Brandon Ellis. Finishing with 23 disposals and eight score involvements.
Playing on a wing for parts of this game opposite Menegola, Tuohy has continued his very consistent season at his high standards. With the absence of Tom Stewart due to injury, more reliance will now be placed on the likes of Tuohy, Henry and Bews to be able to lock an opponents down, as well as provide run out of defence. Tuohy led the game with over 500 metres gained and delivered some critical footy through the Suns zone in the early and later parts of this match.
Just a man hungry for contact. Greenwood cracked-in all night. Even when his teammates started falling away and some lamented the loss of Matt Rowell early in the game, Greenwood took it upon himself to step up at the coal face and refused to let Geelong have it all their own way. Greenwood had game-high’s in contested possessions (15), clearances (six), and an equal game high in tackles (11). Sure, he lacked a bit when it came to clean disposal, but you could not question his effort tonight.
A fantastic return to the Cats for Parfitt after missing last week. Only 11 disposals, but he kicked two goals and had 11 tackles as well. Demonstrating his effectiveness as a genuine two-way midfielder for the Cats. Chris Scott will be hoping to keep Parfitt in the middle, to ensure he has his bases covered. He will probably just instruct him to ALWAYS give the first option when he has the footy.
THE GOOD STUFF
The Milestone Men
Selwood probably had the better game, but Ablett had the better moment. Launching a goal from outside 50 in the last quarter. He made the commentators look quite silly as they called for a barrel as they believed he couldn’t make the distance. Seems like their still some ware left in those old legs of the little master. If you wanted to know about Joel Selwood’s night, you only need to see that he had eight tackles, five clearances and 14 contested possessions. That’s the way he likes it, in tight and tough. He was only missing going off for the blood rule and coming back on bandaged up like the warrior he is to complete the night.
Good first half. Back in the goals. Hawkins threatened to tear this game apart at times. A game-high eight marks and 12 score involvements for the ‘Tomahawk’ as he delivered for a couple of his best mates in their milestone game. The Cats always look much better when Hawkins is getting hit up on the lead in their forward 50.
Dominated the meaningful part of the ruck contest. Fort may have come good in the last quarter but Witts won this battle. He is a solid experienced player for the Suns and was one of the few who didn’t wilt when the Cats pressure rose in the third quarter.
Cats fans would’ve been salivating with the high marking clinic ‘Big Sav’ put on in the second half. Sometimes maligned for not having enough of an impact in enough games, Ratugolea would’ve been starting to feel the pressure of new Cats recruit Josh Jenkins after his last few weeks. However, in the third quarter Ratugolea began clunking his high-flying attempts. Now he just needs to do it in the forward 50 on a more consistent basis.
The other suns skipper played a solid game of his own. You could argue the Suns had won the battle in the midfield for the better part of this game. They were only really overrun in the last quarter. 22 disposals and a team leading six score involvements, largely due to some telling clearances delivered from Swallow that lead to some Suns goals.
Overshadowed in his 50th game by the two club giants in Ablett and Selwood. But Henry was arguably Geelong’s best defender in this game. Cutting off the suns thrusts and not panicking with the footy.
Ben King & Sam Day
Helped spark the Suns early. Took some ripping marks and kicked some classic goals as the Gold Coast came back hard against the Cats during the middle part of this match. Only five disposals for King and 10 disposals for Day, but a solid five goals between them. I must admit that King and Day looked incredibly promising and tremendously exciting during the middle part of this game. Probably should have had at least one or two more goals, but that will probably come with more experience (for them and their team).
THE NOT SO GOOD STUFF
Rowell – Out
You could hear the collective groan of all footy fans when Matt Rowell got up clutching his shoulder halfway through the first quarter. It was his day done, and the momentum he had built in the last three games of his career. Let’s hope it’s a quick recovery and he get back to building his impressive body of work.
The Double Grab
Jarrod Harbrow’s dropped mark early in the first quarter just wasn’t up to the standard he’s set himself. An experienced leader at the Suns, Harbrow had the ball sat slightly on top of him on a short kick, and pretty much felt the pressure. He felt it enough for Selwood to make an effective spoil, and the Cats to kick their second goal.
Parfitt’s lack of awareness
Geelong got the turnover across the halfback line and were forcing the ball forward through handballs. The ball landed in Parfitt’s hands and he let Narkle run past for the ghost handball and then continued to wait for an option. Big mistake. He was swallowed in the Sun tackle when the next wave of pressure got there. An almost carbon copy of this happened again early in the third quarter in the Cats forward 50.
Fort’s days are numbered for when Rhys Stanley is fit. Fort may have salvaged a draw in the last quarter in some pundit’s eyes, but he lost the battle when it counted for the Cats. Stanley is definitely the better option for the Cats going forward.
THE REST OF THE STUFF
I covered the Cats game two weeks ago and Steven was easily the least effective player on the ground. Having survived in the team it seems he is starting to find some better form. Here’s hoping he can continue to build back into the player we knew at St. Kilda.
Was an ominous presence for large chunks of this game. He just couldn’t put it on the scoreboard. Looked to have recaptured the form and fitness from the first half of last year.
Was probably the Suns best player early on. A couple of goals and some high-octane pressure. Faded badly. Probably only needs to review the first half of this game and get his confidence right up.
Nothing too miraculous out of this game. The Cats simply got the job done against the Suns. The most memorable moment may just be an injury to Matt Rowell that could impact his Rising Star and potential Brownlow aspirations for 2020.
The Cats now hit the road after finally getting in front on the win-loss column. You can’t help but think that the loss to Carlton may hurt them if they happen to drop one or both of the next two against some very hard competition in their “home” games against Brisbane in Sydney and Collingwood in Perth.
The Suns are looking at back-to-back trips to New South Wales against Melbourne and Sydney. Probably 50/50 games at the moment given the Suns overall form and the form of their opponents. Who knows if these games will even be played if 2020 doesn’t throw another curve ball our way? God, this season is so unpredictable.