As Footypalooza rolled on, the Cats made a statement at the expense of the Saints, controlling the game from the outset to record an impressive 59 point win at the Gabba.

Geelong got contributions across the board, both from stars and the lesser lights as they applied pressure all over the park and turned the Saints into a reactive combination, unable to generate any run and restricted to their own defensive half for most of the game.

It’s strange to see pressure at two such different extremes between good teams, but it was evident early in the piece that the Cats had come to play and they simply would not permit their opponents to play anything like the way they wanted.

The win sees the Cats hit the top four and the loss sends the Saints back toward the pack. With the Bombers and lions in the next two weeks, the Saints must split in order to remain a chance at a top four finish.

The Cats… well, they’ve got a blockbuster against the Power and close to a sure win against the Crows. Emerging with two wins, which is a definite chance, would see them pushing for the top two.

But enough ‘what ifs…’ Let’s get into this one.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

THE BEST WINGMAN IN THE GAME

So, for those wondering, we’ve been on the Sam Menegola bandwagon for a couple of months now. Our weekly wingman rankings (members article – you should join and read it, damn it) has had him featured heavily for the majority of the 2020 season, and (spoiler alert), coming into Round 11 he was the number one ranked wingman in the game.

Not Mitch Duncan. Not Andrew Gaff. Definitely not Brad Hill (35th for those playing along at home).

It is Sam Menegola.

The Cats have an interesting set up in regard to their wingmen. Menegola is the staple on one wing – he was on the bench for one centre bounce and on the wing for every other one tonight, and on the other one the Cats rotate a plethora of players through. Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie, Zach Tuohy, Mark Blicavs, Tom Stewart, Sam Simpson when he plays… they all get their turn.

But Sam Menegola owns one wing at the Cattery, and he has made it borderline impossible to move him from there.

It wasn’t just his game-leading 26 touches in this one for me. It was the way he worked both ends of the ground so hard that he would either be there to support his defenders, or there to become an option and kick a goal when the Cats needed him to. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he is the hardest running man in the game right now. Go back and watch the footage – whilst others walk or job, Menegola takes off. He wants to be involved in the next play. He wants to make a difference… boy, is he ever making a difference!

His game was wonderful this evening. He ran at 81% efficiency, had 11 marks, seven intercepts and gave a lesson to Jack Billings and Brad Hill in terms of how to play the wing. He was in our first rolling All-Australian team five weeks ago and has only got better since.

As of right now… the best wingman in the caper.

 

THE COLEMAN LEADER

How he managed to continually get one-on-one contests, I’ll never know, but the fact remains that when he did… he won them.

Over and over again.

It was mentioned during the broadcast that Hawkins was the number one rated forward in the game right now. Tonight would not have damaged that standing whatsoever. He snagged five goals and possible could have had another after Jake Carlisle took him high in the forward pocket and there was no whistle.

His balance is wonderful, his strength almost unmatched in the modern game and whilst Charlie Dixon garners the headlines for his pack marks, Hawkins’ ability to beat his opponent and glove contested marks flies waaaay under the radar. Currently dragging in one and a half per game, it is just one string to a pretty impressive bow.

Hawkins leads all forwards in score involvements this season and in any rolling All-Australian team, he would have to be one of the key position locks at the moment.

It will be interesting to see if the big fella can provide the difference in the 2020 finals. He has become a more rounded player as he has got older and thoughts of Geelong’s collapse in the 2019 finals series must haunt him after his untimely suspension.

2020 is in many ways a redemption arc for Hawkins, and if the first half of the season is anything to go by, things are starting to come together nicely for a happy ending.

 

THE BACK SIX

Let’s take a look through this collective, shall we?

Tom Stewart – finding his form again after injuring his collarbone earlier in the season. 20 of his 22 touches were uncontested and he ran at 82%

Jake Kolodjashnij – Never really troubled all game. 12 disposals at 100% efficiency

Harry Taylor – handled things beautifully back there. Good positioning and cool head. Six disposals and no real errors.

Mark O’Connor – Picked up the Dan Butler job for the most part. 16 disposals at 94% and nine marks.

Jed Bews – Looks like he’s having fun out there now. Another small forward killer. 14 touches at 86%.

Zach Tuohy – Playing with supreme confidence. Ran forward, snagged a goal and had 18 touches at 83%.

Jack Henry – Nine disposals, four rebound fifties and played help defence time and time again to put a stop to the St Kilda small forwards.

Lachie Henderson – Had 13 touches and five rebound fifty disposals. Is the luxury that allows Mark Blicavs to play up the ground.

Oh, speaking of luxuries, they have bloody Blicavs to come back into that back six when required AND Jordan Clark when he recovers. Guys, this is as strong a defence as there is in the game right now, and we’ll look at that a bit later

 

STANLEY SHOWS UP – MARSHALL STILL GOOD

This was an interesting battle.

With Paddy Ryder a late withdrawal, I was stroking my rapidly greying stubble as I pondered whether the adjustments the cats would make to tackle the sole ruck of Rowan Marshall would be enough. You see, I really rate Marshall. I think he could be the best big man in the game in a few years assuming he continuous to develop at this rate.

But I wasn’t so sure Rhys Stanley would be able to offer the kind of resistance to match Marshall.

Well, I had my eyes opened tonight.

Don’t get me wrong – I still rate Marshall’s game. He had seven clearances to lead all players, and whilst he gained an impressive 441 metres to lead all Saints, I prefer to think of that as an indictment on the St Kilda mids not running to receive and forcing the big man to go long too often.

However, Stanley surprised me. He more than matched Marshall around the ground and actually got pretty dangerous close to goal, only let down by a couple of wayward shots.

Sitting back now and looking at the game, my expectations for Marshall were pretty high. He delivered, but not to the degree I expected. My expectations of Stanley were moderate and he exceeded them.

Based on that, I liked Stanley’s game better.

 

PADDY GOES WHACK

It wasn’t the huge number-game we have seen from Patrick Dangerfield in this one, and though I am sure the press will probably narrow its focus on the way he played, there were others better.

That said, with Dangerfield up forward, he showed some glimpses of that devastating 2017 form, where the Cats often deployed him as a potent deep forward.

He looked likely in this one and though he only finished with one goal, the way he created for others was the highlight of his game. His nine score involvements were a game high, and the way he attacked the contest to bring the ball to ground when he couldn’t mark is something some genuine key forwards could learn.

With 19 touches and only minimal midfield minutes, we saw today something with a three-fold effect. We saw Dangerfield providing a dangerous option inside 50. We saw a glimpse into what late-career Dangerfield may look like increasingly, and we saw a coach giving his superstar the rest he needs whilst still getting a valuable contribution from him.

Again, not vintage, dominant Dangerfield, but what we did get was an intelligent, well-used version of the champ, and that is a win for all involved.

 

ROHAN GOES CLUNK

He doesn’t get a lot of footy… I know.

He goes missing too often. That’s true.

But when he is on, is there are more potent burst player in the game than Gary Rohan? This may be drawing a very long bow, but please bear with me.

Do you remember the way people would talk about Wayne Carey when he played? Not now – with the benefit of hindsight, but back whilst he was active? Pepperidge Farm remembers, and what they used to say was that he would change a game with a five minute burst of brilliance.

To a lesser degree, that is what we see from Gary Rohan.

The differences are painfully obvious, but Carey could rip a game apart in five minutes and change the momentum. Rohan has a little bit of that about him in a smaller frame. His overhead marking on the lead is excellent, his burst of speed incredible and his pressure inside 50 is something he probably doesn’t get enough credit for.

A few weeks ago against the Eagles, he had a terrible game. It may have been one of his worst. He had no brilliance, no impact and his hard work all came to nought. He will have games like that – it is the nature of the enigmatic burst player, but when things click, as they did in this game, he is wonderful to watch.

He finished with four, could have finished with six and was a difference-maker before the Cats put the game beyond reach.

 

THE SECONDARY CLEARANCES

How important are clearances in a game of footy? We often hear about how vital it is to get first hands on the footy at a stoppage, and when executed properly, it’s hard to dispute.

However, there is an argument that effective clearances should be used as a method of assessing how well a team is moving the footy from stoppages. And if that measure was applied tonight, I reckon we would have seen the following numbers adjusted significantly.

St Kilda had three of the top four clearance players in the game.

Yep, that’s right. If you’re a stat-head and you’re looking at this game on paper, you must be wondering how you had Marshall with seven clearances, Steele with five and Bytel with five, whilst the next best was on three, and yet you could not get the ball forward with any great meaning.

And I’d be able to give you the answer.

It was the pressure. Continuous, relentless pressure.

Geelong simply refused to allow a St Kilda midfielder the time and space to effectively dispose of the footy at stoppages, and it was often the possession that followed that saw the Cats assume control of the footy and sweep the ball the other way. Bytel was good, but three of his five clearances came after half time – the game was effectively over by then. Marshall ran at just 44% efficiency, hacking it forward, whilst Steele worked his arse off but could only manage 50% disposal efficiency.

In contrast, Dangerfield was the worst of the Geelong mids in terms of using the footy, at 68%, but he also interspersed a few poor possessions with some sizzling delivery inside 50. You take the bad with the good with him.

So yes… my long-winded point is that a clearance is only as good as you make it. Numbers look lovely on paper, but the eye-test can prove quite the opposite, and that was the exact case in this game.

 

 

THE BAD

 

HELP!

You know when a ball is kicked and you can see a one-on-one matchup down the ground? And you know that feeling you get that the defender is in awful trouble?

How many times did we see that and feel that with Jake Carlisle forced to contend with Tom Hawkins one-on-one? And how did Brett Ratten and the St Kilda defenders miss it?

I covered Hawkins above – he is a contested beast and should never be afforded the kinds of opportunities he was against the Saints this week. Whether the defenders went into self-preservation mode and just didn’t help out, or whether Brett Ratten decided to show a bit of faith in his maligned defender, the results were catastrophic for the Saints.

Hawkins was just too powerful.

I am not the world’s biggest Jake Carlisle fan, but he was thrown to the wolves against Hawkins and in a good defence, you would have had someone else collapsing in on the contest to make sure he couldn’t just out-body Carlisle and either mark, or bring it to ground and goal.

I’m not taking anything away from Hawkins here – he was awesome, and I am definitely not having a crack at Carlisle – he was hung out to dry, but I am at a bit of a loss as to where the other defenders were – the flankers, the third up spoilers when the ball came in long and high.

After recent antics by Carlisle, I am sure there are a few supporters thinking he copped his right whack in this game, but this was more a case of a team not helping out.

And that’s a concern.

 

 

THE UGLY

 

OH YES, BLAME HIS TEAMMATES

Brad Hill has had the potential to be the best recruit of the year. Providing run and carry all day long is what he has built his name on, but this season has seen his numbers plummet to almost unthinkable levels given he was in contention for an All-Australian berth last season.

At just 15.4 disposals per game in 2020, Brad Hill dropped to a new low, with just seven disposals against the Cats. Jonathon Brown was quick to leap to his defence in the first half, blaming Hill’s teammates for his inability to get touches.

Seriously, that’s like blaming your ugly friend as the reason girls aren’t interested in you. It’s a cop out, and if game after game we are talking about how disappointing Brad Hill has been, it was inevitable that we’d get to this point. It is not his teammates – it’s him.

Let’s jump in the Mongrel time machine and allow me to take you back to the second half. If ever the Saints needed Hill to enact some of his game-breaking run, it was here. However,  matched up on Zach Tuohy, Hill was exposed twice.

The first came as Tuohy simply worked harder than him to push forward whilst the ball was on the flank. Hill allowed Tuohy to get goal side of him and the inboard kick from Gary Rohan saw the Irishman mark and goal. This may have been fortuitous on Tuohy’s behalf, but you know the old saying – the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Back in the time machine and we jump to the fourth quarter where an exit kick from defensive 50 targets Hill on the half back flank. The ball holds up in the air a little and Tuohy again outworks Hill, intercepting in front of him and taking off. Hill pursues… at about half pace and Tuohy goes long to the square where Mitch Duncan kicks a goal from point bank.

Two goals where Hill was simply outworked.

If you wanted me to sit here and go through play by play where he was beaten on the night, I would… but it’d be a long column. The fact is that he would be the most disappointing of all recruits this season. Whilst blokes like Dan Butler get a pass on a poor performance because they’ve been so good, Hill doesn’t have those credits in the bank at St Kilda.

He owes them, and he is yet to even look like paying them back just yet.

 

 

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

WHERE DO THE CATS DEFENSIVE SIX RANK?

Let’s forget points allowed and so on… that often reflects a lack of effort from the midfield. Let’s take a genuine look at when the Cats defenders have been clearly beaten this season.

Toby Greene got hold of them in Round One… but he’s Toby Greene. He does that. Four goals from Harry Perryman from the wing was the real difference.

Jordan de Goey got off the chain in Round Six and Josh Kennedy had a big last quarter in Round Nine.

That’s it.

The Cats defence has been rock solid all season and it continued here, with Max King, Tim Membrey and Dan Butler all going goalless. Prior to tonight, they were averaging five and a half goals per game.

We could look up stats til the (Adelaide) cows come home, but the eye test tells me that this defensive unit is about as good as it gets.

 

WILL THE KNIVES COME OUT FOR BUTLER?

If they do, it’s a joke.

I have noticed a few people commenting on our site and on our socials that Butler would choke in big games. If they’re going to puff their chests out now and claim they were right, let them. It’s such a shallow way of looking at it.

Butler will be assessed on his overall 2020 performance, which right now is excellent. One bad game is no reason to jump off him, or if you’re one of “those” people, jump on him.

 

THE MOST DISAPPOINTING SAINT?

I reckon it was Jack Billings.

He has cruised around all year and did as he pleased on the wing. Almost 14 of his 20 touches per game come uncontested as he gets a heap of easy footy. He runs hard, but when confronted with an obstacle, he was beaten quite easily.

Cam Guthrie spent a bit of time making sure Billings didn’t have an impact in this game and it was time well spent, indeed. Billings had seven of his 17 touches with the game completely gone in the last quarter. Guthrie beat him with hard work. His one touch in the first quarter was ineffective as he was effectively shut down.

 

WAS BEN LONG THE ONLY REAL ST KILDA HARD MAN OUT THERE?

I know he copped weeks for his hit on Sean Darcy, but I am strong believer that the punishment didn’t fit the crime there. It was good to see him willing to throw his body into contests again this week. His physicality was one of the few highlights for the Saints.

Given a clear run at it (without suspension… which’ll probably happen again soon enough, sadly) the way he plays footy off half back could be a game-changer for the Saints. I also liked that Ratten threw him forward – he could be pretty handy there on his day a well.

 

IS BRANDAN PARFITT THE BEST TACKLER IN THE GEELONG SIDE?

Hard to dispute.

He added another nine to his season totals tonight, and he now sits third in the league on average with 7.1 per game.

Parfitt is coming along beautifully for the Cats, and whilst I expected him to make a leap last year, the defensive side of the game is where he has improved in 2020.

 

OTHER BITS

 

How’d Jack Steven go against his old mob? Not bad… a little fumbly at times and he really has that Dane Swan shuffle about him at the moment, doesn’t he?

I feel as though the Cats are nursing him through at the moment and will lift the intensity of his training, and therefore fitness, with a couple of weeks to go in the season. I’ll say this – he could win the Cats a final… or lose one for them.

Looking at the Cats’ list, they have Gaz to come back when he’s ready, Dahlhaus and Jenkins, who I believe will be a vital addition to this team. I’m not sure they need Ratugolea at this stage- he does as much damage as he does good whilst out there.

For the Saints, they really could have used Zak Jones to play the role of circuit breaker out there tonight. His hard run and willingness to take contact is the kind of thing that breaks up a game for the Saints and frees up those outside runners.

What a shame Nathan Brown flew home. Against Hawkins, he would have been my first choice. I know he is probably done now, but I have to admit I smiled when the Saints picked him up again this season. I reckon he had a bit left to give, but… you know, covid and hubs. It wasn’t for him. Understandable.

Not a bad first-up effort from Jack Bytel… 18 touches and five clearances actually had him, along with Jack Steele as two of the Saints’ best for the night.

 

And that’ll do me. The Cats were impressive and the Saints simply could not get their game going. An impressive win for Geelong and with Port and Adelaide on the horizon, a big win in South Australia next week could see them prepped for a huge launch at the flag. Port are no joke, though.

As for the Saints, they need to knock over the Bombers next week as they run into Brisbane in Round 13.

 

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