If you were expecting the version of Geelong that meandered through the first few weeks of the season, you were in for a rude shock in this clash. If you were expecting the Tiger team that rallied to smash the Western Bulldogs last week, you’d be surprised again.
The Grand Final rematch saw the Cats give the Tigers huge touch up, tightening the screws after the first quarter to run out 63-point winners in a comprehensive belting of the reigning premiers.
The Cats saw their off-season acquisitions play their best games, collectively, whilst the three-headed monster in the Geelong forward half roared to life, with 15 goals between Jeremy Cameron, Gary Rohan and Tom Hawkins.
The Richmond defence looked rudderless without Dylan Grimes to keep them focused. Even the return of Nick Vlastuin failed to add composure as the back six made several crucial mistakes to allow the Cats repeated passage to goal. The corridor was completely owned by the Cats as they cut the vaunted Tiger pressure to ribbons with precise delivery and hard run.
Geelong got lifts from their skipper, Joel Selwood, who threw himself into contest after contest, whilst their defensive trio of Tom Stewart, Lachie Henderson and Jack Henry obliterated the Tiger forwards.
There is a heap to get through in this one, and much to look forward to going ahead. Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN…
Last week, I wrote about how Trent Cotchin lifted Richmond in their clash against the Western Bulldogs. It was an example of fantastic leadership from the Tiger captain to will his team back into the game and reel in the Dogs, who dominated the first half.
And today it was the turn of another captain. This time, it was Joel Selwood doing it to Richmond.
Numbers simply do not tell the story of Joel Selwood. Sure, he has games where he is the best statistical player on the ground, but there are other games where it is just his fierce attack on the footy, and his willingness to put his head over it that cannot help but inspire those around him.
He had seven touches in the second quarter, however, he remained one of the most influential players on the park through the third, where he had just two. Six of his seven touches in the second quarter came in the contest, he had three important clearances and he was involved in several…errr, interactions with the opposition that prompted a reaction.
It all added up to the Cats rallying around their leader and the game being back on level terms in short order.
The Cats were on the back foot after the first quarter and someone needed to make a stand. Once again for Geelong it was their captain who stood up, took fire, dished it out and compelled his teammates to be up for the fight.
When the Cats needed their leader to stand tall, he did it, yet again.
THE PREMIERSHIP QUARTER
And then there was the trickle-down effect of the second quarter Selwood stand.
Following Shai Bolton’s opening goal, the Cats lifted in unison.
Duncan, Higgins, Guthrie, Tuohy… the engines started to rev and in a complete reversal of the 2020 Grand Final, it was the Cats dropping the hammer on the Tigers, kicking eight goals in the third quarter to break the game wide open. Hawkins started to find the footy, Cameron kicked three goals, Rohan marked and goaled, and the defence put the wall up and repelled anything the Tigers threw at them.
They were so good that it seemed like, eventually, the Tigers ran out of things to throw!
It’s not often you see a team break down the Richmond defences and crack them wide open, but Geelong were able to overpower a fatigued-looking and mistake-riddled Tiger team and put them to the sword.
It was an emphatic display by the Cats, and one that entrenches them in the top eight as a legitimate challenger. Good teams turn up the heat in the Premiership Quarter, and great ones do it against those that are considered their peers. It was the Cats who opened up a can of whoop-ass in the third quarter of this game, and the Tigers just could not go with them.
Not that there were ever any doubts, but people may have wondered how the Geelong forward line would function effectively with Jeremy Cameron, Tom Hawkins and Gary Rohan crammed inside the forward fifty metre arc.
We got a pretty definitive answer in this one, with the trio combining for 15 goals to make the Tiger defence look second rate.
The Cats were on, and from the start of the second quarter, it was an avalanche of goals for the threesome. They shared five in the second, six in the third and added four in the last as they worked in perfect symmetry to dismantle the Richmond back six.
Cameron looked more dangerous than he had since the 2019 season, his six goals the standout in the win, and his second quarter one of the reasons the Cats were in such a commanding position.
He had eight of his 22 touches in the second as the Cats clawed their way back into the contest before unleashing the beast in the third as part of the eight-goal to one onslaught.
Hawkins was his usual unselfish self. He reminds me a lot as the father figure in the forward line, making sure anything that he brings home for the family is evenly spread between those he cares for before feasting, himself. He topped all players with 16 score involvements in yet another display of everything he touched turning to gold.
And Gary Rohan… in game number 150, he continually found himself in the right spots at the right time, slamming home five goals. He looked hungry for a sixth early in the last quarter, when he jumped in front of a leading Hawkins to botch the opportunity, but soon made up for the error with a lace out pass to the big man inside 50.
Games like this from forward combinations are meant to be savoured. It’s rather rare that the three big forwards in any team all get amongst the action (on the field, at least), but we witnessed it in this one. If the left one didn’t get ya, and you managed to duck the left, the third one came in the form of a headbutt right on the nose. One of these three were going to connect at some point and following this game, a battered and bruised Richmond defence would be feeling as though they took the best shots from all three players.
And they’d be looking to their corner to see what help they can get from Grimesy before taking on the Giants next week.
This game was a warning shot to defences all over the league. To stop the Cats, you need to stop all three of these blokes, and even a premiership defence, albeit a depleted one, found the going pretty tough.
Around October last year, I sat back and watched as Geelong started to add to their arsenal in the form of Jeremy Cameron, Shaun Higgins and Isaac Smith. They were not building for the future, that’s for sure – they were gearing up for two reasons.
The first was a tilt at the flag.
The second was to take down the main obstacle in their way – the Richmond Football Club.
The Cats already possessed one of the best defences in the game, but adding the running power of Isaac Smith on the wing, the footy IQ of Shaun Higgins across half forward, and the scoring power of Jeremy Cameron, this was no mere top-up. This was a call for reinforcements that saw the big guns respond.
I touched on Cameron above, but the contributions of Smith and Higgins in this one cannot be undersold. Whether it as the hard run from Smith that looked like they may be the Cats’ only real damaging forays in the first quarter, or the ability to stop, consider and hit a target inside 50 of Shaun Higgins, both guys more than proved their value to the team in this game.
It was probably the game that Higgins needed to have. Deployed more across half forward than his customary on-ball role at the Kangaroos, Higgins was returning from injury and his reputation suffered a little hit early in the season when the Cats removed him from the midfield due to questions about his defensive capabilities. Across half forward, he was elusive, clever and demonstrated the type of composure and decision-making that teams in general lack in the modern game.
We’re all aware that both Higgins and Smith aren’t in Geelong for a long time, but they are sure as hell going to make it their business to have a good time. They were both permitted to do as they please against an out-of-sorts Richmond team, and both took full advantage.
THE SHINING LIGHT
Shai Bolton has taken the next step.
The next step in form, slotting three goals for the second straight week, and the step in terms of stepping all over opponents and taking the mark of the year contender.
In a game that had very few winners for Richmond, the efforts of Bolton were fantastic. He was tremendous at stoppages despite splitting his time between the midfield and the forward line, always looked dangerous in a game where the Richmond team, in general, failed to spark any panic in Geelong after quarter time, and brought the crowd to its feet with a skyscraping hanger in the first quarter.
Looking at the Tigers, as of this round, you’d think that both Jayden Short and Shai Bolton would be in the top handful if the Jack Dyer Medal counting stopped right now. He is combative, slightly belligerent and always looks up for the fight.
Let’s hope a few of his teammates notice that in the review, and opt to follow his lead.
By the way, Tiger fans… he’s out of contract this year, isn’t he? Eek!
THE DEMOLITION JOB
Lachie Henderson and Jack Henry… take a bow.
Last week, Tom Lynch burst to life in the wake of some negative press about his performances in 2021. This week, he was back to giving those naysayers a little more ammunition, and he had plenty of help by the player who has arguably been the best Geelong performer since the commencement of the 2020 finals series, Lachie Henderson.
Playing as the deepest defender, he got Lynch as his opponent more often than not, and controlled every contest he was part of. He had eight intercepts on the night, and coupled that with seven spoils.
His partner in crime was Jack Henry, who threw a wet blanket over Jack Riewoldt in the style of Mick Gayfer, and refused to allow the Tiger star any room to operate. He looked a little shaky early, opting to spoil instead of mark the footy, but that could be taken more as an indication of his commitment to defence first and stats later.
Henry finished with seven intercepts and six one-percenters as he gave Riewoldt (who is sneaky as hell, in a good way) zero opportunity to impact the contest. As good as some of the Cats up the field were, both will be tough to leave out of the votes.
THE DEFENSIVE ERRORS
How Un-Richmond-Like were some of the errors inside defensive fifty in this game?
After having close to the best game of his career last week, Nathan Broad looked like he was playing with a wet footy in this one. His intercept marking ability completely deserted him, he forgot how to make 20 metre short passes, and worse, his teammates started to catch whatever it is he’s got!
Nick Vlastuin dropped a chest mark and gave away dumb free kicks, David Astbury was caught out of position several times, and even Bachar Houli – normally so composed and in control – was throwing the footy on his boot and hoping for the best. The structure broke down and it largely became the stuff of a defensive coaching team’s nightmare – it became every man for himself, and once that happens, teams often fall apart.
The Tigers fell apart in this one.
Noah Balta was left alone of Tom Hawkins too often. Nick Vlastuin somehow switched to take on Jeremy Cameron in the second half. No one bothered to pay any close attention to Gary Rohan until he had already done his damage… it was a giant pile of garbage for Richmond in terms of their defensive effort, and like any pile of garbage, you could probably pick through it and find something you probably should have held onto in there (particularly if you have a kid that throws things in the bin without consulting you) but it’ll be tainted by the rest of the garbage around it.
What’s best for Richmond is to look at this game, realise that this was not who they are and not how they play, let the garbage man come and take this game away and focus on next week, because the thing about garbage is – if you leave it hanging around for a while, it starts to stink… and I have a feeling they would want to be rid of the stench emanating from this performance as quickly as possible.
If there was a word or phrase you’d associate with Richmond over the last few years, I’m guessing there’d be a few superlatives – ruthless… relentless… uncompromising… they’d all get a run. However, in this game there were several instances where they simply looked uncompetitive. That’s not a word you’d associate with many Richmond performances over the last couple of years.
Not that they weren’t trying – they just looked like they could not compete. How often do you see the Tigers give up end-to-end goals? You saw it plenty in this one. The Cats cut them up through the guts when Richmond have made a habit out of owning the corridor. Maybe they just have a mortgage?
And then there was the ineffective forwards…
If you took Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch and put them in ten contests with Lachie Henderson and Jack Henry, how many would you realistically expect them to win? Around half? Maybe six?
They could not get near it in this one. They were caught behind, out-muscled, out-hustled and out-thought on play after play. On the rare occasion that Lynch was able to get some room on Henderson, another Geelong defender, or even a midfielder would fold back to impact the contest.
Lynch had a one-out contest/mismatch against Sam Menegola at the top of the goal square and couldn’t capitalise. He dropped marks on the lead that looked to sap his confidence and returning figures of just three touches after quarter time, was completely blanketed.
However, his output looked huge compared to that of Riewoldt, who had just four touches in total.
Many have sung the praises of the three-time Coleman Medallist in 2021, and rightly so – he has been great when the Tigers needed someone to slot a timely goal, but he was beaten pointless by Jack Henry in this contest. If this were a game of billiards, Riewoldt would have his pants down running around the table right about now.
The defence of Geelong has always been a strong suit, but the lacklustre output of the two big Tiger forwards made them look like the best defence of the last ten years.
Lynch sprang to life in Round Seven after a torrid start to the season, but he crashed back to Earth in this one. Riewoldt has been consistently good, so he gets a pass, but if this is an indication as to what occurs when you close down the two big forwards at Richmond, expect most teams to drop someone into the hole and focus all their defensive attention on curtailing these two from now on.
And expect them to be toweled up if they’re going to deal with that kind of defensive pressure in the timid fashion they attacked this contest.
IS JOEL SELWOOD IN TROUBLE FOR THE HIT ON MANSELL?
I’ll answer this question with a question – what else was Joel Selwood supposed to do?
You guys know I am a Selwood fan. It’s borderline blasphemous for a Hawthorn supporter to admit, but you have to respect what he has done at Geelong over the years. If you don’t… maybe open the other eye.
The attack on the footy in the incident in question caused Tiger youngster, Rhyan Mansell, to careen backwards as the impact jolted his head, but it looked to me as though the Geelong captain did everything right. He turned his body side-on, got low and dislodged the footy with his hands. Some will say that it doesn’t matter that he did everything right – he still made contact with the head.
Okay, then to that I say – why both doing everything right?
If you’re gonna get pinged for doing exactly as instructed, why do what is now being taught as the right way to approach a contest? If you’re going to be punished anyway, why not just go in and knock the bloke the f-out, instead? If you’re gonna do the time, may as well do the crime.
To me, this was good, tough footy, just as it was when Trent Cotchin crashed in against Dylan Shiel back in 2017. Play on!
SHOULD TOM STEWART BE IN CONSIDERATION FOR A THIRD ALL-AUSTRALIAN BERTH?
The only reason he missed last year was due to injury. When you miss three games in a 17-game season, it makes it difficult to be selected, but Stewart has started 2021 where he left off in 2019.
He added another 26 touches at 81% efficiency in this one as his support role to Henderson and Henry became vital through the middle of the game. Stewart led the game in metres gained and never, ever looks panicked under pressure. He was involved in some big contested wins where the ball could have gone either way and it was in these situations where the Cats showed their mettle.
He’ll be very difficult to keep out of the team again this season.
DID DUSTY RUN BOTH WAYS, OR JUST ONE?
Hmmm, usually he doesn’t have to run both ways, does he? He does enough damage going forward that you give him a pass on the defensive side of the game. I know I do – he is that good with the footy in hands.
However, in games like this, where Dusty isn’t as good as we’re used to with the footy in hand, it becomes a bit easier to look at what he isn’t doing. Things like… tackling.
Zero tackles for the superstar in this game, which is fine… if you’re winning and if you’re a big part of the win, but when you’re not winning… well, that’s when you start having to dig deep and contributing in other ways. Dusty looked like he was going in second gear when he didn’t immediately win the footy in this game. There was a distinct lack of desperation in his play, and you know what?
Seriously, it is. Because he is not going to have these 21 touch games where things don’t go right that often. In a week or two, he’ll trot out there, have 27 and kick three and everyone won’t be looking in the tackle column, will they? It’s just what you do when the Tigers lose.
IS IT TIME TO PANIC AT PUNT ROAD?
Allow me, if you will, to run a list of names by you.
Cotchin, Grimes, Prestia, Lambert, and now possibly Edwards. How many of them walk into any other team in the league? All of them, that’s how many. Throw a couple of them back into the side and you have a very different Tiger team. 4-4 at this stage of the season, with the run they have had (Sydney – currently top four, Melbourne – top, Dogs – second, Port – expected top four, and Cats – Grand Finalists), and they are at .500… I’d take that.
Over the next four weeks, they have the Giants, Lions, Crows and Bombers. They should win three of those and all will be back to normal. Those who are hovering over the panic button right now should be given a foot in the backside and told to check last year’s and the 2019 ladders around this time. They’re not that far removed from where things are right now.
All the way down in “other bits” before I mention Cam Guthrie… there must have been some great performances from others, huh?
Guthrie topped 30 touches for the third straight game and is providing the Cats with quality ball use and good decision-making out of the guts. He had six clearances, six inside 50s and enjoyed joining in the party, with 11 score involvements.
Loved the early battles between Sam Menegola and Kamdyn McIntosh on the wing. McIntosh made huge ground to get to contests and spoil Menegola early in the game, but the workrate of the Cat, and his team’s avalanche of possession saw him clock up 26 touches when all was said and done, and he almost could have had the first two Geelong goals on the board but for poor execution.
Is Tom Hawkins the best set shot in the game? From the right hand boundary it is, it seems. Two magnificent kicks from that pocket in this one. Perfection.
How funny was Brian Taylor not understanding what an intercept mark was. It’s not bloody rocket science, BT! If the opposition kicks it and you mark it, it’s an intercept. It doesn’t matter if you’re contesting with someone else – it’s still an intercept. Please… Denis Cometti… come back!
Jordan Clark not even getting the sub vest… I don’t like where this is headed if I am a Cats supporter.
Great second quarter by Jake Aarts, helping to keep the Tigers in the game as the Cats bounced back. He notched three goals from his seven second quarter touches and then… one touch for the entire second half. Ouch.
You think someone might encourage Tom Lynch to lead at the ball carrier and maybe move up the ground a little rather than being anchored to the goal square all the damn time? Maybe dropping those marks on the lead was due to lack of practice? Too content to sit out the back and wait, I reckon.
And that’ll do me – I’m tired.
Huge win for the Cats, who get the Saints on Friday night next week. The Tigers lick their wounds and face the Giants at Marvel Stadium for some reason… anyone know why?