And we’re down to just two teams…
The Dees sent the Cats packing in the Prelim as Chris Scott’s boys fell over in yet another Prelim.
As part of our Mongrel Player of the Finals Award, all players receive a rating for their work in each finals game. JB Eddy takes on the responsibility for the Demons, whilst The Slugger has the unfortunate task of ratings his Cats.
Let’s jump in.
Melbourne – JB Eddy
As a newly-minted Melbourne bandwagoner, I’m getting into the spirit and channelling my inner wealthy socialite. To achieve this, I’ll draw on my experience from that one time I found myself locked in a Camberwell clothing retailer, as they had reserved the time for Dannii Minogue to shop privately without knowing that I was still I’m the store. I managed to add to the awkwardness when I called her Natalie Imbruglia. This is how I learned to swear like a socialite.
This was a match that delighted the faithful of the grand olde flag. Watching this contest was better than channelling your share dividends through the family trust to avoid paying taxes or finding the Range Rover at your holiday home that you thought you lost last summer.
Premiership sides are often lauded for their even contribution, and it’s said that it’s not stars that determine the ability of a team, but the ability of their lowest rung players. If your worst player is still contributing consistently and bringing something to the game, you’re in a very good position. This is exactly where Melbourne found themselves tonight, with everyone playing their part and not a single passenger to be seen, much to the chagrin of the Cats supporters watching it all unfold.
 Christian Salem – 10
Like a white truffle, you were never quite sure where Salem would turn up. Just when Geelong seemed to have an opportunity to surge forward, Salem would cut off the forward thrust and put his team on the counter-attack. His seven inside 50s were all to the advantage of his teammates, and what more could be asked of the lad?
He played with exceptional confidence and aplomb, providing excellent run into attack while making Geelong work for every possession when the ball was in his area. Simply a joy to watch.
 Steven May – 5
Steven’s hamstring injury was akin to booking a ski holiday in the French Alps just before Covid hit—No good for now, but there’s still the possibility that it may be quite enjoyable in the next outing.
Still, he did manage five touches and played out most of the game in obvious discomfort, a courageous effort that shows how determined he is to contribute to the team.
 Jake Lever – 8
Jake was so miserly in defence that he reminded me of the time my Uncle’s racehorse won the Melbourne Cup and he refused to so much as shout the people in the owner’s box a glass of champagne.
Much like Uncle Charles, even when it was all over, he still refused to relent. His seven intercepts came about due to his constant doubling back to crash the contest every time Geelong sought out Cameron or Hawkins in their forward line.
He had a momentary scare when he had Esava Ratugolea dive across his leg in an attempted smother, but seemed determined to play through any discomfort. Perhaps he also knew Uncle Charles and understood what happened to his horse once it hurt its leg.
 Jake Bowey – 7
A solid contribution from Jake Bowey, adding options during link-up plays. He reminded me of Foie Gras, as he was force-fed the football by Petracca and Oliver with regularity, but the delicious result was worth the effort.
He managed to give his teammates additional options through the middle, and his hard work to get into open space should not be underestimated. While not outstanding in any particular area, he managed to have some level of influence in all areas, without doing much wrong at all.
 Harrison Petty – 8
I have no doubt many think a score of eight is lowballing Petty’s work, but his misreading of the ball when playing on Jeremy Cameron early on earned him a point reduction.
For the rest of the match, he was all over Tom Hawkins like a couturier tailor at the Hugo Boss Suit Emporium. I have no doubt that by the third quarter Harrison got so far underneath Hawkins’ skin, he could have told you his blood type.
He managed to bring the ball to ground in a vast majority of marking contests, often to the advantage of his moving teammates.
 Trent Rivers – 6
Rivers game was like a shot of apple brandy between courses in a fine meal—not so much on its own, but certainly allowed you to enjoy the main course a little more.
His work in the forward line was certainly a net positive, but it lacked the impact his teammates managed to have, though in his defence, if everyone tried to play that role it would unbalance the attacking structure catastrophically.
Trent played his role and played it well enough without managing to stand out, though it has to be said that stand out players in some lesser sides may well have found themselves in a similar position if they had to compete with some of the stars Melbourne had in their squad tonight.
 Tom Sparrow – 6
Much like Rivers, Sparrow’s game was good on its own merits, but lacked the impact of his more renowned teammates. He did manage an excellent goal, but his pressure on the ball seemed absent for much of the game as he faded in and out. He was far from disgraced however, and had an overall positive contribution to the win.
 Christian Petracca – 10
Christian cut through the opposition like a sex scandal through an exclusive private school. He was simply unstoppable and seemed to be everywhere. No sooner had the majority of the Geelong team surrounded him on the boundary line than he simply stepped, twisted and ploughed through each of them like an armoured vault truck blasting through a union picket line.
While he was a little wayward in front of goals himself, having kicked just a single major with two behinds, he managed to amass no fewer than 10 score involvements to go with his eight clearances.
An outstanding game from a young man that will surely be one of the favourites for a Norm Smith medal in a fortnight.
 Ed Langdon – 8
Langdon was a constant blur of motion as he managed to claim more territory than a colonial explorer as he surged forward again and again. While much of his game was as an outside midfielder, he did manage to have some influence on the inside, though not quite with the physicality of Viney or Petracca.
His 21 touches came with five marks and three tackles, but his constant pressure on his opponents made Geelong’s attempts to break into space so much harder.
 Bayley Fritsch – 7
Bayley Fritsch was like luwak coffee—an excellent finish, despite starting a little shitty.
He struggled to make the most of his opportunities early, but came alive after half time in the exact opposite way his opposition did. His eight marks were largely in space, but that is the role of a forward is it not? His two goals were actually a little lower than his recent form may have warranted, but still an excellent contribution nonetheless.
 Tom McDonald – 7
The McDonald/Brown forward pairing seemed like it was going to break earlier than a parliamentary inquiry into misappropriation when May came off with an injury, but the lesser-known big Tom on the field still managed to make his presence known in the forward line, and actually seemed to work in concert with Brown by leading his defender in a different direction much of the time, and when the ball was in dispute he was absolutely ferocious in his work to reclaim possession.
Of his 14 touches, 11 were contested to go with some nice interception work when he pushed up the ground, and four score involvements when he was in attack.
 Jack Viney – 10
Viney worked harder than the cabinetmakers I had in to build some custom wardrobes for my wife last year. They were busy all day, well into the evening. Even after my wife went into the East wing to see how they were getting on, they continued working at such a frantic pace that I could hear them grunting from the effort all the way across the estate in the conservatory. Their determination and pride in their work was admirable, even my wife was out of breathing after supervising them for several hours.
Viney amassed 34 disposals (16 of which were contested) and nine clearances in a superb effort that does credit to his breeding.
 Alex Neal-Bullen – 7
Ah finally, we get to the only double-barrel surname on the list. A pity he hails from a remote town like Adelaide, but I suppose they must be able to contribute something besides wine and Maggie Beers.
Alex managed to showcase his speed and determination with several delightful rundowns of Geelong’s playmakers, including an excellent one in the first quarter where he gave Dangerfield no chance to steady for a forward 50 entry, and ended up causing a turnover with his pressure.
He worked equally hard in offence, making space to be a handball receiver around the contest while also working hard at the drop of the ball to win his own share of the footy.
 Ben Brown – 8
While there have been grumblings for much of the season about the benefit of the big Taswegian, I haven’t seen a vegan integrate so completely into a group since we found out my sister had left her husband for her yoga instructor. Sure it took some time, but there’s no shifting him now, especially when it’s so close to paying off.
Brown managed to make the most of the excellent delivery into the forward line by taking seven marks, four of which were contested, and providing six score involvements to go with his two goals. He should probably have had a couple more with his usual accuracy, but his ability to bring the ball to ground to the advantage of his small forward brigade was worth several goals on its own.
 Charlie Spargo – 8
A delightful Melbourne Grammar boy, Charles was like a fine white truffle—no matter what you put him into, he made the whole thing better. His work up forward was exemplary, finishing with a pair of goals that will only get better as I watch them on replay during the bye week. His first opportunistic mark and goal effort was the sort of calmness under pressure that I wish he could teach to my son when ASIC next come calling.
His second goal was just as impressive as he managed to collect a bouncing ball that Big Ben Brown bobbled at his boots and burst through to bring about his brace through the big sticks.
A fine effort from the lad.
 Max Gawn – 11
Like a magnum of Penfold’s Grange Hermitage, some may make claims on supremacy, but few can match a side-by-side comparison.
Max’s contributions were far beyond even his own wildest expectations. In the middle, he was able to control the tap to the dangerous mids at his feet, up back he intercepted with authority, and when he moved forward he was simply unstoppable on his way to a handful of goals. Marking, snapshots, tackles, clearances, hitouts and quick disposals… The man was simply sublime in what was undoubtedly his best game since pulling on the Melbourne guernsey.
I may name my next yacht after him.
 Clayton Oliver – 10
Despite sharing a name with a less than desirable suburb, Oliver’s commitment to the contest was akin to watching my wife take the Range Rover offroad into the bush. Well, to be fair it was just in the east paddock of our Ocean Grove acreage, but she certainly put some fear into those daffodils.
Playing on the dangerous Joel Selwood for much of the match, Oliver proved too much in almost every respect. Too committed, too evasive, and too hard at the ball. With 15 contested possessions out of his 27 touches to go with seven clearances, his work was exemplary. I was so enthused, I’d almost be willing to allow him to court my daughter, if it were not for the fact that his genetics make it possible that any offspring they had would resemble Sarah Ferguson, and such a risk I simply will not bear.
 Angus Brayshaw – 8
Brayshaw’s playmaking and speed to get to a contest was a delight to watch. His disposal was so silky smooth that it would make the d’affinois cheese makers envious.
While he wasn’t quite the game breaker that he has shown himself capable of being, he knew when to do what was best for the team rather than pursue personal highlights. His each-way running kept pressure on his opponents all evening, whether he was chasing them or the ball they knew they couldn’t let up for a moment.
 Kysaiah Pickett – 9
A fantastic game from a lad whose constant forward thrusts and precise movements reminded me of an Olympic fencer wielding his epee.
 James Harmes – 9
When the game was still a contest, Harmes was more influential than a media mogul at a Liberal party luncheon. His snapshot for goal was the sort of opportunism that would have had my cousin Terrance turn green with envy, and he was almost convicted of insider trading.
What set his game apart for me was his relentless forward pressure. No sooner had the Geelong defenders managed to collect the ball than he and his fellow Demons were on them like they were common riff raff, and he was the doorman at the Savage club.
While his 15 possessions may not seem much in comparison to the numbers of his fellows, he managed no fewer than six score involvements to show just how instrumental he was in the function of the attacking structure.
 Luke Jackson – 8
Once finals begin, there are no marks for effort or development. Players have to live or die purely on their own ability. It must be no small source of frustration then that a player younger than a good shiraz was able to have such a broad and decisive impact on the game. Whether he was pushing forward, relieving Gawn in the ruck contests or playing a wide outside role, he managed to deport himself with admirable calmness and seemed very much at home in front of the vocal crowd.
He also managed to pull down a spectacular mark that will surely become a poster hung on the walls of many a boarding school bedroom in the near future.
 Michael Hibberd – 6
Hibberd’s limited impact on the game was as much because of the ball being so rarely in Geelong’s forward line as anything else. He did frequently manage to play the zone off defence that Melbourne have executed so effectively this season, and managed to intercept several attacking movements from Geelong, but for much of the evening he was like a designated driver watching his teammates having all the fun while he hung back and tried to amuse himself.
MEDI SUB  James Jordon – 5
Just like share dividends, there will always be someone who misses out whether they deserve it or not, and at the moment Jordon is most vulnerable to being given a dress shirt for the big game. Unfortunately for him, by the time he came into the game to replace May, there was little opportunity to stand out as his teammates gorged themselves on an opposition that had been completely demoralised.
He did manage to get nine touches in the short time he was on the field, but the coaching staff seemed more interested in resting their stars than taking any note of his game, which is fair enough, they’d already begun to prepare for their Grand Final appearance.
Coach Simon Goodwin – 10
I feel I must add in Goodwin as like a Henschke Hill of Grace shiraz, he’s often underrated by those not in the know, but he has managed to take the fertile ground that he inherited from the crafty master Paul Roos and made it bloom. He has recruited an excellent batch of experienced players while still managing to develop young talent and integrate a gameplan that allows them to be quick and creative or controlled and restrictive. With a Grand Final coming up, he deserves some acknowledgement for his contribution to their first minor premiership since 1964, and their first appearance at the big dance in 21 years.
Interestingly enough, Melbourne have only won the minor premiership 10 times in their history, but managed to convert that into a premiership eight times, making them a decent bet to continue the trend.
Geelong – The Slugger
Some of you may know, but full disclosure is that I am a die-hard Geelong supporter. I watched the whole game on Friday night, but did NOT rewatch it for these scores. These were done on memory from my only viewing last night.
 Jack Henry – 3
The first of the Cats defenders that barely touched the football despite the ample amount of it being in the defensive 50. Only five disposals in the first three quarters. Henry had previously looked to have taken a slight step up in the absence of Tom Stewart. In this game, he stepped way back down (As did every other Cats defender) as he was completely caught in the bright lights of Optus Stadium.
 Lachie Henderson – 1
Henderson should stop eating whole bags of Popcorn right before a big match. Consistently has the fumbles and is one of two defenders I have identified as being incredibly susceptible to pressure. With no Harry Taylor and no Tom Stewart, and suddenly being asked to be the experienced leader down back, Henderson was found incredibly short of a full deck.
 Zach Tuohy – 4
What a difference a week makes. Tuohy was the catalyst for the Cats last week. Akin to Bill Murray showing up in the final scene of Space Jam, driving the ball forward with precision and aggressive attacking plays. This week, the aggressive plays were there, but the precision was not. I think it was the worst I’ve seen Tuohy kick. I wonder if he borrowed a pair of boots from Kolodjahnij? Seriously, even when he had time to take a bounce, he still hit Jake Lever on the bloody chest!
 Jake Kolodjashnij – 0
The other Cats defender that is extremely suspect under pressure. In three quarters of footy in this match, Kolo handled the ball a total of three times. Yet wasn’t playing as a key defender. To be fair he’s extremely suspect with the ball in his hands, so maybe the Cats saw that as a good thing. I mean, his best quarter was the third, and that is the quarter Melbourne made their incredible run. Coincidence? I think not!!! Kolodjashnij needs to spend the summer working on his pace and confidence.
 Mark Blicavs – 4
It was pointed out to me that Blicavs had quite a good record on Ben Brown coming into this match. The key word in that statement is now “had”. Brown got the better of Blicavs on several occasions and really proved a key difference early in the game. He was better than other Cats defenders but he was also matched up against a more important Melbourne forward.
 Jed Bews – 4
Just a poor game from Bews, but there was a lot of that going around. He just couldn’t get himself into the match. He had a decent start in terms of some of his defensive efforts, but it was all downhill from there. Add to that, how dangerous all of Melbourne’s smalls were all throughout the match and you end up with the result we got.
 Mitch Duncan – 4
Duncan’s game can be summed up by one of his early possessions. He has the ball on the corner of the centre square (I think it was a free kick?) and decides to switch the play to an open man on the outer side. He one-step kicks it (very slowly) and messes it up. This guy is meant to be the elite ball user in the Cats team! Cats fans (including myself) were keen to point out that Geelong ball use would be much improved from the round 23 match-up thanks to Duncan being in the team. That’s like saying someone is the best money manager you know only to have them arrested for Tax fraud.
 Cam Guthrie – 4
Probably one of the least memorable games I’ve seen Cam Guthrie play. Stats say he had more than 25 disposals, which is quite shocking. The takeaway from that is that the vast majority of them were uncontested, yet he ran at around a 60% disposals efficiency. That level is usually reserved for players throwing the ball on the boot in the contest, not the outside player meant to be spotting up the leading target.
 Isaac Smith – 5
A respectable game on the wing. But as I will also say with Menegola, no Cats winger can get more than a five, due to the disdain and absolute muck that the Demons wingmen ran during this match. Smith was arguably Geelongs best player in this match, which is saying a lot considering I don’t even have him winning his direct match-up!
 Esava Ratugolea – 1
What can you say? The Cats picked him to not be out-marked and he largely did just that. But with no semblance of an offensive output severely hurts when you’re struggling for an avenue to goal.
 Jeremy Cameron – 1
It was very good to see Jeremy Cameron branching out and trying new sports. I just wish he’d picked a better time to try and be a relay runner. Solid first leg of the race, with a nice first goal of the match. But then he sat down for 2 hours and popped up for the last leg and kicked the final goal of the match.
 Gary Rohan – 0
What can you say? Spared the indignity of having to finish the game thanks to an injury. Another finals game where Rohan went missing.
To put it simply, Gary Rohan couldn’t catch Covid-19 in a Chinese wet market, if it was a final.
 Sam Menegola – 5
I’ll give him respect for his effort, but no Geelong wingmen gets more than a five. Not when Ed Langdon absolutely annihilated the Cats on the outer wing for the entire bloody game. Was moved into the middle later in the match when Scott was throwing magnets around but it didn’t do much.
 Tom Hawkins – 4
Seriously starved of opportunity and had Max Gawn marking him at stages, such was the Demons commitment to ensure he did not get a favourable match-up if May or Petty couldn’t match up on him. He still got his hands to a few incoming contested balls, but just couldn’t reel them in for a mark. Can at least state that even when matched up on three defenders he still wasn’t getting out-marked.
 Gryan Miers – 1
Took his “Predator” impersonation to the next level in this match. Not only did he rock the hair, but also made himself invisible, seamlessly blending into his environment. Gets a one for the goal he scored from a reckless free kick, but otherwise was easy pickings for the Melbourne defenders.
 Rhys Stanley – 5
I’m a Stanley fan from way back. I’ll defend the guy to the end. He’s previously had a good record against Gawn. That record was blown up in this game. Although if you look at Gawn’s purple patch, it largely was not against Stanley, but the average pundit won’t care about that when they look back at this game. If Stanley had held a couple more of his own marks he could’ve just about matched Gawn’s efforts, but alas, it was a whole night of “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” for the Cats.
 Joel Selwood – 3
I love the Cats captain. He’s been one of my two favourite players for over a decade. But Selwood was exposed by the Melbourne midfield in this game. Time waits for no man, as they say. Selwood is still a good player no doubt. He had a cracking home and away season, but once again, when the chips were down and he was matched up against the very best in the middle of the ground, he just doesn’t quite have the legs to go with them as he once did.
 Patrick Dangerfield – 6
Dangerfield tried his absolute heart out. It wasn’t clean or pretty (he never is) but Dangerfield was consistently the only Geelong midfielder who could go to the coalface against Petracca and Oliver and actually win the football in a meaningful way. The rest of the Geelong midfield was just trying to hang on.
 Brad Close – 5
Probably the best of the Cats forwards. I’m serious. The kid looks like a jet and was really the only one up forward to stand up under the Melbourne onslaught. Actually earnt his fair share of the ball, mostly contested I believe, and didn’t just give it straight back to them either. I thought he provided some good pressure as well.
 Tom Atkins – 6
Got unlucky with a couple of free kicks he gave away, but that’s what happens when you play the best teams, they get the rub of the green. I suspect Atkins is used to being on the other side of those calls. Really looked to be the only (blunt) weapon the cats had in their defensive armoury.
 Zach Guthrie – 6
One of only three Cats to get above a five. I rated this game from Zach Guthrie. Often a whipping boy for the Cats faithful. Zach played a far more composed game than pretty much all of his more experienced defensive teammates. Cats fans will cite the time he got pushed out by Pickett and then out positioned under the long ball, but one of those should’ve been a free kick, and there really isn’t much he could’ve done about the other. If you think Zach was anywhere near the Cats worst you have a clear bias against him.
 Max Holmes – 4
Just got pushed off the ball too easily. Nothing but a learning experience for Holmes. Can’t blame the young fella when his own skipper is also copping his fair share of a hiding from the opposition right next to him. Looks to have the foundation of a really good midfielder if the Cats persist with him.
Medi-Sub (4) Shaun Higgins – 1
Gets a score of one for being activated and looking like he could actually hit some bodies. Still think he shouldn’t have even been the sub.
(Coach) Chris Scott – 1
I am a Scott defender. Just ask any writer at the Mongrel. The guy can coach and coach very well. He owns that flag he coached. However, by giving him that credit you must also apply that same logic to the current team’s inability to perform. Part of the Coaches job is to ensure your team is primed and ready for the pointy end of the year, and once again the Cats were flat and listless when it mattered. Yes, a large portion of responsibility lies with players who cant pick up a ground ball or take a chest mark, but Scott has to be able to get them focused and ready to perform. He didn’t.