The trip to Kardinia Park is one of the hardest trips in footy for a reason, and despite sticking with Geelong for the first half, the Cats were able to pull away after halftime, strangling the Power and sending them out wide way too often to find success on the road.

The Cats were powered by a wonderful performance in the middle from Cam Guthrie, but from where I sit, the biggest winners on the park were the Geelong defence. Tom Stewart, Zac Guthrie, and Sam De Koning – The Blonde Mafia – were resolute in the back half, consistently repelling attacks from the Power and kickstarting the Geelong offence in the process.

Port had stars of their own – Dan Houston took all before him off half-back in a stellar performance, and the ever-reliable coupling of Trav Boak and Ollie Wines did their part, however, too much was left to too few and in the end, Geelong were just too strong on their home deck.

 

THE NEXT IN LINE

There is a wonderful aspect to the Geelong defence that is well known amongst their supporters, yet overlooked by the rest of the AFL fandom – their defence just continues to produce excellent talent.

The emergence of Sam De Koning this season and the maturation of Zac Guthrie has breathed some youthful enthusiasm into a group that could have been left wanting after the retirement of Lachie Henderson at the conclusion of 2022 and that of Harry Taylor following 2020.

When you consider what those two provided this team over many years, replacing them should not have been this easy, and yet, here we have Geelong rolling out kids and leaning on their champions in defence to appear as though they are not skipping a beat.

De Koning has made a huge step this season and notched 11 intercepts in this game. Guthrie was less pronounced, but worked diligently to curtail the Port forwards, and Tom Stewart… well, he was Tom Stewart.

For years we have heard the profits of doom predict the downfall of Geelong. Too old, too slow, they say. The fall is imminent, they announce before the start of every season, yet with a defence so well-balanced and versatile, this Geelong team will do enough to keep their side in the game for a while yet. They simply don’t allow them a chance to score.

 

HOUSTON GIVES THEM A PROBLEM

It was interesting to see Dan Houston take responsibility for Isaac Smith in this game, as the three-time premiership wingman moved his talents to half-forward. It was a strange move from Chris Scott, deploying Smith in a role where his positioning and overhead marking would be tested – they’re not strong suits of his game.

Houston seemed keenly aware of this, and consistently allowed Smith to move to places on the park he presented no danger, only to slide on in to disrupt the delivery to Hawkins and Cameron, instead.

Houston finished with 28 touches and eight intercepts as he continually zoned off Smith to cut the Cats off at the knees, and it was only once Scott moved Smith away from half-forward that he started having an influence on the game.

That just happened to occur in the third quarter – right when the Cats gained the ascendancy.

With the way Ken Hinkley used Dan Houston in this contest, Port have a structure that can punish teams, and unless the opposition coaches place someone to occupy him across half-forward, he will run riot back there. In a few ways, Chris Scott got out of jail in terms of this matchup, emerging unscathed despite Houston dominating in his role. The half-back found the going a lot tougher when responsibility for Brad Close or Tyson Stengle fell to him on switches, and this should be noted by the opposition going forward.

 

THE SMALL FORWARDS GOING FORWARD

Speaking of Tyson Stengle and Brad Close, they were prominent again in this game, and whilst the Cats do have Luke Dahlhaus and Francis Evans (who was just okay in this one) capable of stepping into the permanent role of small forward, these two now have a mortgage on the roles.

Stengle finished with three goals and had a couple of chances late in the piece to make it four, whilst Close ranged far and wide to pick up plenty of the footy, finishing with 19 touches to go with a goal of his own.

Stengle’s story has been wonderful in 2022. This was his last chance at AFL footy, and the former Crows and Tiger is making the most of it. His three snags took him to 20 fr the season, which really, is beyond expectations I had for him. Sure, I hoped he’d do well, but this is far beyond the level I thought he’d be at when Geelong took a chance on him..

It’s funny – I remember a few people jumping off Stegle immediately after his Round Two game against the Swans. In that one, he was comprehensively beaten and finished with just six touches and no scoreboard impact. Since then, he has played like a man possessed and is more than rewarding the Cats’ faith.

I love a feel-good story, and this one is about as good as it gets in the league this year.

 

THE BATTLE ON THE WING

I had to smile as the commentators talked up the game of Mitch Duncan on the wing in the first quarter. It was genuinely good to hear blokes like Jonathon Brown noticing the influence wingman could have.

In reality, the Cats rotated several though the role, with Selwood, Close, Stewart, and Guthrie all taking their turn out wide.

The Power were more settled in their positions for their wings. Karl Amon and Kane Farrell played the role for almost the entire game, with Trent Dumont pinch-hitting here and there. And whilst the work of Amon is well known to most, Farrell really seemed to get under the guard of the Cats, and made a huge impact in the first half with his penetrating kick landing two long-range goals.

Duncan seemed to steady in the third and got back on top of Farrell when they were matched up on each other, as though the second quarter was the kick in the pants he needed to start taking Farrell seriously, but he learnt a valuable lesson about accountable footy that won’t soon be forgotten.

 

THE MOST UNDERRATED MID IN THE GAME

When you think about the Geelong midfield, certain names leap to mind.

Dangerfield, Selwood… they’re the ones that have dominated the headlines for years and on their day, are still capable of being the players the Cats lean on to carry them. But even though he has an All-Australian blazer hanging in his cupboard (I checked when he wasn’t home), respect does not seem to come easily to Cam Guthrie, with some leaving him out of the equation when they speak of the Geelong stars.

It might be time they stopped being so flippant and started paying attention to the hard work the bloke is producing on a weekly basis.

Guthrie compiled 35 touches in this one, as he racked up clearances (10) and score involvements (also 10) as the most potent midfield weapon the Cats had. Usually, I see him as an integral part of the linking play the running Cats provide, but he was more in this one, winning his own footy and playing the role of distributor.

With Dangerfield playing mainly up forward, and Selwood having to deal with the attention of Willem Drew at stoppages around the ground, the pressure was on Guthrie to perform.

And he answered the call in no uncertain terms,

 

THE BARREL

Despite what I’ve written above, I have a confession – this was a pretty ordinary game to watch. I really didn’t enjoy it at all. Both clubs forced the other to play down the wings, which meant there were a heap of stoppages and throw-ins to slow the play down. In terms of genuine highlights, they were few and far between.

However, there was one that stood heads, shoulders, knees and toes above all else, and it was an aspect of the game we see too little of.

The big barrel.

In recent seasons we’ve seen both Mitch Duncan and Toby Greene unleash the beast to kick huge goals after the siren, and today, it was Jeremy Cameron’s turn to join the club. Clunking a mark at 50 metres out to end the third quarter, JC went back, launched into a huge torpedo that sailed through for a goal and gave the Cats all the momentum heading into the last quarter.

If the third didn’t demoralise the Power, that booming spiral to end the quarter, giving the Cats a five-goal to one advantage for the term, was the straw that broke the Power’s back.

 

QUICK BITS

Gotta give a bit of credit to Tom Clurey in this one. He is not as strong as Tom Hawkins – we have seen him be monstered by the Geelong full forward in the past – but he managed to play a fairly restrictive game on the big fella, limiting him to one in this contest.

Do you reckon we could see more of Jeremy Cameron on the ball? His field kicking is barely ever spoken about, but It is an aspect of his game that really allows him to exercise his skill. He is creative by foot and doesn’t often miss a target.

I hear quite a few people praise the ability of Lance Franklin to slice teams up by foot, but Cameron is almost in the same league… except for the pass that went twenty metres wide of Hawkins late in the game. He’ll still claim the goal assist for that one, right? I would.

A bit of a disappointing game from Connor Rozee in this one. Didn’t seem to enjoy the physical nature and when he left the footy behind trying to either get into his move, OR avoid some contact coming the other way, you could sense his day was not going to improve. 20+ disposals… very little influence.

Ditto Zak Butters – seemed to get a heap of the ball drifting back and I cannot remember him looking threatening forward of centre.

Sam Hayes may have won more hit-outs, but the clearance work of Mark Blicavs and his second efforts more than made up for that. He finished with nine for the game, at times using the ruck tap to guide the footy down into his own path. Gotta love that – hit out, hit out to advantage, clearance, and disposal. That is some A-Grade stat-padding, right there.

Steven Motlop was one of the best players on the park… for Geelong. Seriously, you can see why they allowed him to leave. Ice cold in this one and didn’t even try to warm up.

Finally, can we stop with the constant chatter about the Kardinia Park ground having narrow wings and pockets? Seriously, every bloody commentator announces it as though they’ve just uncovered the location of the Holy Grail or something. And then they proceed to blame everything on it. A lot of throws ins… well, the wings here are really narrow. Oh, my pie is cold in the middle… well, it has a lot to do with these wings. My finger broke through the toilet paper when I was wiping my bum… well, that is mainly due to teams not being aware that the boundary line was there because the wings are not as wide!

We get it. Now shut up.

 

And look, that may just do me. Not the greatest spectacle you’ll ever watch, and if you’re planning to jump in and have a look at it, yourself, watch Jezza’s torpedo and call it a night. You’ll thank me later.

Next week, the Cats host the Crows and will probably strangle the life out of them, as well. Meanwhile, Port head home and find the Bombers visiting. That should be fun, and help the Power get back on the winner’s list.

Not putting this one behind a paywall as I had to rush it – apologies to fans of both teams. When your daughter calls you to ask you to come over and help her move a new fridge up a flight of stairs, you kind of have to go, y’know?

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