When one game is too much for one Mongrel to cover, we go to our contingency plan.
The Slugger is wearing the hoops in support of the Cats, whilst Hodgey is wearing prison bars and is on side with the Power.
Let’s check out what they saw in this one.
WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?
SLUGGER– Sir Tom Atkins
The Raging Bull of the Geelong midfield kicked into gear when it mattered most. Port Adelaide came hard in the third quarter. I mean what did we expect, their season was on the line, they were always going to respond to the Cats’ strong first half. But given the chance to reset and then look to wrestle back control of the game, it was Atkins who led the Cats to the victory. He was having a relatively quiet day until three-quarter time, but boy did he meet the moment when it presented.
Atkins last quarter reads as follows – 12 Disposals, seven contested possessions and five intercepts (including some huge ones in the middle to halt some power surges forward). The only blemish was the behind he kicked from a set shot, which would’ve capped his incredible quarter. Atkins also got the all-important first centre clearance of the quarter to get the first goal and get the Cats back within a point of the Power and really shut down any carry-over momentum from the previous quarter.
HODGEY- In a game that featured the winning team coming from behind at 3QT to pinch the win, I have to give props mainly to The Tomahawk. The young 33-year-old stood up in the final stanza when his team needed most, kicking two crucial goals in the last act- steering the Cats over the line against the Power. Feasting on the undersized Power defence, Hawk booted four straight from 15 touches, adding six marks (four contested for good measure) and 11 score involvements. Focusing on the last term in particular, when the game was up for grabs, Tom Atkins willed his midfield on with 12 touches, seven contested possessions and two clearances in a workmanlike quarter.
The defensive pressure of Brad Close and the movement of Gary Rohan was constantly giving the Port defence headaches through the early and middle portion of the contest, largely throwing off the Power defensive structure that often relies so heavily on structure and overlap.
WHERE DID WE WIN/LOSE THE GAME?
SLUGGER– It sounds so simple, but this game was won around the ball. For almost three-quarters of play, Geelong held sway around the ball. Except for the early part of the first quarter and the entire third quarter, the Cats did well to ensure the game was played on their terms. This was most evident in the last quarter, when we really took control of the stoppages and used them to drive the ball forward in convincing fashion and put the Port defenders under pressure.
HODGEY– Statistically, Port won every major category besides hitouts and eventual score, so I would be of the belief that there was not enough damage with disposal, often Geelong were not put under the pump enough with defensive pressure. While Port had roughly the same amount of intercept possessions, most of those were at ground level, not really much of a defensive aerial threat. Port were a bit unprepared for the tackling pressure of the Cats, however later in the game Port started to flex their muscles and really take on the challenge, exposing some deficiencies in the Cats’ flag aspirations, while also reminding the AFL world of the potential of this team.
Port Adelaide caused massive headaches with Charlie Dixon flexing his muscles up forward with the rapidly improving Todd Marshall, but were led by an absolutely outstanding effort from makeshift ruckman Jeremy Finlayson- for me the clear BOG. The lack of defensive talls was a problem for Port, however, Cameron and Hawkins are not your “average” forward pairing.
IF YOU WERE COACH, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
SLUGGER – I was initially sceptical of having a ruckman as the medical substitute, but the coaches knew something I didn’t. Stanley was playing very well, before succumbing to an injury that he seems to have carried into the game.
The only possible change could’ve been the match-up on Dixon in the third quarter. do you shift Blicavs to a hard tag when he was in the ruck, or possibly Jack Henry up forward. Ultimately De Koning got back on top in the match-up and Dixon did get a couple of soft free kicks in the quarter, which did not help it.
HODGEY– The only real thing I can pinpoint was trying a bit harder to create a plus one to free up Aliir Aliir – and for those who point out that he took 11 marks and had 23 touches, he did not have that same aerial shutdown dominance as we’re accustomed to in these high statistical outputs. Often he was dragged to true full back by Gary Rohan, negating his shutdown abilities somewhat. Otherwise, if it was not Aliir, then Kane Farrell would have been the guy to put back, as the defensive 50 exits were somewhat haphazard at times.
Throwing Drew on to “the hot hand” in Atkins could have been handy, while some midfield time for Sam Powell-Pepper could have provided some x-factor to counter Geelong’s rampant last quarter.
MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE
SLUGGER – Could’ve been a raffle, this one.
Names that immediately come to mind are Close, Holmes, Miers, Kolodjashnij etc. but I’m going with Gary “Chucky” Rohan.
Some of you might say that Rohan didn’t do an outstanding job matched up on Aliir, but his returns in this game, and ability to continually apply pressure to Aliir were telling. Rohan kicked his two goals and was involved in plenty of play in three of four for the match. Rohan’s last-quarter defensive efforts were what really got me over the line for him. That’s what Cats fans want to see from him. Those chase downs which cause a turnover for someone else to get an easy shot at goal. He doesn’t get a stat for it, but it matters more than most possessions.
HODGEY – I’ve spoken about Finlayson, so I want to highlight the job Jase Burgoyne did on Brad Close after quarter time after he started on fire. Burgoyne went step for step but also seemed to slot himself into handy positions when it came to providing a link option while working through the Geelong zone. Aside from Burgoyne, Miles Bergmann was very handy in patches across half back, his composure in the heat was definitely noticeable- and while he made some mistakes, Port can be rest assured, they have a great piece.
THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?
SLUGGER – Just picture it, score level, four and a half minutes left in the game.
Stoppage on the wing. Atkins gets the clearance with a scrubby kick forward. The ball finished with Close running inside fifty, and as he looks up he stops and props, before then slamming the ball on his boot to the most clutch player in football in his favourite position, out the back of his opponent.
Mr. Tom Hawkins.
Close’s decision to stop gave Hawkins the opportunity to make his move and his kick was absolutely perfect for the big guy. Once the ball was in the air, Clurey already knew he was beat. He could only push Hawkins over in frustration after he took the mark. Hawkins duly converted his snap set shot and gave Geelong a six-point lead. But he wasn’t done. Fast forward 30 seconds of gameplay and Hawkins was in a ruck contest in the Cats forward fifty, winning a high free kick about 45 metres out on a 45-degree angle. With three minutes left on the clock, Hawkins effectively iced the game with a massive set shot that sailed straight over the umpire’s hat.
The number of times Hawkins has dug the Cats out of a hole or steadied the ship in last quarters is almost too many to count.
HODGEY – I can’t go past the massive grab from Mitch Georgiades in the last quarter. The young forward flew over Sam De Koning to clunk a big mark, giving the Power a glimmer of hope and the crowd went nuts!
A close second was not exactly a “moment”, however, the third quarter of Charlie Dixon was epic. The bearded behemoth put the team on his shoulders and amassed 2.1 from 11 touches, with five marks. Geelong simply had no answer, and had this hot streak lasted a bit longer, we very well may have had a different result on our hands.
WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?
SLUGGER – Do I dare say Selwood and Dangerfield?
Both were very quiet for the majority of this match, particularly when compared to their usual lofty standards. Plenty of supporters may want me to say Zach Guthrie, but he has been a perennial whipping boy, and I’m not about to lay the boots in for one poor game after his strong run of form this year. Nope, it was Danger and Joel who we really could’ve used a little more from in this one. They would finish with a combined 24 disposals, although Dangerfield’s 150th goal for the Cats was a nice moment of quality from the great man.
HODGEY – There are a few ways to approach this question, so I’ll just name a few players
Aliir Aliir- Purely that he made a few bad mistakes in relation to choosing the time to peel off, admittedly to call him a “let down” is extremely harsh, and I’ll cop that, but his errors were capitalised on to full effect.
Tom Clurey- Soundly beaten but just failed to find body on the aerial ball.
Todd Marshall- Showed so much promise early, yet had three disposals after half time. Scoring punch dried up once Dixon was unable to get any space.
Karl Amon- 13 disposals in the first quarter and was a big prime mover early, but despite lack of a tag he was relatively quiet afterwards, accounting for a further 14 possessions, yet was unable to get over the back. Kicked a nice goal in the last quarter though.
Robbie Gray- His speed and elusiveness is declining fast, however, he still found a bit of the ball. The issue is that he only had four kicks from his 16 disposals, and he is inflicting maximum damage when using his still elite footskills. I just feel that he was positioned to have greater impact yet had to use his hands more than I would have liked.
PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST IN THIS GAME?
SLUGGER – “King” Charlie Dixon.
I mean, what is not to love about Dixon’s game? I love the Cats, but I also love footy in general, and there is just something special about a player taking control of a game of footy. And Dixon’s third quarter is the performance that required Atkins to produce his effort in the last quarter to get the Cats over the line.
Dixon absolutely dominated the third quarter to singlehandedly drag his team back from the brink of their season being over, to leading the team in the best form in the AFL. His ability to influence from both the ruck and at full forward was also telling. With Stanley subbed out of the game, there was no longer a dominant ruckman on the field and Dixon took full advantage and then that flowed into his match-up with De Koning up forward.
Cats fans were praying for that three-quarter time siren, just to have a chance to stem the avalanche of momentum that Port Adelaide had built on the back of Dixon’s performance.
HODGEY – Aside from the aforementioned Atkins, I thought Rhys Stanley was fantastic until his untimely injury. Locked in a great battle with Finlayson, he had 12 disposals, 16 hitouts and eight clearances in under a half of football. Absolutely outstanding and a pity we couldn’t have seen what those numbers would have looked at with a full game. Shannon Neale showed great signs once coming on as the sub, with his cleanliness at ground level really eye-catching..
SLUGGER – it ended up not being pretty or easy, but we got the win.
Salty fans will talk about free kicks etc, but simply put, we were the better team. Port dominated one quarter of football but were largely ineffective outside of that against our system. This was a team playing with their whole season on the line and we knew they were going to throw everything at us and we managed to weather the storm and regroup. Once regrouped we then put the pressure back on them.
For those following, we have now also gone a successful 4-0 without Tom Stewart in the team, who is just going to slot nicely into this defensive unit and likely cause a little bit of a reshuffle (Probably Touhy shifting a bit forward). But that’s okay, we’re not turning away a player like Stewart for team balance. Ha-ha.
We’re now a game clear on top of the ladder with some tough fixtures coming up at the fortress down at Kardinia Park. Next week’s match-up against the Bulldogs looks tantalizing. Let’s get there and fill up GMHBA Stadium with a raucous crowd.
HODGEY – Port drop a game they could ill-afford, with them basically in a position where running the table possibly not enough, especially with Bulldogs dropping Richmond down to ninth (lol). Certainly gained a big amount of respect for knuckling down and challenging the premiership favourites though, and they will be left lamenting “what might have been” for season 2022.
Next up they take on Collingwood in an enticing encounter at the MCG, and they will be a shot to knock them off- only if they bring that physicality they hit Geelong with in the third quarter.