What word would you choose to sum up the game from the Geelong Football Club as they ended the season of the Lions, and moved into the 2022 Grand Final?
All of the above?
This was Geelong at their powerful best, laying waste to the hopes and dreams of the plucky Brisbane side that dispensed of two of the major threats to the flag in previous weeks. With the Tigers and Demons booted from the finals, how did Geelong thank Brisbane?
With some of their own medicine.
It was a Geelong kind of game, this one, with the Cats dictating terms from midway through the first quarter until halfway through the last quarter, when they wandered over and casually slid their cue into the rack. They had stars on every line and if I asked you to pick a passenger in the team, you’d be hard-pressed to find one.
For Brisbane, it really felt as though they were a team that felt fortunate to be there. They did not have the season they’d envisioned, and though they found some form at the right time of the year, you get the sense that several on the team may have been feeling the effects of imposter syndrome.
Particularly when they were playing a team that well and truly belonged.
In the end, it was the Cats by 71 points, and you know what? I reckon that margin flattered the Lions.
Let’s jump into the Mongrel’s Big Questions.
HOW UNLUCKY WAS MAX HOLMES?
I don’t like starting out on a negative, but how can your heart not bleed for Holmes?
He has been on a tear over the last third of the season, winning a spot in the team and doing just about everything right. This game was no exception, with the young wingman easily winning his duel with Dev Robertson in the first half and playing a huge part in setting up the Cats’ lead at the halfway point of the game.
With nine touches and a goal to finish the half, it looked like smooth sailing for the young man until he kicked the ball forward after a run down the wing and immediately grabbed at his hamstring.,
He knew straight away.
As soon as he kicked it, if you were watching closely, you would have known it, too. This was no cramp – he stopped as though he was a guard from Skyrim and had taken an arrow to the leg. The scenes of him, face down on the bench, knowing that his season and the chance to represent the Cats in the Grand Final were gone… it was heartbreaking stuff.
Geelong has long been the butt of jokes about their ageing list and with young players like Holmes coming through (and Sam De Koning, and Tyson Stengle, and Gryan Miers, and Jack Henry, and Brad Close), the bridge between the older players and the younger cohort was being built wonderfully well.
And then this happens and robs one of the best kids in the league of his opportunity… it just absolutely sucks.
I’d like to wish for a speedy recovery, but I am a realist. Chris Scott will say he could play, They’ll give him every chance, and then, at the last minute, he won’t come up, because it is a hamstring injury and the team would be foolish to risk it. The remaining players will have to do him proud.
BY ALLOWING A LOOSE MAN IN DEFENCE, DID CHRIS FAGAN CONCEDE DEFEAT?
In a way, yes he did. I am sure that the Lions had other plans, and they involved actually winning the game, believe it or not, but to leave a bloke like Tom Stewart behind the footy with an acre to spare, and a well-drilled teamed to bark instructions to… you’re asking for trouble.
And that’s what the Lions got.
The great thing about this Geelong back six is that even though Stewart was the designated sweeper down back, he had no issue in switching over to pick up an opponent and permit the likes of Sam De Koning, Jake Kolodjashnij, or Jack Henry to take on the role of loose man if it meant an advantage for the team.
There are some players in the league that play the role well, but I am not sure any of them play as selflessly as Stewart.
With him pointing, instructing, coaching his teammates as to how to best position themselves, the Cats repelled the hasty, hack-kicking entries from the Lions, time and time again. I used the word “clinical” in the opener, and it is fitting to use it again, here.
Stewart was huge early and forced the Lions to switch the play when they did not want to, which is an automatic win for the Cats. And when the Lions did opt to take the game on, he was there again, sitting in the hole to either make the spoil, take the intercept, or switch out onto an opponent and allow a teammate a clear run at the contest.
Some of you know I am a Hawthorn man – I wanted James Sicily in the All-Australian team this season, but when you see Tom Stewart not just playing footy, but commanding the troops in the manner he did in this one, you just know he belonged in the AA team ahead of him, even with missed games.
That glorious bastard.
WHAT DO THE CATS DO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE?
It’s a simple one, but one that is not practiced by 15-16 of the 18 teams.
The Cats do not settle.
So many teams seem content to allow the footy to run out of bounds for a stoppage. So many are okay with the ball being held up and the umpire coming in to bounce.
Why allow the ball to run out of play when you can make something good happen, and the opposition are just going to stand there like witches’ hats and allow you?
At one stage in the premiership quarter… and this could very well have been THE premiership quarter in the contest of this season, one of the Lions – ot doesn’t even matter who – had the footy on the wing. He tried for a chip over the top, but the ever-alert Cam Guthrie managed to leap and get a hand on it.
The ensuing loose ball saw Bews attack the footy near the boundary. Surely he was within his rights to run it over, right?
Possibly, but why would he? He had teammates inside making the play. The Lions were flat-footed, resigned to the possibility that they were going to set up for a stoppage, but here comes Cam Guthrie again to swoop on through, get the hands from Bews and start the Cats heading forward again.
It was the Geelong game plan of 2022 in a microcosm. First to the footy, win the hard ball, quick hands, and hard run – that is what makes a good team great, and a great team a premiership team, and this Geelong side had it all game long, and hell… just about all season long.
They simply do not settle.
WHAT DID THE CAM RAYNER INJURY MEAN TO THIS GAME?
Quite a bit, actually.
Whilst I don’t think that having him out there would have changed the result by any more than a couple of goals, Rayner was one of the very few Lions who look composed and under control when he found the ball.
How many times did you see a Lions player collect the footy, double grab, and simply transfer pressure to the next bloke in the line? Worse, how many times did you see them make an error and turn the ball over at half-forward, or in the middle, and almost gift the Cats a shot at goal?
Too many times, for my liking.
Rayner was the one with clean hands and the ability to take a step back, assess and then deliver the footy. With him in the fray, the Lions looked as though they may be able to conjure something, but as soon as he went down, it left another huge void in the side and nobody seemed capable of even beginning to fix it.
DID SOMEONE PERMIT CAMERON MOONEY TO GIVE TOM HAWKINS GOAL-KICKING ADVICE THIS WEEK?
If so, we need a memory wipe on number 26… stat!
Hawkins finished this game with 4.3 – a nice day out in a big win for his side, but it could have easily been a huge day at the office for the power forward, with three set shots, including one from 20 metres out right in front, missed the mark.
Hawkins did manage 13 score involvements, including his almost mandatory weekly goal-assist, but he really had the opportunity to put the Lions to the sword in this game, and it wasn’t like he was playing on a dud, either. Harris Andrews held his own against Hawkins but when the dam wall broke and Hawkins started getting unimpeded delivery, even the dual All-Australian fullback was made to look poor.
Andrews would be furious with his midfield’s lack of defensive pressure, as the ball continually came into the Geelong attacking fifty at pace, leaving Andrews all alone on Hawkins Island way too many times.
Next week, Hawkins will get either of Darcy Moore (again… that was great a couple of weeks back), or Tom McCartin – he cannot allow chances to go begging again.
And keep Cam Mooney away from him, for God’s sake!
WHERE WAS THE HELP FOR LACHIE NEALE?
Did you see what I saw?
I haven’t seen someone get triple-teamed like that since I walked into Joe Ganino’s house and he was entertaining a few of his former cellmates!
Tom Atkins, Joel Selwood, and even Mark Blicavs all put time into Neale at stoppages, and the impact was significant, as Neale was consistently forced to deal with a player with fresher legs than him. Neale had seven touches in the first quarter, including three clearances, as he and Oscar McInerney worked well to get the ball to Neale on the move, but the Cats had seen enough of that, and as the second quarter commenced, the screws tightened.
And the prolific Neale was left to fight a lone hand against multiple fresh opponents who pushed, shoved, scragged, and crashed into him at every opportunity.
And where were his teammates?
Where was someone coming in to lay a shepherd on Atkins to give Neale a free run at the footy? Where were teammates when Joel Selwood refused to allow Neale anywhere without having touch on him?
With Jarryd Lyons not considered for the side and Rhys Mathieson starting as the sub, the Lions looked as though they were playing boys against men. We all loved what Jarrod Berry did last week, but he struggled to get his hands on it, or make a physical impact. Zac Bailey and Hugh McCluggage are excellent outside players, but they’re not going to fly the flag. It was Neale against the world.
And the world won.
He was held to just one disposal in the second quarter as the Cats opened the game up, and though he would rally briefly in the third, with seven disposals, the damage was well and truly done.
This is the exact reason the Lions are chasing Josh Dunkley. However, I reckon they need to persevere with Mathieson, as well. The bloke will have a crack on the inside – most others on this list seem incapable.
WAS JOE DANIHER’S MISS PIVOTAL?
I have to admit, when he missed his shot at goal from 40 metres out, sending it sailing out on the full, I wondered whether the Lions would have been better off if his missus had called and said she needed him at home again this week – he was useless up until that point.
His efforts in this game must have had Essendon fans slowly nodding as they saw the player that infuriated them in his time at Tullamarine, and now it was Brisbane’s turn.
After Daniher’s miss, the Cats went coast to coast, finishing with a snap from the boundary from Tyson Stengle – one of his two for the quarter and three for the game. It made Joe’s miss all the more painful that the opposition could not only capitalise on his horrible miss, but do so from a tougher angle and in such quick succession.
The problem here is that Daniher was recruited to stand up in moments like this. Yes, he kicked the winner against Richmond in week one, but his efforts to that point of the game were detrimental to his team.
As they were again this week.
Daniher had 14 touches and six marks in the contest – forget that. Seven of the touches and three of the marks came in junk time. As a matter of fact, junk time was the only time the Brisbane forwards really got to shine.
Hipwood had four of his nine touches in the last quarter, and kicked both of his goals once the game was lost, and Charlie Cameron was well-beaten by the small forward killer, Jed Bews, again.
As for Daniel McStay, who should announce he is leaving in the next couple of days, he managed ten touches and two marks, with just two of his disposals coming inside 50. Not the greatest advertisement for a prospective employer…
IS THIS THE YEAR?
In all my time watching footy, I have never seen a Geelong team so well-placed to make an assault on the flag. Everything aside from the hamstring injury t Max Holmes seems to be falling into place.
Dangerfield has looked iffy all season, but with 28 touches and two goals, he looks ready to finally place his stamp on a Grand Final. Joel Selwood was combative. Mark Blicavs did a bit of everything, with the only position h didn’t try being the missionary position because it bores him, and then you had the unsung small forward brigade of the Cats kicking into gear.
Gryan Miers had his best outing for the season, notching 22 touches and a couple of goals, whilst also collecting three direct goal assists, whilst Brad Close had 22 and one, with two goal assists of his own. They created havoc.
In 24 hours’ time, we will know who the Cats will face in the decider, but if they come out and handle business the way they did in this one, you could channel the 2002 Lions, mate them with the 2015 Hawks, and through in the 2019 Tigers as a “special friend” that drops in and entertains everyone once in a while and you’ll still get a Geelong team that will be damn tough to beat.
HAVE THE CATS PROVEN TO HAVE THE BEST DEFENCE IN THE GAME?
Coming into this finals series, we looked at Fremantle, Melbourne, and the Cats in terms of which team stacked up best in defence.
With just one team remaining in the mix, the answer is now apparent – it’s Geelong, and it was emphasised with a first-half strangulation of the Lions in this game.
Sam De Koning pulled Joe Daniher’s pants down.
Jake Kolodjashnij did as he pleased against Dan McStay, whilst Jack Henry made sure that Eric Hipwood was a complete non-factor. They allowed just three goals in the first half, which was enough to give the Cats a 30-point lead and effectively shut the gate on a Lions side that could not break through the defensive wall.
They often say that forwards put bums in seats, whilst defenders win flags. Well, looking at this Geelong team, it’s scary to think they genuinely have the best of both worlds.
Really not sure what Chris Fagan was doing with Noah Answerth – he has largely played as a defender every time I’ve watched him, but there were instances where he was playing the role of leading forward in this game. Strange time to be trying something new…
Interesting to watch the way the Cats used their ruck in this one. Rhys Stanley played more of a defensive role than as a ruck, dropping back to block up the half-forward area after centre bounces, whilst Mark Blicavs would assume ruck duties. It looked ominous early, with the Big O setting up Neale perfectly, but as soon as Geelong got him under control, Brisbane really had no other weapon to deploy.
I heard someone saying Isaac Smith had a bit of a quiet one. That may be true, however, did you check Daniel Rich’s game? He had 17 touches and five of them were from playing on from a kick-in. It’s not the job of the defensive forward to win a heap of the footy – it is to limit the damage of the long-kicking half-back, and that is exactly what Smith did in this one.
I’ve got this far in and I have barely mentioned Dangerfield… he was monstrous in this one, and looked like he had that explosiveness at packs back in his game. That is one of the first things to go when you suffer an injury, or a succession of them. To see him tuck the footy under his arm and break away from a would-be tackler… there’d be some content Geelong fans around town right now.
And that may just do me – the Cats will go into the Grand Final as favourites after this dismantling and would be feeling fantastic about their chances against either Collingwood or Sydney… although I worry about Sydney – they have made a habit out of beating good sides.
For the Lions, another wasted season. I reckon there will come a time, should this team not win a flag with this list, that they’ll look back at the 2020 season and lament not taking full advantage of a time when so much was in disarray. Alas, no use crying over the past. This team needs some grunt and some mongrel – they get that and they’ll be right around the mark in 2023.