The outcome of this match was highly predictable. The reigning premiers Geelong has seemingly rediscovered their mojo last week in the second half against a helpless Hawthorn team, meanwhile the Eagles have an injury list so dire that St. Nick would have to check it a third time, just to be sure.
The Eagles are now playing for pride as another season of opportunity quickly evaporates in front of them. Its hard to fathom how such a powerful club has not been able to get themselves sorted on-field in multiple years running now.
The Cats are trying to claw their way back up that ladder, which might as well look like Kilimanjaro at this point, as they’re coming from a very low base at 0-3.
The Eagles had the hot start to the game, kicking the first two goals of the match and applying a lot of pressure when Geelong had the footy. The Eagles had lacked a bit of effort the previous week against Melbourne, so it makes sense that a focus this week would’ve been their consistency of effort.
Geelong then settled into the match and slotted five goals of their own to close out the quarter. this looked to be the way the day would unfold. The Eagles would present a challenge, before the Cats would overwhelm them late in quarters and do the required damage.
The second quarter was one-way traffic as Geelong did as they pleased, kicking nine goals to one. Before the Eagles kicked their solitary goal for the quarter, Geelong had recorded the last 12 in a row. The Cats were purring and looked every bit as formidable as they did in the second half against Hawthorn.
Geelong then added three more goals early in the third quarter and blew the margin out to 77 points. The match was gone and Geelong was threatening to blow the Eagles into some historical territory. Then something happened. Whether it was Geelong being a bit complacent or the Eagles just elevating themselves, the game shifted. It shifted in a permanent way. West Coast then kicked five successive goals of their own that were mostly built on skill, execution and brutality. The Eagles won the quarter and killed the party atmosphere that the Cats were building. They were going to win the match, but this was not going to be an easy day for them.
West Coast then continued the fight in the last quarter and won that as well! The main takeaway was again their pressure and physicality around the ball. They just refused to be bullied by the Cats and players like Gibney, Kelly, Culley, Jones and others just went to work on the Geelong midfield all day and made their presence felt.
Geelong ended the day with 47 point win, but considering that early in the third quarter it was 77 points, they really let an opportunity slip here.
Now let’s get into “The Stuff” that mattered.
The Best Stuff
You can be forgiven for forgetting the Mark Blicavs is a dual best and fairest winner at Geelong, in two different positions. In a game that some might’ve taken easy, Blicavs went to work and ended up being a real difference for Geelong as he played his usual role as a midfielder/ruckman. While other players felt the heat of the Eagles’ pressure Blicavs was listing lazily to the left to make multiple Eagles players miss as they admired his manoeuvres. Strong marks and quality goals. Deft hitouts to advantage. Blicavs did it all in this game.
The commentators had a few chats about Tim Kelly beginning at the Cats before moving to West Coast, but they should’ve been focusing on another player who did the same that had the one of his best games to date. Jones was fantastic in this game as one of the standout Eagles who refused to let the Cats dictate terms. Maybe he had something to prove to the club that couldn’t give him enough of an opportunity but he looks to have taken another step up at the Eagles.
Ratugolea’s First Quarter
Esava Ratugolea started this game like he was Brian Lake in the last quarter of the 2013 Grand Final. He was running around with glue on his hands so sticky that the word “Sherrin” was stuck on them! Sav’ was just a magnet for the for footy as he took six first-quarter intercept marks. Unfortunately, he let himself down with his disposal as he still comes to grips with a permanent AFL spot, but Cat’s fans can’t argue the guy has talent and when the appropriate pressure is applied up field, he is a weapon for the team.
Eagles fans must be loving having Oscar Allen back in the side. The young key forward looks very formidable for a guy coming off a long term injury. Allen is building into a particularly good season in 2023 and rewarding West Coast faith in him. I would start to question whether he may be a better player than Aaron Naughton if he continues this kind of form.
The Good Stuff
Geelong’s Forwards Fire
They did the damage in the first half, but Geelong looks to be finding its forward structure and chemistry. Tom Hawkins is finding fitness and form. Oliver Henry is finding his place as a third tall, but we will see how he goes with Gary Rohan back in the team next week. And Brad Close and Gryan Miers seemed to have mastered the art of taking it in turns to play good football. Although they will both need to be on for an extended period as Tyson Stengle recovers from injury.
A few Cats supporters have been critical of Touhy in 2023. A very nice game from here to respond to some of the doubters. Touhy had two very good run down tackles in the match and also a high-quality check side goal form the boundary to top it off. There’s fight in the old Irishman yet.
A Decent Job on Jezza
The stat sheet will show that Jeremy Cameron had 18 disposals and kicked four goals. A decent enough game of football. However, about 10 of those disposals and all four goals came in a 15-minute burst on the second quarter where Cameron did what he does and took control of a game of football. But outside of those 15 minutes, Josh Rotham actually did one hell of a job not allowing the AFL’s leading goal kicker to much damage at all. Undersized and with less than 50 games experience and shut down the game’s best player for 80% of the game. Yes, Elliot Yeo had times on him, but I’m giving Rotham the points for the job.
The Other Stuff
A lot has already been made of Patrick Dangerfield raising his boot into the face of Reuben Ginbey in a marking contest late in the first quarter. if a certain GWS captain had executed the same action, one would think a free kick may have been paid the other way, at a minimum. This was also in a rough patch for Ginbey as he had already copped an accidental poke in the eye from Dangerfield earlier in the quarter.
Get Around Him!
Love to see young player kick his first goal. Ginbey was doing his best Matt Rowell impression out there, that he really should’ve been carrying a notebook as he followed players like Dangerfield around for the day. He took the opportunity that presented when Tim Kelly wasn’t paid a mark inside fifty in the second quarter and kicked the Eagles only goal for the quarter.
Ratugolea’s Second Half
I sold his praises for his remarkable first quarter, which means I have to also state that he had a pretty horrid second half. Stat-less, only recording two spoils in each quarter, while conceding multiple goals. The second half was a reality check to Ratugolea and Geelong fans that he is still very much a work in progress.
There were two possible examples in the second quarter in quick succession in the final minute of play. First it was Rhys Stanley on Ginbey. Then Rotham on Stengle. The Rotham tackle looks to have resulted in an arm injury to Stengle, even though his head did hit the turf. Looking at both I did not think either was reportable offence, although Stanley’s did have more of that dumping motion, despite Ginbey not hitting his head. This is something the AFL ahs to really grapple with as players still need to be able to tackle strongly and take the opposition to the ground. You can’t outlaw tackling players to the ground and when players are trying to fight through tackles as hard as the other player is trying to restrict them, the resultant force of the winning effort is going to be significant. Outlaw the sling and intent to hurt, absolutely, but don’t go rubbing guys out for bad luck.
@SirSwampThing on Twitter is the stats guru to best all others. If you’re not following them you’re missing out. Swamp referenced two key stats about forwards playing for non-South Australian clubs and their records at Adelaide Oval. Both Tom Hawkins (33) and Jeremy Cameron (33) moved to second spot on this list behind Jack Riewoldt (36), with their goals today. Both teams return to Adelaide oval in 2023 to play Port Adelaide.
The Cats got the win they needed and a slight percentage boost, but they may rue not going 100% to truly bury the Eagles int his game. They will likely lose Stengle for the next few weeks but regain Gary Rohan, in a not-so-like-for-like. A tough few weeks lay ahead for the Cats as they play the Swans at home for their 2022 premiership flag unfurling in front of their incomplete stadium. They then have the surprise-of-the-year Bombers at the MCG in the country game.
The Eagles should be proud of their effort with such a young side in. A brilliant second half where they could’ve wilted, and likely would have last year, but they showed some real grit and determination that should keep their supporters seeing the green shoots of hope in the team. The Eagles will return to Adelaide Oval in six days against Port Adelaide before hosting Carlton at Optus Stadium. Give another valiant effort against the Power, potentially get Dom Sheed and Skipper Luke Shuey back into the team, and who knows what they could do against the Blues in front of 40+ thousand Eagles fans.