And on the Saturday of the seventh round of the 2023 Premiership Season, the footy gods said ‘let Geelong play at Kardinia Park.’ And Chris Scott saw that it was good (though Matthew Nicks may disagree).
Let’s jump into the quarter-by-quarter talking points.
Lack of urgency: Much like most of the curries you’d find around Kardinia Park, Geelong have come out of the gates/kitchen doors in very mild fashion. There isn’t any particular endeavour to sprint, apply pressure, or move to provide a target forward of the ball, and the Cats seem satisfied with mediocrity so far, an acceptance that I’m sure the curry aficionados of Geelong are also familiar with.
Mark Blicavs: Mark Blicavs is like the beaten-up late 80s Range Rover owned by someone who someone that you know knows. He doesn’t do anything brilliantly, but he does everything to a satisfactory degree, and is bloody reliable. His aptitude on his non-preferred left foot, ability to take the ball out of the air in the ruck contest, and general skill around the ground is extremely valuable in a quarter where most of his teammates don’t seem to give much of a toss.
Defensive cromness: Adelaide have set up a nice defensive structure behind the ball, covering the central areas and forcing Geelong to either go wide or long down the line. It takes a real moment of skill in a tight area for Geelong to notch their first goal, that I doubt many other teams could replicate. I hereby propose the aforementioned ‘cromness’ term to be used forthwith to describe such defensive proficiency from an AFL team.
Forward thinking: Much like the political attitudes shown by the voters of their home state in the recent election, the Crows are clearly prioritising forward progression. They’re handballing in waves and being as direct as they feasibly can on such unfriendly turf. However, much like the recent election, the tangible impacts of this forward-thinking are not as grand as what one might hope.
Is this the key to world peace?: Geelong are exemplary in their tackling technique, pinning the arm when they can, rolling the player with the ball when possible, and very clearly going lower when necessary to avoid giving away a high contact free. If we all tackled our problems in the way that Geelong tackle their opponents, we’d probably all be singing Kumbaya round the campfire, not a worry in the world. Something to aspire to.
Imagine if he could kick: Patrick Dangerfield’s plaudits as a footballer have been sung around the country ever since he entered the scene, and today he’s been very strongly resemblant of his peak self, bullocking through stoppages, tackling with manic intent, and generally causing a headache for the Crows coaches’ box. The only knock on him, both in the past and today, has been his kicking efficiency. Can you imagine if he didn’t have that violent ball drop, and hit his targets 10-15% more of the time? What a gut-wrenching thought. I think all non-Geelong fans owe thanks to the universe for this flaw in his game.
Centering: Adelaide very intelligently centre the ball from near the boundary line inside 50 on multiple occasions, and the result is a goal each time. It’s such a simple action, but in this heady world of mukbangs, monthly subscriptions, and Harry McKay’s set shot technique, it’s extremely heartening to see.
Positioning no good: Adelaide are letting the Cats slip through at stoppages and contests more often than in the first term. On one occasion two Crows defenders overcommit to a contest and allow an easy centering handball for a goal. Another incident sees Geelong waltz the ball out of a stoppage into an easy inside 50 entry after Chayce Jones fails to track his direct opponent. I’m not even going to try and land a one-liner here, as I think the idea of ‘poor positioning’ conjures up a sufficiently humorous mental image.
Esava giveth, Esava taketh away: Esava Ratugolea is having a day of considerably sized ups and downs, completing some brilliant interceptions in his defensive 50 and then losing his feet and costing his team a goal a minute or two later. With a first name like that, chuck him in a revised version of the King James Bible. Going by a lot of that book, a cool name takes priority over whatever valuable pearls of wisdom one has to impart anyway.
Overlap handball: The Geelong engine is sounding more convincing than the sputtering spasms it gave off in the first quarter. They’re sprinting in waves and ensuring that there’s always a man running past when an uncontested mark is taken. It’s simultaneously frustrating and satisfying to watch. On one hand, a pleasing gameplan is irresistible to most footy purists. But on the other hand, it feels that there are a few things that will precede a Geelong tumble down the ladder; an Oasis reunion, corporate software that doesn’t make you want to jump off a tall building, the invention of time travel, etc. etc.
You must be this tall to enter: The Crows’ key defensive unit temporarily resembles a hospital inpatients list, with Nick Murray ruled out with concussion, and Jordon Butts exiting the fray for a check-up on his neck after a nasty landing. Obviously, this hospital only deals with patients 190cm and taller. Bit discriminatory, if you ask me.
Fatigue: Tiredness is creeping into some of the Crows’ set plays, as disposals land wide of the mark and several players begin to labour. It doesn’t help that the ‘fresh legs’ provided by substitute Matt Crouch generally propel him along at the speed of a mildly ill manatee. The guts and effort of the Crows’ unit is plainly evident, and they match the Cats with two goals for the quarter, but the final quarter will be a slog.
Blondie: The blonde players on the Geelong side show that their hearts aren’t made of glass, with multiple brilliant efforts in the last. Mitch Knevitt halves some vital 50-50 contests, both he and substitute Oliver Dempsey take gutsy marks at very important times that suggest that the Cats are going to win this one way or another, and Mark Blicavs lays some crucial tackles that would indicate the tide is….
turning. (ha, didn’t expect that, did you)
No place like home: Tanner Bruhn and Ollie Henry both requested trades from their respective clubs back home to Geelong after last year, and regardless of what you think about that, their influences are massive in the final term. In conjunction they kick the two sealing goals, but their contributions don’t stop there, with both players baulking and winning contested balls in desperate attempts to will their team over the line. I’m sure Judy Garland would agree with their decisions to return home, although I think it’s worth noting that she saw her quest through before requesting a trade back to Kansas.
A lot hinges on Hinge: With Nick Murray ruled out, it’s up to Mitch Hinge to mark the best player in the comp at the moment, Jeremy Cameron, and he really does an admirable job. Cameron doesn’t have a scoring shot in the quarter, and though he still undoubtedly has an influence, with one particularly spectacular mark standing out, Hinge’s close man-marking and clear desperation not to let his team down hold him in good stead. An admirable effort by the Door.
Laird’s brain fade: There’s a lot of room for a brain in Rory Laird’s head if the distance between his eyes is anything to go by, but unfortunately said brain experiences a malfunction at a crucial time, as Laird inexplicably shoves Max Holmes to the turf whilst Adelaide rebound through the corridor. The result is a Holmes goal that makes an Adelaide win almost impossible, and although the Crows respond with two quick goals to temporarily escalate nerves around the stadium, it’s an appalling brain snap to have at a vital stage of the game.
The final siren sees the Cats tear the wings from their gallant opponents to the tune of 26 points, 14.14.98-11.6.72. Kardinia Park remains an impenetrable home-and-away fortress. I fear that it will soon be time to take Geelong down a few notches by scheduling a final for them there. Someone, please bottle up Matthew Pavlich’s life force. I’ll pay you handsomely.