Geelong v Western Bulldogs – The Autopsy

Much pressure was heaped on Geelong the week after their loss to the GWS Giants; much of the narrative was about whether they’ve got the cattle to even make it to finals to defend their crown as the champions.

Against the Western Bulldogs on their home deck, it was almost considered a must-win at 5-6 with 12 games to go. Lose this, and they face falling in behind what’s a large contingent of teams vying out for the last two spots of the eight – with at least eight teams sitting between four and six wins heading into the start of the bye rounds.

Saturday night showed that there is some life left in the Cats. What worked in their favour heading into this game was their excellent track record against the Bulldogs, having dropped just two games since 2010.

The Dogs have had a disappointing two weeks… well, disappointing is putting it politely. They had chances against the Suns last Saturday night in Darwin, and they’ll be left to rue many of their missed opportunities against the Cats in this one, but more on that when I turn my supporter’s hat on for this review because, as a Dogs fan, I’ve slept on this game and I’m still pissed.

This was a fast-paced game, the goals were coming thick and fast throughout the first half, and after an even tussle for three quarters, the Cats stormed through to pick up their sixth win of the season and head into the bye at an even ledger of 6-6.



Geelong had no Dangerfield, Max Holmes, or Cam Guthrie, and they still managed to almost break even around the clearances. The Dogs were +20 in the contested ball, but overall just a +2 differential in total clearances, with the Cats winning out in centre bounces.

The high number of attendances through the centre bounces at the Cats were Mark Blicavs (24), Tom Atkins (23), Mark O’Connor (17), Jon Ceglar (17) and Tanner Bruhn (17). It’s not precisely a midfield you’d write home to your mum about, but many of these guys were influential around the contest at various moments.

O’Connor was seen running around with Bontempelli for a lot of the game. Whilst the Bont’s match was… okay, he had 23 disposals and 11 contested, he could only settle for four clearances and being at the game watching it, you can tell that his influence on this game dimmed fairly after quarter time. However, O’Connor applied himself well to the role; 25 pressure acts is an excellent sign of a player doing the negating part to near perfection.

Atkins had a real blue-collared game in the middle. As an observer of the game, I can always appreciate what he brings to the table; he brings effort, mongrel, and a hell of a lot of defensive pressure. He had 33 pressure acts and nine tackles. Only one player had more: Tanner Bruhn, who had 34 and 12.

And then there’s Blicavs. It’s taken me much longer than most, but I can finally appreciate what he adds to this Geelong team.

A few weeks ago, I watched Geelong play Essendon at the MCG, and he was playing as a midfielder, pinching into ruck when Sam De Koning needed a chop out. Of course, it’s a given that he’ll never be the clearance superstar that the Cats need, but you can always rely on him to give you 110 per cent in any position. He had the 16 hitouts, playing as the second-ruck to Jon Ceglar, but also had 12 contested possessions, seven tackles and 26 pressure acts.

Fair play to Chris Scott here, there was a clear plan to unsettle the opposition mids and it was an operation most successful.



Like a lot of the young kids in football, they will take a slow burn to really get cracking into a best 22 of any side, let alone the reigning premiers. But I liked what I saw from Mitch Knevitt in this game.

There was a fair amount of hype about him prior to the 2021 AFL Draft. I certainly had him down as a top 30 prospect and was landed by the Cats at pick 25. At 193 centimetres, midfielders of that height are worth their weight in gold and Knevitt has a lot of attractive traits to his game. He’s a good, contested midfielder, a strong overhead mark and has got good defensive capabilities.

In this game, he was found along the wing mostly, with only four centre bounce attendances for the match. But the fact he was able to be so comfortable in a lot of the Geelong chains when they transition is the major standout. There was some signs there of good contested work, and his tackling pressure was fantastic as well.

He probably won’t be formally recognised as one of the better players in this game, but this confirms to me that he’s got a future in the top level, provided he stays fit and healthy. He finished with 17 disposals, eight contested possessions, four score involvements, four intercept possessions, three marks, seven tackles, 20 pressure acts and two stoppage clearances.

It’s a shame that when all the big names come back in, he will probably be one of the very unlucky ones that has to make way, but I love the direction he’s heading in.



It’s been about five years or so, and I’m still trying to think of how his parents came up with the name ‘Gryan’ but that’s an aside.

A bit like Blicavs mentioned above, Gryan Miers is a player that you don’t really appreciate until you get to see him live. When he was drafted as a little dreadlocked gremlin, he looked as if there was only one way for him to play him and that was as a crumbing small forward. For the record though, he was very bloody good at that at under-18s level.

But as the years progress, he slowly developed the ability to work himself up the ground to get involved and then be one of those guys who is able to set up scores for his teammates. Discounting the 2020 season, because that never happened… in his three seasons (2019, ‘21 and last year) Miers averaged over five score involvements across 62 games.

In those same three seasons, Miers averaged under a goal assist per game across those 62 games. In just 12 games this year, He has averaged career-best numbers in disposals (18.5 per game), score involvements (7.3) and direct goal assists (1.7).

These numbers were boosted by his performance against the Dogs. The Cats forward line has always been about Tom Hawkins and, when he arrived at the end of 2020, Jeremy Cameron. But Miers has been one of the more unsung heroes at the Cats the last 18 months.

He’s added strings to his bow that enables him to be the man who creates the opportunities for those like Hawkins, Cameron and even Gary Rohan (BIG yuck). He had three direct goal assists and seven score involvements overall from his 20 disposals. He also had a goal, eight marks and 30 pressure acts, which shows that he’s willing to work as hard defensively as he does offensively.



Before I rip this club I support a new one; taking some good with the bad is essential. But, unfortunately, there was little, if I’m in the business of being honest.

Tim English is destined for All-Australian. There are some rumours that the West Coast Eagles are preparing to offer a monster contract for him to come home to Western Australia. Whether that is the reality at the end of 2024, your guess is as good as mine. But until we cross that bridge, Dogs fans should be stoked with his work this year.

His marking hands are his strongest trait. If the ball is dumped in his direction, I’m often confident that he’ll, at the very worst, bring it to the ground. At the very best, he’ll take a firm grab and proceed to use the ball. I swear there were moments when he moved and used the ball like a bloody unicorn; such is his ability for a big man.

Of his 12 marks, he had six contested and four intercept marks. To further add to his game, English had 30 hit outs, 11 to advantage. But he also had 27 disposals, 14 contested possessions, six intercept possessions, and eight tackles.

Caleb Daniel has had an excellent game himself. But, of course, he can sometimes undo himself with his indecision with the ball in his hands, trying to find the right option. Still, there was a lot he did right in this game, being an outlet, being able to get out of trouble and being efficient with his kicking skills – 35 disposals, 21 kicks at 86 per cent efficiency, eight score involvements and six intercept possessions across the defensive half of the ground.

That’s it. Some other players lifted their weight, but more was needed compared to the winners.



I caught myself saying the second part of that subheading at least 20 times on Saturday night; such was the frustration of seeing talented footballers squandering shots on goal, from what were outstanding efforts in their forward line.

This is a multi-layered problem, so bear with me here. First, I’ve mentioned that the Dogs won the contested ball, but they also had 51 inside 50 entries – four more than the Cats – and three more scoring shots.

Bad kicking has always been bad football, and the Dogs have been no stranger to bad football since the premiership; the set shot kicking in this game parallels Carlton’s past month. Marcus Bontempelli missed a big one, Lachie McNeil failed to take advantage of a 50-metre penalty and cut one from the top of the goal-square, and Bailey Williams missed some shots others would’ve kicked too.

But the problem isn’t just them; it’s also the set-up of the key forwards. Every game I watch the Bulldogs play, it’s predictable to kick it to a spot for the forwards to converge and attempt a pack grab. That’s simply dumb football.

It shouldn’t be a secret that Aaron Naughton is out of form. He started well in this game, kicked a goal in the opening minutes through a strongly contested grab one-on-one and struggled to get himself involved for the rest of the game. It wasn’t for lack of effort. He had five tackles, six hit outs and four marks. He worked hard, but the reality is that he’s kicked four goals in his past four matches. For a man of his presence, that’s not good enough.

I’m not sold on the idea of sending him back in the defensive line because we know his marking hands are too good to be used in the back line. But, even if that’s the case, that doesn’t fix the defensive issues either. I’m sick of seeing two or three defenders jumping up to contest the ball and none of them impacting the contest.

A great example of this not working was Tom Hawkins hanging out the back while Liam Jones lept up to contest the ball. The ball spilt out to him and kicked a goal.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was disappointing. His marking hands and leading patterns have taken a massive leap in improvement. But he had five shots on goal for 1.3 and one that failed to result in a score. It’s disappointing because we know he can certainly be a match-winning player.

We’re seeing little shoots of play that show why he was so highly rated in a 2020 year with very little under-18 football. Only for it to be countered by horrendous foot skills. But at least he’s got tons of time on his side at just 21 years of age.

I counted at least five times in this game where the key forwards got in each other’s way and allowed the likes of Tom Stewart and Zach Tuohy to mop it so quickly and transition the ball to the other end. They were both magnificent in rebounding in this game – Stewart especially; he loves games against the Dogs.

To further ram this point home, Let me bring forth another example from the last quarter. The ball goes towards Jamarra in a one-on-one. He had beaten out his direct opponent in a one-out, only for Tim English to float in and fumble the mark, and the ball was forced into a stoppage, no score to the Bulldogs.

How dare you, Tim!

How dare this team insult the fans’ intelligence by playing schoolyard football in a professional environment, thinking this will actually work. That’s on the coach and the players.

This team must work as an actual team rather than as individuals, or they will forever be a mediocre side because there needs to be more consistency in their approach to the game.

Or sack Matt Spangher as the forwards’ coach; that’s a good option too.



Bailey Smith had an absolute stinker. Had 14 kicks, and only four hit the target – he had the worst efficiency of any Bulldog on the ground with 29 per cent. Went at 54 per cent efficiency by foot and hand.

Another Dog who was dreadful by foot was Oskar Baker. He has had plenty of good moments throughout the season, but many of his disposals went over his teammates’ heads. Had 17 kicks at only 35 per cent efficiency – only six hit the target.

Still trying to process what James O’Donnell adds to this team. He kicked his first goal; that’s great. But for 90 per cent of the game, he wasn’t exactly doing a lot or adding a lot to this team. He’s got great athletic attributes; the potential is there, and he works hard. But he’s clearly not ready for the game just yet.

The Ed Richards hamstring injury felt like that changed the game’s complexion. Had an outstanding opening half to the game, kicked a very impressive goal on the back of second efforts, but has worked hard to provide run and drive across the half-back line. Had 14 disposals, four marks and two rebound 50s before being subbed out.

Okay, some more Bulldog positives… Tim O’Brien has been in some fine form since returning to the team. He had Four intercept marks and has been reading the play very well. Responded well to a poor defensive game last week.

Tom Liberatore (seven clearances and 30 disposals – 14 contested) and Adam Treloar (31 disposals – 12 contested and 11 tackles) were the ones who dipped in the midfield for the Dogs. However, both were very good in the engine room.

An excellent return to form game from Jeremy Cameron in this game. He had little impact in their losses in recent weeks but had 21 touches, 2.1, seven marks and 10 score involvements.

Brad Close was one of the more damaging players in the game’s opening stages, kicking their first goal from a tight angle, but was looking very threatening and finished with two direct goal assists and six score involvements.

Gary Rohan is back into the side… yes I’m not a fan of his, but he was super efficient with his disposals. He kicked two and was involved in another two scores with half of his disposals. 14 pressure acts from the forward half is a good return from a hybrid tall.

And on that, that’s all from me. A big win for the Cats to keep themselves in the hunt of playing finals and going back-to-back. The bye couldn’t have come at a better time for them. They’ll get Dangerfield, Mitch Duncan, Esava Ratugolea and Jack Bowes all integrated back into the side sooner rather than later. It’s been far from smooth, but 6-6 is something an injury-stricken side should be pretty content with, considering there are another 11 games left.

It’s a short six-day turnaround for the Dogs as they host an in-form Port Adelaide at home at Marvel Stadium. The Power is currently on a nine-game winning run. The Dogs do not pose any serious threat to ending the winning streak next week.

Considering that Port have won their last eight games at Docklands, too, it’ll take an almighty turnaround for the Dogs to get themselves back into premiership relevancy.

You know who’s a great bloke? The Doc. You can buy him a coffee for the work he does by clicking the link below. I’m sure he’d greatly appreciate it.


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