R7 – Geelong v Carlton – The Mongrel Review

The Hell Fire Club – GMHBA Stadium
Who Actually Plays There?

Last season the Cats fell away after winning the Premiership in 2022, and finished the season in twelfth place. In the pre-season most of the experts did not rate the Cats much of a chance in season 2024.

It begs the questions – why aren’t the Cats given the chance to play more games at their new state of the art 40,000 seat stadium? Carlton, Essendon, and Collingwood do not have to travel down the highway to confront the Cats at the Cattery for Geelong home games.

On pure numbers alone the Cats are giving away a huge advantage to the Blues by playing this game at the MCG.

GMHBA Stadium is the Hell Fire Club for visiting teams which are forced to play there. Consider the following:

Since 20214 the Cats have won 63 and lost only 13 games at GMHBA, winning a venue-high 83 percent of all their games they have played there;

The Cats average winning margin at GMHBA since 2014 is over five goals;

The only club to have a winning record over the Cats at GMHBA since 2014 is Fremantle with four wins and three losses;

Scott Pendlebury (first game 2006) has never played a game at Kardinia Park or GMHBA Stadium – NEVER. Not one of his record breaking, over 10,000 possessions has been obtained the Cattery; and

Carlton has only had to venture to Geelong twice since 2014, to be flogged badly by the rampant Cats both times.

Why are the Cats playing the Blues at the MCG and not GMHBA?

I think there would be many Geelong supporters asking the same question as to why this game is not being played at the newly-revamped, fortress GMHBA Stadium, with a capacity of around 40,000, especially considering they finished in the bottom half of the ladder in 2023.

Whoever designed the draw for 2024, based on 2023, must have been Nostradamus to anoint this game as a Geelong home game at the MCG, or just very lucky, given the Cats are undefeated and the Blues are up and firing.

Geelong is giving up a massive home ground advantage for this game so the AFL coffers can get an extra 30 or 40,000 people to the game. Some would say that is good thing.

Eight other clubs must play Geelong at GMHBA Stadium this year and they are entitled to feel aggrieved that the major Victorian powerhouses don’t have to make the trip to the AFL’s equivalent of the Hell Fire Club.



On any other weekend of football this game would be the Match of the Round, but given the dominance of the traditional ANZAC match between the Pies and the Bombers, this game is relegated to the dreaded 4:35pm twilight Saturday timeslot. Make no mistake though, this game between the unbeaten Geelong and a rampant Carlton is a game worthy of top-billing.

The absence of the Cats key defender, Tom Stewart, due to concussion is a huge out for Geelong, however, Cats fans will be excited to see the return of Cam Guthrie for the first time this year, while the underrated Rhys Stanley makes a timely return to the senior side to combat the Blues’ twin towers of Marc Pittonet and Tom De Koning in the ruck.

Rhys Stanley will never win an All-Australian selection, but he has been a great servant of both the Saints and the Cats, and he is one of those players who has always given his all over the course of 200 games.

At the time of writing, both Zac Williams and Jacob Weitering, who were both under an injury cloud have been named to play.

The stars will be shining bright as the sun sets on Saturday evening as both clubs are stacked with ‘A’ listers, including a few elite players who will be make the Hall of Fame once their careers are over. As good (exciting) as it is to watch Danger, Hawkins, Cameron, Cripps, Walsh, and Curnow (McKay is almost there) ply their mesmerising class, as an independent observer I am more interested in how the lesser-known roleplayers perform and whether these players can take either of these clubs to the Holy Grail later this year.

Both clubs will make finals this year, and if they can keep their stars fresh, then their chances in September will be decided by the quality and form of their role players.


Smug v Hype

This is a game of the Carlton ‘Blues Brothers’ hype versus the smug Geelong Cats.

If the Blues win, the hype on social media, talkback radio, and all the footy shows will be almost overbearing. I can hear Whateley already overusing superlatives to describe Blues as an ‘irresistible and unstoppable force, etc, etc…’.

If the Geelong win, it will be with a smug ‘business as usual’ attitude and little fanfare, given their professionalism and successes since 2007 – it is just the Geelong way.

I find it hard to separate these two teams based on form, and unless it is a full-on blowout, both clubs should learn a lot about the other before their Round 15 clash (again at the MCG), and any possible matchup in September (no doubt at the MCG).

One thing is for sure, the Blues have avoided the Cat-o-Nine Tails at GMHBA by the virtue of not having to travel to Geelong’s house of pain.

Post Note: whoever was the Nostradamus when the Draw was made pre-season was certainly on the money as the Cats had their highest ever attendance for a home game with over 87.000 fans turning up. Well done Nostradamus.


The Match


Anything Harry Can Do, Jeremy Can Do Better

There is no better viewing than when two highly skilled stars turn it on for a whole match. McKay and Cameron did not play on each other, but the battle of the two dominant forwards made for riveting and compelling viewing. The difference between the two at the end of the day was Cameron finished his work in front of goals (five goals, one behind), while McKay left a few out on the field (two goals, two behinds and one on the full).

As well as kicking goals, both played high up the ground taking intercepts marks and repelling forward offensives. Make no mistake, both players were the best on ground for their respective teams. Cameron finished with five goals, 17 possessions and nine marks while McKay, finished with two goals, 19 possessions and ten marks. Theirs was a titanic battle.

At the end of the day, the performance by Cameron was the difference between the two teams.

Also, congratulations to Jezza for kicking his 600th goal in the AFL during this match. In the next couple of weeks Cameron should pass Disco Roach on the all-time goal kicking list.


Geelong Will Punish You

Geelong, when they are on, will exploit to the fullest any fault the opposition might dare to show on the day.

In the first half Carlton didn’t play bad footy, and in most areas of the game they outplayed the Cats for the majority of the first half, but their inefficiency in front of goal cost them dearly. Geelong have long been the masters of exploiting any weakness shown by their opposition, and at half-time, from 20 inside 50’s they had kicked an amazing 10.4.64 to the Blues’ 6.9.45.

It wasn’t game over, but the Cats are hard to hunt down when they have a lead.

I expressed in the pre-game the Cats would miss Tom Stewart, but it seems the Blues missed Mitch McGovern and the speedy Adam Saad more. While Jacob Weitering kept Hawkins quiet, and took many intercept marks, many other Blues defenders gave Geelong’s fleet of goal sneaks way too much latitude. Ollie Henry (three goals), Gryan Miers (two goals), as well as Jack Bowes and Tyson Stengle (one goal each) played their roles to perfection, and more often than not, found space where there was none. Hawkins may have been beaten but the rest of the Cats forwards, led by Cameron, had a field day. What was even more disturbing form a Carlton defensive point of view was how Zach Tuohy was allowed to work his way forward and kick three goals from the wing.

Zach Williams and Nic Newman, who both had plenty of the ball, and were far from Carlton’s worst players, would have learned a lot from the loss tonight, especially running back to protect the open spaces against a team like Geelong. Young, Boyd and Kemp would have also learned a lot from tonight for the future.

I would expect a tighter and more cohesive Carlton backline the next time these two teams meet again in eight weeks’ time.

At the other end of the ground, the Cats’ back six made life very difficult for the Blues forwards, especially their smalls. The applied pressure by the Cats back six, especially in the first half, became perceived pressure, especially when the Blues were having set shots at goal.

Special mention to Zach Guthrie, who would be close to the most improved player in the AFL this year. He did a stellar job of disturbing the peace of the Blues forward line, especially limiting the impact of Curnow and McKay in front of goal. He was ably backed by the ageless Zach Tuohy, the ball magnets Mitch Duncan and Max Holmes, as well as the specific clamp down players, Sam De Koning and Jake Kolodjashnij. However, what surprised me the most though was the form of Jack Henry and his ability to be the link player in defence as well as the player in the hole taking defensive marks.

I am not forgetting that, as good as the Geelong defence was, they still allowed Carlton to kick 15 goals and almost steal game with a few minutes to spare. The underrated Matthew Cottrell would have to be one of the hardest matchups in AFL footy. He just seems to pop up when his team needs him the most. Carlton youngsters Elijah Hollands (two goals) and Jack Carroll (one goal) showed plenty tonight and they will only get better with more games under their belts. Owies and Durdin, who have been consistent for most of the year, both had quiet nights – it happens.

While Curnow (three goals) and McKay (two goals) will always be the go-to forwards for the Blues, I am impressed with Tom De Koning’s willingness to get forward and have an impact. Yes, he was wayward in this game, but it is the second week in a row he has displayed an ability and a desire to create another tall option when the Blues go forward.

Carlton would also be happy if they can continue to get five goals a week from their talented mid-fielders, Cripps, Acres and Kennedy. The icing on the cake for the Blues in the future would be if the dynamic Sam Walsh kicked more goals. It would take Walsh’s game to the next level if he was able to kick a goal or two every match.


How Good are the two Patricks, Cripps and Dangerfield?

Early in the third quarter, a distinct groan could heard around the ground when Patrick Dangerfield slowly walked off the ground and down the tunnel. It was obvious he was injured, and he would not play any further part in the match. His form up to the point of his injury was sublime as he charged through packs, away from packs, and delivered the ball with accuracy to his teammates. His midfield battle with Patrick Cripps had been gripping viewing up to that point.

It is always disconcerting to see a true champion hobble from the field.

With Dangerfield out of the game, and Curnow suddenly firing up for ten minutes, it seriously looked like the Blues might steal game from the Cats. The rest of the quarter was very terse as McKay took control of the game, ably supported by Patrick Cripps, George Hewett and Nic Newman, however, and as Geelong often do, they steady with five minutes to go just at the Blues were really challenging, with a late goal to Ollie Henry.

In the last quarter Carlton truly shot themselves in the foot with three easy misses at goal by Durdin, Curnow, and TDK in the first five minutes. Patrick Cripps was putting on a show in the midfield but his efforts up the field were not being supported by his inaccurate forwards. As is often the case, when the worm turns, it turns hard, and goals to Tuohy, Cameron, Ollie Henry and a stunning goal by young Jack Bowes, seemingly put the game out of Carlton’s reach as the Cats skipped away to a six-goal plus lead.

While the Cats looked like they were going to steamroll the Blues, Patrick Cripps, Sam Walsh, and Blake Acres, were having none of it. They, along with Hewett, Newman, Kennedy and the tireless Marc Pittonet, reinvigorated themselves at the centre clearances and didn’t just lay down and die. They fought their way back into contention with very late goals to Cripps, Acres’ two goals, and Matthew Kennedy.

Suddenly, with just under three minutes remaining, the margin was eight points, and the Blues were a chance.

With just over a minute left, Jeremy Cameron kicked his fifth goal and the Cats held on – he was the difference between the two teams.



Geelong and Carlton are both very good teams and will be thereabouts, or a little higher, come September.

While Geelong won today, the Blues can take plenty away from this match in preparation for future contests this year. While the Blues lost, they would not have lost any admirers, and given their last 10 minutes they may have even gained a few new admirers.

Jeremy Cameron is clearly the best forward in the competition, given he plays up the field as much as he plays deep forward.

Harry McKay will tear a game to pieces one day soon. He is as strong and, at times, as dominant as Wayne Carey.

It was great to see Cam Guthrie get through the match and have an impact.

The lists of both Clubs run deep, very deep, which is essential for any Premiership aspirant. While some players had quiet games today, I did not notice any player on the ground who would not be in consideration come Grand Final time.

Mitch McGovern is an essential player in the Blues backline, while Adam Saad adds the necessary run for the Blues to cut through teams. The Blues defence missed the presence of both players today.

I hope the Patrick Dangerfield hamstring is not overly serious and he gets back on the park this year.

Despite my early opening rant, which I don’t regret, it was pleasing to see 87,000 plus fans enjoy the game today.


Next Week

Carlton will play to another packed house against their arch-rival Collingwood at the MCG. That should be a great game as a win is now essential for both clubs.

Geelong head back to the MCG next week, for an away game, against a very dangerous Melbourne outfit.