Geelong v Melbourne - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Cats came from the clouds, kicking eight goals in the last quarter to pinch the game at the death from Melbourne with a kick after the siren.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

The comeback

Hats off to Geelong – they did not stop. Down by 23 points at the last change, Tom McDonald looked to have sunk the Cats early in the last with a goal to stretch the lead out to 29. Most teams would’ve capitulated at that point, and the Cats did waver a little, but the big fella up forward refused to allow them to fall.

The collective desperation of the Cats – a desperation that was matched by the Demons if we’re being completely honest, saw them claw their way back in. Melbourne were hanging on, but some of their decisions with the ball in hand were not overly bright. We’ll get to that later, but right now, let’s focus on the Cats.

Tim Kelly lifted, Joel Selwood threw his body in, Stanley matched Gawn, Menzel looked better for last week’s run, and Mitch Duncan ran his guts out in the dying moments. I don’t want to get too much into individuals as we’ll highlight them below, but the belief of the entire team to lift when required, to push the ball forward and to refuse to accept the game was gone was season-defining.

The Cats kicked eight goals in the last to Melbourne’s three. Some may say The Dees lost it. Others will say the Cats won it.

What do I think? I think it was both in equal shares. Fortune favours the brave, but it abandons the timid just as readily.

Zach Tuohy is not Harry Taylor

It was only a few weeks ago when Harry Taylor found himself in a situation not unlike that which Zach Tuohy found himself in tonight. The moment was a bit too much for Harry at that point, and the Cats allowed the Bulldogs to have their best win of the season.

This would’ve been Melbourne’s best win of the season, and perhaps their best win in years. Tuohy wasn’t about to allow that to happen. He was calm, cool and collected. He was chatting with Ablett and the umpire on the way back to take the shot, and he looked composed as he kicked for the game.

We all know what happened. It sailed through, his teammates jumped all over him and the Cats completed a huge comeback to win it. But it doesn’t end there for Tuohy. He goaled earlier in the quarter to edge the Cats closer on a fantastic give from Hawkins, giving Geelong three goals in a row and instilling belief in the team. Sure, he made the hearts of Geelong fans leap into their collective mouths as he made a crazy change of direction in the goal square in the second quarter that took everyone by surprise, but these Irish fellas; they’re a little unorthodox.

It was a great way to finish the night for Tuohy. Some players go through their whole careers never having had the chance to do what he did tonight. Some get the chance and fail. Tuohy added a wonderful moment to his highlight reel this evening, and it might just be what is needed at Sleepy Hollow to kickstart a push into the top half or the eight.

The Tomahawk

Now this is the sort of performance football purists have been hankering for. The big power forward getting isolation and putting a team on his back isn’t something we’ve seen a lot of in recent times, but we saw it tonight, and it was the catalyst for the Geelong revival.

Hawkins was huge all game, but his four last quarter goals put a stamp on the game that will be remembered for a long time. His goal out of the ruck, as he dispatched with Max Gawn to take clean possession got the ball rolling for the Cats. And it wasn’t just the goals. He was there, handing off to Zach Tuohy for a goal, and he was right in the mix again as Geelong pushed forward for the final time.

His hands inside the centre square were so strong, like a vice around the ball. There was no way he was dropping the inboard kick from Daniel Menzel – none! He went up, towered above Sam Frost and clunked it.

I can remember the day Tomahawk started in the league. I was driving somewhere and had the game on in the car. The commentators were in raptures about the presence this kid had – the new Plugger Lockett they were saying. That obviously hasn’t panned out that way – no one is the next Tony Lockett, but tonight he was Tom Hawkins, and Tom Hawkins is all that Geelong needs him to be.

The biggest quarter of the year by any individual occurred tonight, and it belonged to the Tomahawk.

James Harmes

In the first half of the game, you could be forgiven for wondering where Joel Selwood was. He was a non-factor, and the reason for that was Harmes.

He shadowed the Geelong captain everywhere, and did it so effectively that Selwood – a ball winner at the coalface, found it incredibly difficult to get his hands on the pill. Meanwhile, another Cat was tearing up the midfield, compiling 21 disposals in the first half. Harmes’ role was about to change.

He moved onto Dangerfield in the second half, and immediately quietened things down for the Brownlow medallist. Danger had 21 touches to half time. He had just three disposals in the third quarter.

I’ve not really looked at Harmes as a premier stopper until tonight. This may be a role we’ll see him play more as we edge towards September.

Rhys Stanley

All I heard all week long was what kind of impact Max Gawn was going to have. Our footy experts in Melbourne all spoke about the influence of Gawn and how, against a team with only Rhys Stanley as opposition, whether he would amass another three-vote performance.

If Rhys Stanley was a bear, I reckon the media poked him.

He had 31 hit outs and 10 of them were to his teammates’ advantage. He also had 21 disposals and five marks.

In contrast, the man who was anointed as the game-changer in relation to this contest before it even began had 38 hit outs (16 effective). He had 12 touches and four marks. Nothing to sneeze at, sure... but hardly a clear win.

It’s fair to say that Stanley halved the contest. He was expected to be blasted off the park by Gawn, and whilst you can’t say that Gawn was beaten on the day, there was no way he had the influence that was predicted. Rhys Stanley came into this game knowing he had a huge job in front of him. He took this job on and threw himself into it, and he was in no small part responsible for the Cats’ last quarter renaissance.

And on a personal note, I LOVED his hard shepherd on Joel Smith in the first quarter. He just crunched him out of the way as the ball rebounded out of Geelong’s defence. It’s an art not practiced enough.

Clayton Oliver

The plaudits for this bloke just keep piling up. Did you like how we were informed that Scott Selwood was really doing a good job in reducing his influence… as Oliver ticked over 20 touches in the first half?

The only tagger I’ve seen be able to successfully stifle Oliver has been Ben Jacobs. Scott Selwood tried today, and Oliver finished with 40 disposals, seven marks and six tackles in another all-round performance.

Some of the handball gives Oliver releases look effortless, but are anything but. Travelling in the opposite direction, he is able to flick the ball over the shoulder to hit a teammate in stride – that is hundreds of hours of practice right there. The other was a split-second give on the wing early in the third quarter, with pressure baring down on him. The ball barely landed in his hands before he’d released it to a teammate.

He had another 20 contested possessions today, always throwing himself in at the bottom of the pack, and added to his impressive stat line with 12 score involvements and a direct goal assist. Oliver is a complete warrior, and if the Dees are to go anywhere in 2018, he will play a huge role in them doing so.

Tim Kelly under pressure

What a last quarter from Kelly again. It was only a short while ago he had 19 last quarter touches in a game, and this week he added another 10-disposal last quarter.

He was instrumental in three scoring opportunities in the last, one of which resulted in a goal to him, and another as a direct goal assist to Hawkins. His delivery by foot if given any space is deadly, and he has a bit of a knack of getting to the right spot at the right time.

Kelly’s ability to run all day means that he is as big a threat late in the game as he is early. He just gut runs and gets on the end of handballs. He was a little messy with his disposals early on, but in the last, he was clean as a whistle, and his chiselling ball to Hawkins in the midst of the Geelong run was the kind of delivery big forwards dream about.

Ablett 14 touches in the last

Ah, the little master…

I was a bit down on Gaz as the last quarter started. You see, at the conclusion of the third, Jeff Garlett got out the back and ran into the open goal and Gaz… well, he just stopped. He didn’t chase and it looked to me at that point right there that he had conceded.

We’ve all been taught never to stop chasing. We’ve seen blokes stumble, fumble and lose the ball for no apparent reason at times. It happens, but Gaz didn’t chase. I’m hoping someone mentioned it to him, and it was a bit of a spur heading into the last, because this was the Gary Ablett the Geelong fans have been waiting for.

No easy round the back touches. No stat padding. This was Gaz at the coalface, doing the hard work and making a difference. He had 15 contested touches for the night and pumped Geelong inside 50 on eight occasions, but it was one deft little handball late in the game that set Geelong off to the races and got the ball moving. As he collected it at half back, with time running down, you could’ve forgiven Ablett for hacking it forward to get as much distance as possible. But Gaz is no hack – out of the corner of his eye he saw Tom Stewart in a better position.

His quick hands set Stewart off, and so commenced the chain of disposals that resulted in the Tuohy game-winner.

Ablett had had some critics this season, and tonight could’ve been another night where the knives came out, but there’s a bit left in the tank of the Little Master yet, and his composure under pressure demonstrated just why.

THE BAD

Jesse Hogan missing again in the big game

Hogan had a couple of nice moments tonight – yep… a couple. In 120 minutes of footy, their number one forward had a couple of good moments. He took a nice one-on-one mark against an overmatched Guthrie late in the third for his only goal of the game, and fed Spargo as the youngster missed in the second quarter.

This bloke is supposed to be one of the guns of the competition, but let’s have a bit of a look at him over the last couple of months. His goals have come against Carlton (5), Adelaide (5), St Kilda (3), Fremantle (2) and Western Bulldogs (4). All of them sitting outside the top eight.

And what about teams in the top eight? How has he fared against them? Collingwood (0), Port Adelaide (0) and now Geelong (1).

What does that say to you? I know what it says to me – flat track bully. He needs to make a stand against a good side. The funny thing about finals... you don't get to play bottom eight sides in September.

THE UGLY

Giving up a 29 point lead. Dees can’t win when it counts?

The game was done and dusted when Tom McDonald kicked the first goal of the last quarter, right? I thought so. The Dees wanted the first of the last quarter to snuff out any hope the Cats had, and they got it from TMac as he followed up his own marking contest and ran into the open goal.

So what happened from then on?

Where was the poise? Where was the composure? Where was the patience with the ball?

It’s all easier said than done, but there were several occasions where the Dees could’ve taken the sting out of the game, but they wanted to put nails in the Geelong coffin. Watching it again, the only bloke that looks as though he’s not overawed by the occasion is Jordan Lewis. Of course, he has a bit of experience in big games. The Dees went long to the square when lowering the eyes was the intelligent thing to do. They blasted it forward when a kick sidewards or backwards to kill time was the better option.

It wouldn’t have been as exciting, and it wouldn’t have been a classic finish, but they would’ve walked out of Geelong with four points if they'd just slowed down. I could picture a few of their girlfriends yelling at them from the crowd... "Slow down - It's not sex!"

Instead, they panicked and the Cats pounced. They choked.

When will they learn?

OTHER BITS

Interesting to see Max Gawn drifting so far into the Melbourne backline in the first half. I noticed he was very slow to get up a couple of times, sustaining a heavy knock or two whilst dropping into the hole – all fair. I reckon Geelong were well aware he’d be doing that, and were determined to make him pay when he did.

The first half of Charlie Spargo was really good. He looked like a real livewire up forward and was very clean with ball in hand. He drifted right out of it late in the game, but as a young kid you wouldn’t expect him to be prominent when the game reaches a crescendo like it did tonight.

I thought Menzel’s touch early in the game seemed to be back. He was horrible last week, but was much better for the run. He looked dangerous tonight and even drifted back in the first quarter to help out in defence. His kick from the back pocket set the wheels in motion for the Cats to go end to end and goal. His kick around the corner later in the first quarter to find the running Jamaine Jones with an open goal ahead was perfect.

Cam Guthrie was good in close early in the game. His quick hands got the Cats out of a couple of hairy situations.

Alex Neal-Bullen did a few things I enjoyed tonight. His tackling was good, but I really liked his willingness to take the courageous kick inboard. He hit Kennedy-Harris in what can only be described as a real hyphen-fest (see what I did there?) and it resulted in a goal to Tom McDonald in the first quarter. Those kicks are always such a gamble. The confident players take them without a second thought – they trust their skills.

Jeff Garlett’s one handed gather and kick in one motion was wonderful – almost resulted in a mark to McDonald but the ump ruled both he and his opponent had hands on it… and it was the right call, too.

The Melbourne defensive set up in the second was so well-drilled that Geelong looked like they were flummoxed going inside 50. Gawn back there can really cause a team to think twice, or several more times than that. It really fell to pieces once fatigue set in late in the game, however.

Petracca looked threatening tonight, and it’s about time, too. He danced out of a sticky situation at one point, and bullied his way out of others. He is a hard man to tackle, but Sam Menegola managed it well in the second quarter, catching him holding the ball. At one point tonight, I started wishing the commentators would stop talking Petracca up, particularly when he hadn’t actually done anything to that point in the game. As they were wetting their pants over Petracca’s minimal involvement in a play, Spargo just swooped in and kicked a great goal.

Tom Stewart did a very nice job zoning off early in the game. 10 intercept possessions for him tonight. Still front-runner for All-Australian half back flank, for mine.

Good to see the goal review work well with Hawkins clearly getting his foot to the ball in the goal square, and good to see the goal umpire happy to have it reviewed despite “I think it’s a behind…”. Great reaction by Hawkins to get his boot onto it.

Since Round Five, Hawkins has kicked 37 goals at an average of 3.36 per game.

Now, this will be debated, but how smart was it of Dangerfield to exaggerate the blocking by Brayshaw after nominating for the ruck contest in the forward pocket? The commentators were lamenting this decision and the rule (which I don’t like either) but being intelligent enough to exploit it so perfectly… my hat goes off to Danger on that one.

Really didn't like the look of Danger going feet first into a ground level contest at one point. Was a very similar action that led to the contact below the knees rule being introduced. 

I still think Brandan Parfitt looks like Mer-Man from Masters of the Universe. A career as a cartoon henchman awaits!

Wrote earlier, and as part of another game review about the gutsy kick inboard. I love seeing a guy take a risk and reaping the benefit when it comes off. But hey… they call is a risk for a reason, and when Tim Kelly took the risk tonight, he, and Geelong, paid for it. His inboard kick in the third was cut off and the Dees rebounded immediately to see Nathan Jones goal on a nice chip from Bernie Vince. Risk v Reward…

Despite the last quarter collapse, there was a lot to like about the way the Demons went about it through the first three quarters. They are a confident team and back themselves to win contests.

I’m not too sure Gawn deserved a free kick for the contact with Tom Stewart in the third. A shot at goal in a game like this is a huge price to pay for something the likes of that.. Gawn converted, and celebrated accordingly. I reckon the Dees smelled blood about this time, and Geelong were ready to fall.

The Cats looked a little disorganised going through the middle late in the third. It was as though they were being too unselfish, and trying to reward every player running through the middle with a touch instead of getting the ball in long to Hawkins. Parfitt and Kelly were responsible at one stage for overuse, and it all came undone. Meanwhile, Hawkins had a one-out contest deep forward that went begging.

Petracca’s strength in gathering, standing in a tackle and dishing off at the conclusion of the third resulted in Garlett’s wide open goal. You could feel that this was the Demons’ game to lose at this point.

And they didn’t disappoint.

The Dees were doing everything right in the first five minutes of the last quarter. They were first to the ball, they went for marks while Geelong players stood and watched (Duncan) and they got the first goal through McDonald, but it seemed as soon as Hawkins had that big ruck win and goal against Gawn, the script changed dramatically.

Rhys Stanley retreated to the defensive goal square multiple times to make saves as the Dees tried long bombs to put the Cats away. Brayshaw and Petracca both tried to land the knockout blows early.

As the Dees squandered opportunities, at the other end, it was all Hawkins.

Melksham’s goal off the great kick by Neal-Bullen should’ve been enough to steady the Dees but the Cats had a real sniff by this stage. And if that goal didn’t settle them, McDonald’s fourth should have. When Hogan has gone missing this season, McDonald has stood up.

Daniel Menzel was robbed of a free kick with Jetta running into him with the flight. It was there, and I reckon Menzel knew he was a good chance to get the free kick, too. I was actually quite amazed that it wasn’t paid as Jetta had no eyes for the ball at all.

Great physical contest between Joel Selwood and Nathan Jones late in the game. Selwood was wide open and Jones got him right down the middle. Captain v Captain with the game in the balance… loved it.

And then we entered the end-game. That’s the second time this season the Cats have won as a result of a very late goal, or a very late miss. With the Crows winning tonight, had they dropped this one, the unthinkable may have started to look a little more likely, and they may have missed the eight! They’ve got Brisbane at home next week, and though the Lions are a much improved team, you can’t like their chances visiting the Cattery. As for the Dees, they’ve dropped back to the pack now. Their game against Adelaide is now huge. They absolutely smashed the Crows earlier this season, but that was then, and the Crows are now pressing for a finals berth, themselves. Could the Dees be out of the eight at the end of next week? Exciting times ahead. I hope they haven’t printed any finals paraphernalia just yet…

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