It looked like a beautiful day for football with a few interesting sub plots. Steve Johnson was an odd sight in the fluoro substitute’s vest. Being the day after ANZAC Day, no doubt many an observer (and maybe Steve Motlop) would have been nursing a hangover. The other consequence of the ANZAC Day was that everyone in the AFL was trying to make as many tenuous connections between AFL footy and the Australian Defence Force.
Jack Ziebel was yet again coming back from a concussion and fittingly he was in to lay a strong tackle at the opening bounce. The roos were the first to get the ball forward, but there early thrusts were well dealt with by a Geelong defence that won more important contests than Flloyd Mayweather in the first quarter.
The cats’ early counter attacks looked more dangerous. An early stream of attacking running and handballing almost ended in a mark to the Tomahawk and served as a preview to Geelong’s almost reckless handballing fetish that was to develop as the match wore on.
It looked a tough game early, with plenty of numbers around the ball. Geelong’s tall forwards were excellent in the first quarter, providing strong options out of defence and taking marks within range of goals. The cats chipped the ball out of defence with a series of short kicks before going long to Hawkins who won a contested mark and immediately turned and kicked long again, for Mitch Clark to out-wrestle his smaller opponent, mark and kick the first goal of the match.
The Roos had their own tall forward options, with the Waiter and the Petri Dish, but both were well held to this point. Jed Bews won three important 1-on-1 contests in a row before he could take possession in midfield and kick the ball out for his Caddy to take a running mark, which he also converted.
The cats were still very keen to move the ball by hand. It looked very good at times, but at other times broke up attacks when they missed targets or passed to players in worse possessions. Seriously, some of the judgement on display rivalled Gina McCall's judgement in writing an article comparing the ANZACs to ISIS on the centenary of ANZAC Day (way to read the mood of the people there, Gina). Cam Guthrie was flat-footed when he received a hospital pass from a teammate and was instantly flattened by a monster tackle by Todd Goldstein.
Still the Roos were continuing to cough up the ball at the other end and give Geelong more chances to counter. Mitch Duncan took a high mark straight in front and kicked accurately, putting Geelong further in front.
Steve Motlop may have still been camera-shy from a few weeks ago as he hadn’t been seen much. However it was his brilliant tackle that won a holding the ball decision and he pumped it forward to Mitch Clark, who came out to it on the bounce with a surprising amount of space. With Robbie Tarrant still some way behind, Clark turned and kicked Geelong’s fourth with North still goalless late in the quarter.
North looked like they would finally reply when the big Waiter took possession running through 50. He baulked several times and then pulled out another party trick with a disguised kick out in front Goldstein who had to run hard to get it on the bounce and then hit the post from a tight angle.
It worked out ok though. Mark Blicavs had been getting a lot of the ball, but some of the possessions were not ones he would be proud of. A lazy short kick inside, put his backline under enormous pressure. From the resulting scramble, the Waiter got it out to Robin Nahas (who earnt the name, ‘Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves’ this game) to run into an open goal seconds before quarter time.
The second quarter started promisingly for the cats. Harry Taylor intercepted an attacking kick and sent it straight back with a perfectly placed kick to the Tomahawk. Unfortunately for the Cats, Hawkins was unable to complete the play by kicking accurately.
It may have been a costly miss, as from here the momentum of the match (if there really is such a thing) seemed to change. Had to give credit to North, who didn’t lose any effort as the game looked to be slipping away from them in the first quarter. A deep kick into the Roos forward line shortly after had the Dish positioned perfectly. Joan Rivers (who doesn’t get the plaudits of Lonergan or Taylor but was having an excellent game) made a fantastic spoil, only for the ball to be roved by the Waiter, who snapped accurately for a goal.
Lindsay Lohan Thomas earned an off the ball kick for a body hit from Kelly. It was probably there, but with Lindsay you never really know. It didn’t amount to anything as he put it out on the full.
I had been reasonably impressed with Rhys Stanley’s effort for the early part of the game, but he was led to a ball in the forward line much too easily by Thompson or Wright (I think) who was able to rebound effectively to Ben Jacobs. Jacobs got it onto Bastinac, who kicked a long distance goal to show how easy it is to hurt yourself with a Stanley knife (sorry, can’t help myself with puns).
Goldstein was playing a tremendous game. He didn’t just ruck and tackle, but also got around the ground and won contested marks and clearances. He took a strong mark and found Lindsay Lohan, who chipped it into Firrito, only for the biggest head at Arden Street (and I’m not referring to his ego- he just has a giant scone) to hit the post.
Both sides were continuing to use a lot of handball through the middle of the ground. What was surprising was the surprising lack of effective shepherding that came with it. With a lot of tall players in their forward lines it was understandable that a lot attacking play consisted of bombing long to the top of the square, but as this became predictable, that area got very crowded with defenders and this strategy became less effective. This was especially true for the Cats, where Hawkins and Clark were starting to give away free kicks with regularity.
The Waiter marked inside 50 in space and converted the kick to serve up (get it?) the lead to Roos late in the quarter. Only a few minutes later, Guthrie gave Motlop another hospital handball deep in defence and he was run down by the Dish, who goaled from the resulting free kick.
The third quarter was pretty scrappy. Most kicks into the forward line had about as much purpose and direction as the kid that takes a gap year before uni. Basic errors were starting to hurt the cats more though as north started to stretch their lead slowly.
Missy Higgins had a good quarter, although I didn't see him lay a tackle (do you ever?). Not only did he avoid getting injured, he also hit hit up two targets in range of goals in a short space of time. First he hit Brown on a strong lead and soon after put up a nicely waited kick for (you guessed it) the Waiter.
At the other end, Geelong finally replied when Hawkins took a mark at the edge of 50 and converted with a massive kick. The cats were starting to look better with their decisions going forward and Guthrie and Horlin-Smith combined for another goal before some ridiculous handball decisions in the Geelong defence took the gloss of any positive play and nearly ended up gifting Linsday Lohan a goal that was easier than his namesake.
The last quarter was mainly North’s, with Geelong throwing a couple of swings early and late, but conceding much of the rest of the quarter. Goldstein was unbelievable this quarter. Probably won’t get many votes but what he did was more impressive than the stats sheet might suggest.
The first goal went to Geelong, when Hawkins won another contested mark on the wing. Instead of bombing long he kicked short to Guthrie near the edge of 50. He in turn chipped it in towards Johnson who was calling for it, seemingly completely indifferent to the fact that this was a contested mark. His confidence was well placed as he dealt with his opponent, Wood, easily, marked and goaled.
Ben Brown got an easy goal for the roos when his player left him and went to the contest, but the goal belonged the Trent Dumont, the North substitute who had done all the work. Dumont must have been enjoying his first quarter of AFL (well I assume he enjoyed his more than Jack Watts enjoyed his debut). This time it was his turn to watch his defender get drawn away from him so that he could crumb a ball and goal with the outside of his boot.
Straight from a centre bounce, Johnson won a clearance and kicked long for Mitch Clark to take a massive leap over the pack and bring down a mark, which he goaled from.
Lindsay Lohan got another free kick. “High,” was all the umpire said, either in reference to the tackle or Lindsay's normal state of mind. Considering he missed all four shots for the day, the umpire might have been onto something.
North then put the game away with a short blitz of successive goals that made the cats look about as powerless as Australian government officials trying to influence Indonesian foreign policy.
First Robin Hood kicked a long goal that had to be replayed to confirm it wasn’t touched but was eventually allowed. Then Goldstein won a ball from a stoppage and snapped a goal. The north ruckman wasn’t done either. He won a clearance shortly after and got it to Missy Higgins. The well groomed songstress did what the roos pay him to do and hit Robin Hood with a well-directed pass. Just like in the movie, the Prince of Thieves didn’t miss, taking the lead out around five goals and what seemed well beyond Geelong’s reach.
The cats tried to fight back in the final minutes but didn’t look likely. They did get a consolation goal after some tough work by Guthrie got the ball to Duncan who hit up Johnson, but the final minutes of the game petered out with less excitement than an episode of Masterchef (it is just food people- just a few digestive steps from being faeces).
BOG for me was Todd Goldstein who not only rucked well, but also did everything else. He tackled, won clearances, hit targets with accurate kicking and kicked a goal himself. A lot of the Kangaroos players seemed to get a lot of the ball as the game wore on, but I felt they were helped by Geelong’s poor use of the ball, whereas the big awkward-looking Goldstein won most of his own ball the hard way. For the Cats, Sellwood was very good early, and continued to try hard throughout the day, while Duncan and Guthrie I thought weren’t too bad either.
Snickers award went to Mitch Clark who after a strong first quarter, just wasn’t himself (they cant trademark that phrase surely?) by half way through the game, giving away cheap free kicks and even a 50 for dissent.) I felt for the big bloke as the kicks coming in weren’t giving him a lot to work with and he was a bit unlucky with a couple of decisions. To his credit (perhaps after a half-time snickers, who knows?), he kept presenting and took a screamer in the last quarter.