Geelong confirm greatness with incredible Cat-trick
Three premierships in five years. When you see how hard it is for some clubs to secure one flag – heck, when you see Collingwood go undefeated against 15 teams all year and still fall short – you know that kind of record can only be attained by a truly great football team.
And Geelong, we can now safely say, are a truly great football team.
In 2007, the storyline for the Cats was the breaking of the drought. In 2009, it was all about redemption. In 2011, it was never going to be about either of those things – instead, it’s been about the elevation of this group to greatness.
Boy, were they made to earn it, though.
For three quarters yesterday afternoon, no one had a clue which way the result would end up going.
Collingwood quickly answered a couple of the pre-game queries that surrounded them. So too did Geelong and, more specifically, Steve Johnson.
What threw a spanner into the works of many a pre-game analysis was Travis Cloke embarrassing Harry Taylor in the first quarter and a bit. It was arguably the most important match-up of the game, and Cloke – with three goals and a strong presence – had turned the form guide on its head.
Johnson was doing his best to even things out at the other end, while Leon Davis endured a shaky start which led to several Cats goals (and continued his shaky record when it comes to Grand Finals).
If the trend at either end of the ground was allowed to continue, you got the sense one team would run away with it. Smart coaching, though, ensured that didn’t happen.
Tom Lonergan was thrown on Cloke, which was a game-changer in the true sense of the word. From that point on, Cloke struggled to see any of the footy. Lonergan, who often flies under the radar behind Matthew Scarlett and Taylor, simply took him out of the contest.
The Pies started to experiment with different options for Stevie J, including key defender Chris Tarrant, and his influence eventually dropped off as the game progressed. Plus, Neon Leon wasn’t quite as costly in the final three quarters as he was in the first.
But the importance of getting on top of Cloke appeared to be greater, because the big man was threatening to tear the game apart despite a lot of other areas of the game falling in the Cats’ favour.
Or, at least, it appeared that way until James Podsiadly went to ground.
That changed the game also, but not as it was expected to. Podsiadly going off made Tom Hawkins the main target inside 50 for the Cats, and in the second half the young lad rose to the occasion in a major way.
It helped the Tomahawk that he was, for the most part, being manned by a deteriorating Ben Reid. But his 19 touches, seven contested marks (next best was two) and three goals all went a long way towards Geelong winning – had he managed to kick straighter he would be a Norm Smith medallist right now.
There were interesting sub-plots all over the ground throughout the game. Scott Pendlebury was tough to contain. Dane Swan, meanwhile, was shut down by Cameron Ling. On the other side of the midfield battle, Jimmy Bartel was superb and Joel Selwood rose to the occasion.
In the ruck, Darren Jolly surprisingly finished with the most hitouts of the game. Early on, pre-game predictions of Brad Ottens and Trent West slaughtering the Pies ruckmen appeared to be on target, however credit must go to Jolly for his performance yesterday.
For Pie fans, though, they would be forgiven for having a few strange and cruel thoughts today.
Maybe they’d be thinking Cloke was little too good on Taylor early on. Had he appeared slightly less dominant so early in the game, perhaps Chris Scott would’ve never pulled the trigger with Lonergan.
In the same sense, they may also be thinking the Podsiadly injury was actually worse news for them than it was Geelong, given its consequences.
Of course, that’s assuming that Pie supporters won’t still be dissecting the news Malthouse won’t be back at the club in any capacity next year – the kind of bombshell that wasn’t surprising in any way yet we still didn’t quite see it coming (at least not at the post-game press conference on Grand Final day).
For Cats fans, though, there’s plenty of highlights to savour.
There’s the first-time premiers, like Allen Christensen, Mitch Duncan, West and Podsiadly. There’s another first-timer, Lonergan, who lost a kidney playing for the Cats in 2006 and only recently reinvented himself as a defender.
There’s Bartel, joining the select few who’ve won a premiership, a Brownlow and a Norm Smith (the others: Simon Black, James Hird, Chris Judd and Greg Williams).
There’s the much-maligned Hawkins, with his incredible afternoon. There’s Mathew Stokes, who missed out in ’09 and went through a bit the following pre-season.
Then, of course, there’s the fabulous story that is Chris Scott, who yesterday became only the third first-year premiership coach since 1938.
Sure, he inherited a pretty decent list. However, at the end of last year all anyone wanted to do is write Geelong off – and I must include myself among those doing so.
He tinkered with the areas that needed tinkering and left the rest.
He played the kids (a few of which are now premiership players as a result).
He seamlessly integrated into a very strong and tight football club, gained the players’ respect and then led them all the way to a flag in the space of 12 months.
Scott’s is a truly great story. So, too, is that of this Geelong team.
A truly great story.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio