Cats vs Bombers: a clash with a bit extra

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Geelong Cats vs Essendon (Slattery Images)

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The clash of the last two undefeated teams is always a highlight, but the meeting between the Cats and Bombers this Friday seems to have a touch more zing about it.

The Cats have been the undisputed benchmark of the competition since their drought-breaking triumph in 2007. The Hawks, Pies and Swans have managed to pinch a flag in this time, but the Cats have never been too far away.

The Bombers are very much the new kids on the block, slowly rebuilding their list to the point where they finally appear to be ready to take the next step and become a serious contender.

The Bombers’ early season form has been quite impressive, even more so given the continual controversy that has engulfed the club.

It has seemed every week a new piece to the jigsaw that is the ‘supplements scandal’ has emerged through the media. The players’ ability to continually front up and perform at the highest level is a credit to the coaching and leadership groups, and shows a great belief in their ability to match it with the best teams.

There is no bigger test for the Bombers than fronting up against the might of the Cats. And it is a new Geelong team that has emerged this year after last year’s unexpected early exit from the finals.

The Cats have lost Matthew Scarlett, and looked as though some of their other elder statesmen were coming towards the end of their illustrious careers.

However, Geelong’s recruiters and development team have managed to inject some youth, dash and enthusiasm into their line-up.

Players such as Allen Christensen, Steven Motlop, Billie Smedts and Taylor Hunt are now mainstays of this team, and alongside the experience of Joel Selwood, Corey Enright and Harry Taylor, the Cats are yet again defying the normal trend of teams having a limited time at the top of the ladder.

During their reign, the Cats have taken great pride in trying to stamp their authority over any potential rivals who have the temerity to challenge their position at the top.

This will be even more prevalent this week, as there is definitely a still a little bit of angst between these two clubs after the Cats’ premiership coach Mark Thompson left to return to his former club in dubious circumstances.

Geelong players have always said they do not have any negative feelings towards their old mentor, and the club has been at pains to remain very diplomatic. However, the players would be keen to ensure that Mark Thompson does not manage to help the Bombers to a win over his former charges.

As a non-Geelong supporter living in Geelong, I can certainly say the animosity towards Thompson from Cats fans has not waned a great deal since his departure.

He has been blamed for the loss of their favourite son Gary Ablett Jnr and their failure to triumph in the 2010 finals series. For a man who brought the first premiership in 44 years to Geelong and followed up with a second, the negative feeling toward him is quite astounding.

A little like Mick Malthouse’s departure from Collingwood, supporters can become very forgetful of what has been achieved by coaches and players when they are seen to be disloyal to the club when they part ways.

This clash shapes as an intriguing contest, with the duel between the two in-form captains in Jobe Watson and Joel Selwood being a footy fan’s dream.

These two have epitomised what great leaders should be, and their battle will go a long way towards deciding the match.

The Bombers’ form has been more consistent this year, and they have the players capable of scoring quickly and putting scoreboard pressure on their opposition. However, I think this is clearly Essendon’s biggest test, and no one responds to a challenge like the Cats.

Geelong believe in their ability to win from just about any position, and I think they might just be able to do it again.

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