A timely goal from Eddie Ford wasn’t enough to save North Melbourne, going down by 20 points to the Cats. Nor was it enough to avoid the wisecracks of the Fox Footy commentary team.
The focus will undoubtedly be on Adam Goodes’ return to football, and nothing short of a surprise appearance and ‘ripping’ performance by Lenny Kravitz could steal the spotlight.
But if it’s put to one side for a moment, an enthralling match up presents itself.
The Swans are looking to keep themselves at arms length from the Bulldogs and Tigers, who are chomping at the bit to secure a top four spot and the vital double chance.
The Cats need to win to keep their hopes of a ninth successive finals appearance alive, sitting ninth after Adelaide jumped back into the eight with a (no pun intended) roaring win over the tigers.
The boos may come and go, but one thing’s for certain: there’s nothing but cheers for this match up.
Geelong are coming off a 56-point belting of the Brisbane Lions, stringing together three successive wins for the first time this season.
Josh Walker showed a glimpse of the future with a five goal powerhouse performance, looking at home on the AFL stage alongside the hulking Tom Hawkins, while Joel Selwood looked to have returned to his brilliant best in his 199th game, amassing 27 possessions, 11 tackles, and two goals.
Sydney were back to their devastating best last Saturday, disposing of Adelaide from effectively the opening bounce, running out 52 point winners.
Kurt Tippett had a successful return from injury, booting three goals, while Dan Hannebery was mercurial with 40 disposals and three goals.
The only negative from their performance was the aggravation of Buddy Franklin’s back injury, which will see him miss Saturday night’s blockbuster.
The Player Particulars
Steve Johnson was wise to accept his one game suspension for striking, but his importance to the Cats this year may surprise many who thought him to be on his last legs.
When ranked as a forward by champion data, Stevie J ranks ‘elite’ for disposals (20.4) and uncontested possessions, as well as above average for score involvements and pressure acts.
Furthermore, he has been involved in 27.3 per cent of Geelong’s scores, second only to skipper Joel Selwood. His loss is thus a greater one than many may at first think.
Dan Hannebery versus Joel Selwood is arguably the most important match-up in this encounter. Although both players share a penchant for charging head first into a contest (and a complete disregard for their head for that matter), the similarities end there.
Hannebery sits well ahead of Selwood in the average disposal count, the Swan second in the league with 30.7 disposals per game against Selwood’s 23.8 per game (ranked 50th). Conversely, Selwood sits 10th in the league for average contested possessions (13.1 per game), while Hannebery stands at 28th (23.8).
Both are clearly playing different brands of footy in their 2015 campaigns. Thus, rather than triumphing in any particular area, it will be the player who executes their game style more successfully on the night that will give their team the greater edge.
Regardless of the outcome, it’ll be enthralling to watch two of the league’s hard nuts collide (sorry, the five-year-old in me couldn’t resistthat one).
Steven Motlop versus Lewis Jetta is perhaps the closest the world will get to knowing who’d win a race between The Flash and Superman.
The two line breakers are the x-factors for their sides, and both are in great form, although Motlop has been on another plane for the past three weeks. His 29 disposals and a goal against Brisbane (Round 18) go along with 31 touches and two goals against GWS (Round 17) and 23 touches and three goals against the Bulldogs (Round 16).
Both Motlop and Jetta are able to consistently break lines, so the real test will be the scoreboard impact they can have, which can fluctuate from time to time. Whoever contributes more in this department will take the cake, and potentially win the match for their team.
Ready set go.
Geelong’s once indomitable fortress no longer has the mystique of old, the Cats dropping three of its four matches at the venue this year, an alarming record when it’s considered they were on a 29 match win streak before (guess who?) the Swans broke the run with a 13 point victory in 2011.
Still, the Cats don’t drop too many at Kardinia Park, the Swans are 1-10 at the venue since 2000. The venue undoubtedly plays into Geelong’s hands, but they are no longer the certainties they once were.
Stats and Facts
The Swans average 16 points less away than they do at home (93 to 77)
The Swans sit sixth for contested possessions (average 138.1 per game), while the Cats continue to struggle at equal 15th (129.9 per game)
When it comes to the one percenters, the Cats and the Swans are neck and neck, the Cats’ 41.2 per game slightly higher than the Swans’ 40.1
Goals per game is also an area of parity, the Cats’ 12.8 per game ever so slightly above the Swans’ 12.4
There is everything to play for this Saturday night.
Stevie Johnson’s suspension is a bigger blow than many would at first think, although it is offset somewhat by the Swans’ loss of Buddy Franklin.
The head says Swans. The heart says Cats.
It’s Joel Selwood’s 200th game, the skipper representing the viciously beating heart of this remarkable Geelong side, so on that basis I’ll have to go with the Cats.
Prediction: Geelong by 10
Certainty: Joel Selwood to come off with the blood rule.
Certainty: Select crowd members to hold their collective breath as Adam Goodes is about to collect his first possession.