Cry “Havoc!”, and let slip the cats and dogs of war

Giovanni Torre Columnist

By Giovanni Torre, Giovanni Torre is a Roar Expert

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52 Have your say

    Tipping may be a mug’s game, but there’s never been a more exciting time to be wrong about football.

    Prior to the first week of the finals I tipped Geelong by five points and Adelaide by 58 points. Not too shabby, but my other two tips were wildly inaccurate.

    And thank heavens my strike rate was only 50% and not 100. The win by the Western Bulldogs was contextually one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen.

    During the week, Luke Beveridge had looked like the misfortunes that plagued his charges had taken their toll. If he was quietly confident, the emphasis was on the quiet.

    The gap in form of the Eagles and the Dogs going into the game was matched only by the chasm between their records at Subiaco Oval. And yet, Bevo’s Bulldogs remembered ’89 and took the hapless Eagles to the cleaners.

    Even when the score was 2.0 to West Coast and 0.3 to the visitors, the writing was on the wall. Footscray’s tackling, chasing and smothering in the opening few minutes showed they wouldn’t let the Eagles have one easy possession, one pressure-free moment.

    If you want more detail about what makes the Dogs tick, here’s something I prepared earlier.

    To update – the Bulldogs’ ability to move the ball, to win the hard ball, and to squeeze opposition forward lines is equal to the best in the business.

    Hawthorn’s loss to Geelong was agonisingly narrow, but let’s get one thing straight here – the Cats were off the boil for portions of the game. As I have previously posited, the closeness of the competition – particularly among the top teams – is so intense that short lapses can prove very costly. Geelong had a couple of serious lapses against the Hawks, but were able to strike back decisively and hold their nerve for the win.

    Geelong Cats AFL Finals 2016

    In short, it was not one of Geelong’s best performances – but it was enough to beat the Hawks in a pressure cooker. This says plenty about where both teams are heading at the moment. On form, the Hawks are cactus. Bulldogs by 19 points.

    When Bevo’s Bulldogs euthanise Hawthorn, they will book a date with Greater Western Sydney in the land of the Giants. Long shot? So were the English-Welsh odds at Agincourt, but like Henry V, Bevo has inspired an almost fanatical level of devotion from his players.

    The Swans are in strife. Stunned by the magnitude of the loss to GWS and reeling from the injuries to Kurt Tippett and Callum Mills, Sydney will struggle to beat Adelaide – even at their postage stamp home ground.

    Finals mean pressure, and pressure means stoppages. Without Tippett around, big Crow Sam Jacobs will cause mayhem. The Crows should march into the prelim against Geelong. Adelaide by 22.

    Adelaide have not beaten Geelong in Victoria since 2003. Of course, the intervening Vic games have been played at Kardinia Park and not the MCG, but the Cats play the G fairly well.

    Henry Ford said history is bunk, but he was a complete prat and he also believed in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. History is not bunk, no more than jazz was a plot to destroy America.

    What we know about the history between Geelong and Adelaide is that the Crows have lost their last four to the Cats, including at Adelaide Oval this year.

    Geelong’s big defenders seem to be a good fit for the Crows’ forwards. Eddie Betts may be a genius, but if supply is reduced by midfield pressure (see: Selwood, Selwood, Guthrie and Dangerfield) and Betts is the only Crow able to hit the board – they won’t score enough to win.

    And so, despite having hitherto anticipated otherwise, I hold that the Western Bulldogs will face Geelong in the grand final. After that, anything is possible.

    What a time to be alive!

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    The Crowd Says (52)

    • Roar Guru

      September 12th 2016 @ 7:52am
      Cat said | September 12th 2016 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      As a Cats fan what bouts me most is nearly all pundits have been saying Hawthorn played the best they have all year while the Cats were clearly not at their best. Cats still won and have a considerable amount they can improve. We are also as healthy as any side and have no MRP worries.
      I’m not going to guarantee anything for my side, but I do love the position we are in. Couldn’t ask for better. We’re having a red hot crack at it. If anyone told me at the end of last year after missing finals and looking worse than we have since 2006 that we’d be into a prelim and equal flag favourites I’d have said you are kidding me.
      Whatever happens for this side from here this season is a success.

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2016 @ 8:00am
        Cat said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        what buoys me most*

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2016 @ 8:02am
        Tim Holt said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:02am | ! Report

        As a Hawks fan, Friday night was easily the best we played all season.

        The sad part is we still failed because we didnt execute in the moments that most mattered as well as Geelong exposing us as an imposter for the flag. It was our best chance as well for the tactics of structuring the Hawks forward line and marooning your key zone off men high out of the 50 arc caught Scott off a bit. And it wasn’t until he addressed this by anchoring Lonergan deep that Geelong started to gain control and ascendency.

        I think Geelong has greater upside and the Hawks will struggle to pull this off as well because Scott will know of the tactics and amend to counter them

      • September 12th 2016 @ 10:55am
        Nick J said | September 12th 2016 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        As a neutral fan, I don’t think Geelong can really claim it as a clear-cut win. I’m splitting hairs and a win is a win but hear me out and of course debate with me.

        My first issue is with Geelong’s defence.To be defending a 4 point lead in the last minute and have the ball taken from Hawthorn’s defensive 50 right up to their attacking 50 in 25 seconds is pressure football. But then for Hawthorn to hit up a player 40m out was representative of Geelong’s defence for the entire night. How can there possibly be a loose forward in that situation?! That’s fatal.

        I agree that Geelong have more upside than the Hawks, but Hawks were one straight kick from a win. It’s not a commanding performance when your fate rests on an opposition player missing a shot at goal after the siren.

        Geelong were a little slow both mentally and physically. It’s hard to match the pace with Cyril etc, but tactically Geelong were frustrating at best. I’ll offer this as an example: Hawthron mark, Geelong player stands on the mark. A third Hawthorn player stands near the Geelong man on the mark and then shepherds as the player with the ball runs around them both. It happened all night. It always happens. Geelong never did anything about it. Why? They’d usually end up on the back foot as Hawthorn moved the ball quickly.

        I’m probably in a fringe minority but I’d still tip Geelong as equal third with Hawthorn. Sydney and GWS are a cut above. Sydney with recent dominance over Geelong, and GWS with a ruthless disposal of Sydney on the weekend. And it was ruthless. GWS move much faster than Hawthorn can, which I think will burn Geelong. I know Adelaide are also fast and Geelong cut that down to size earlier this season, but comprehensively beating Sydney isn’t something to sneeze at.

        • Roar Guru

          September 12th 2016 @ 11:07am
          Cat said | September 12th 2016 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          If the Cats, playing at about 70% can beat the Hawks, playing the best they have all year, I’m confident we can beat anyone. Cats certainly made mistakes, no question about that. We had a few players have poor games and quite a few take a half to find their feet. They’ll all be better for it. Henderson in for our next game will help as well.

          The rest of our games will be at the MCG. I’d prefer to get the same consideration and advantage GWS is getting by having a real home game but I am realistic enough to realise that won’t happen.

    • Columnist

      September 12th 2016 @ 8:00am
      Ronan O'Connell said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Great piece Giovanni. The Bulldogs were so, so impressive on Thursday night. It would be brilliant if they or GWS could grab the flag ahead of the same ol’, same ol’ group of Hawthorn/Geelong/Sydney.

      • September 12th 2016 @ 8:37am
        I hate pies said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        Hear hear. If the dogs don’t get up I’m going for GWS.

        • September 12th 2016 @ 12:24pm
          Gecko said | September 12th 2016 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          I’m tipping a GWS-Bulldogs grand final in 2017. It’s already a certainty.

          • September 12th 2016 @ 5:30pm
            GJ said | September 12th 2016 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

    • September 12th 2016 @ 8:25am
      D Fitz said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      GT, Provocative fanciful article. Cats yes, Dogs no way though it would be great if it happens. Dogs would need to repeat their super form for several weeks and without Jong.

      • September 12th 2016 @ 8:36am
        I hate pies said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:36am | ! Report

        The dogs have some key players back, and have their best team since about round 3 in. Their form is reminiscent of the start of the season, and they can keep it up if they keep their key players on the field.

    • September 12th 2016 @ 8:26am
      Pumping Dougie said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      I agree Geelong now move into favoritism for the flag – unless Hawks meet them in the GF.

      But the Hawks are favorites against the Doggies. As a supporter, I rated us a strong chance to beat the Eagles and was thrilled but not surprised by what eventuated. The Eagles only started to gather form over the last few rounds; before that they were only good at home. Across the season, we have been a better, more consistent team and entering the finals we regained critical players.

      The Doggies chances are so much better with Libber, Macrae, Wood and Stringer back in the side. Against the Hawks, I rate our performances this season very even. But they enter this week as favourites purely because of their finals experience and their nastiness.

      So to sum up: Hawks are favourites! ?

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2016 @ 8:37am
        Tim Holt said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        i think the Scrays might have a let down after the momentous effort against the Eagles and Hawthorn might win easily. Keeping in mind the Scrays are still a young group and handling momentous wins is as tough as dealing with galling defeats

        i am hoping at least 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          September 12th 2016 @ 8:44am
          Cat said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:44am | ! Report

          Hawks will also have the advantage of not being surprised by what the Dogs bring, like West Coast seemed to be. Clarkson will find a way to counter it. How long can Dogs maintain the immense pressure of Hawks chip it back and forth and all over the place? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dogs up early but fade as they wear down. Should be interesting anyway.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2016 @ 8:53am
            Tim Holt said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:53am | ! Report

            A lot will depend on Beveridge following Scott’s lead and tagging Josh Gibson. Liam Picken is an ideal type to do it. And when you do shut down Gibbo, it not only isolates Hawthorn’s defence in one on one duals but also impacts on their rebound out of defence

            • September 12th 2016 @ 11:37am
              mattyb said | September 12th 2016 @ 11:37am | ! Report

              Tim,if the Dogs are to tag Gibson or Burgoyne to stop the rebound out of defense,and I think they will,they will use Zaine Cordy as a defending forward. He seems to be paying this role now anyway and is doing an ok job at it. Can’t see Picken getting a tagging role as he is playing very well as an offensive player. If any tagging of onballers is to occur Dunkley will probably get the job. We dont tend to tag much though except for this Cordy concept that’s been going for a few weeks now,which like I said more of just a defensive forward type role.

            • September 12th 2016 @ 4:26pm
              Pumping Dougie said | September 12th 2016 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

              Tim I agree Gison needs to be tagged and I agree with mattyb that Cordy will perform this role. Picken might be used on Burgoyne, although I wouldn’t mind him ‘distracting’ Hodge. Daniel will go to Mitchell. Morris or Hambling to Gunston. Libber to Lewis. Bont, Hunter, Dunkley and Dahlhaus to get off the leash.

              Disappointing to hear a classy champ say today “I don’t want to whinge and moan”, before proceeding to whinge and moan (saying the umps need to pay free kicks to Mitchell if the Doggies attempt what the Selwood brothers did successfully last weekend). He should leave this kind of moaning and pressuring of the umps to his coach, who already has that reputation. I hope the AFL fine him to teach him a lesson.

              • September 12th 2016 @ 5:49pm
                Pumping Dougie said | September 12th 2016 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

                * Classy champ, meaning Shaun “whinge” Burgoyne.

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2016 @ 6:41pm
                Tim Holt said | September 12th 2016 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

                +1 Dougie- Very disappointing Burgoyne taking that line. You cop it sweet and deal with it on the field, keeping in mind we might not mangle players by tagging but we are very willing to leave a knee in here and there when the opportunity arises.

          • September 12th 2016 @ 9:49am
            Cam said | September 12th 2016 @ 9:49am | ! Report

            As Simpson said in his after match “we knew exactly what the Dogs would bring and we couldn’t handle it”.
            It wasn’t a surprise. It was so well executed that they had no answer.

            • Roar Guru

              September 12th 2016 @ 9:55am
              Cat said | September 12th 2016 @ 9:55am | ! Report

              Coaches will never admit being surprised. Knowing what would come at them and knowing how much are two different things as well. If everyone was expecting that kind of performance from the Dogs they wouldn’t have been $6 outsiders going into the game. If Simpson really knew thats the kind of game the Dogs would bring he wouldn’t have brought brown in for Jetta, he’d have found some more leg speed … somewhere.

              • September 12th 2016 @ 10:01am
                Cam said | September 12th 2016 @ 10:01am | ! Report

                Semantics… Gameplan and style was not a surprise, the Dogs intensity and application probably was. But was it? It was a final after all. Coaches don’t set the odds – mug punters do.

    • September 12th 2016 @ 8:46am
      D Fitz said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      Cat, You have every reason to be buoyed. Added to what you say, a further week rest, then only two more games, no travel except up the freeway and both games at your second home the MCG.

    • September 12th 2016 @ 8:47am
      MickyC said | September 12th 2016 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      As a Carlton supporter (living in Sydney) I’ve been on the Bulldogs all year. Being honest, with the injuries they’ve had this year I thought they were cooked coming into the finals. Glad to be proven wrong.

      I had Sydney as my favourite to win before the weekend with Adelaide and the Dogs as the outside chances. Now I don’t know what to think. But I’ll be cheering the Doggies none-the-less (then Adelaide, Giants, Swans, Cats, Hawks in that order. Oh, and the Sharks in the NRL!).

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