High times: Jimmy Bartel is chaired off by his teammates after putting in a typically classy performance in his 250th game. Photo: Pat Scala
Over the long, barren days of summer, football fans dream of balmy March nights when their heroes are as fit and tanned as they will be all year, and their most beloved plays as if ball and opponents are under his command. In his 250th game, of course this was how it rolled for Jimmy Bartel.
On Thursday night, on a fast home track against a willing foe, Bartel was already having a dandy time before a second quarter in which he kicked three goals, delivered one to Corey Enright on a silver platter, and would have rolled through a fourth if not for a score review that showed the value of having a camera in the right place - on the goal line.
This was mark enough of his genius, but it was the way he repeatedly found 30 metres of space in a game that doesn't give away real estate that showed the magician in him had come to his own party.
AFL: Round 1, Geelong v Adelaide
Age photograph Pat Scala was a at Simonds Stadium to cover the Round 1 match between Geelong and Adelaide. Geelong eventual winners 119 to 81. Photo: Pat Scala PDS
- Q4 29:38
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Bartel (4.1), Brown (3.0), Selwood (2.1), Johnson (1.2), Hawkins (1.1), Stokes (1.1), Caddy (1.0), Duncan (1.0), Enright (1.0), McIntosh (1.0), Murdoch (1.0), Simpson (1.0), Guthrie (0.1), McCarthy (0.1), Taylor (0.1)||Scorers||Johnston (3.0), Betts (2.1), Dangerfield (2.0), McKernan (1.1), Grigg (1.0), Jacobs (1.0), Jaensch (1.0), Smith (1.0), Sloane (0.2), Podsiadly (0.1), Thompson (0.1), Wright (0.1)|
Chasing consecutive wins over Geelong for the first time in more than a decade, the visitors matched the locals for pressure, kicked goals from set shots (Lewis Johnston three) and long range on the run (Matt Jaensch and Brodie Smith) were the epitome of their 2014 expectation - a team that will rebound with a bang from last season's injury-hit underachievement.
The Crows have undoubted star quality in Patrick Dangerfield, Rory Sloane and Scott Thompson, but much of the heavy lifting at Simonds Stadium was done by players more unsung than they should be. As good as any were a pair of Matts, Wright and Jaensch, and relative newcomers such as Johnston, Mitch Grigg, Sam Kerridge and Brad Crouch, who will soon be better known.
Dangerfield was held to a whisper early by Cam Guthrie, but a barely believable threading of the needle from a pocket oiled his wheels and he made some typically telling contributions as the night wore on.
Less than a goal separated the teams for much of the night, but the first three possessions of the last quarter went Joel Selwood, Bartel, Selwood again, signalling to the Crows that an upset would be hard-won indeed.
Enter Dangerfield, scooting past Kerridge for a rare uncontested possession and nailing it from 50. The response was immediate, as was the way for much of the night, Steve Johnson finding a gear that largely eluded him to goal from deep in the pocket, then Mitch Brown stepping up to add two to the game-opener he snapped in the contest's first minute.
By now Selwood was making the game his own, showing those up-and-coming Crows (and his own teammates, young and old) the value of four-quarter football. He appeared in the goalsquare as if it harboured a manhole, then gave Hamish McIntosh the chance to crown a grateful return with a second goal. The former Roo endeared himself to Cat fans all the more by handing Bartel his fourth.
Geelong had toyed for weeks with its ruck set-up, and after leaving out Dawson Simpson to give McIntosh his first game after two years as a Cat with Mark Blicavs in support, the brains trust called Simpson in at the 11th hour, made Blicavs sub and left George Horlin-Smith in the stands.
Simpson's back-for-more attitude through 11 games in six seasons has won him a special place in hooped hearts, and when both he and McIntosh goaled in the opening 20 minutes there was delirium.