Hamish McIntosh of the Cats and Will Minson of the Bulldogs compete in the ruck. Photo: Getty Images
Geelong coach Chris Scott will not argue with the people who keep telling him his side is no good, but he is optimistic and excited about what lies ahead for the team that kept a top-four spot in sight with a tough win over the Western Bulldogs on Sunday, believing the Cats’ best is still to come.
The Cats racked up a tackle count of 129 - their second highest ever - in the 13-point victory that took them to 11 wins for the season, in fifth spot on the ladder but equal on points with Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Fremantle. They play Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney in the next two rounds.
“People keep telling me we’re no good. They’ve been telling me for four years. I’m not going to argue with them, it’s not my place,” said Scott.
AFL Round 16: Geelong v Western Bulldogs
Stewart Crameri and Jared Rivers chase the ball. Photo: Getty Images
“We’re concentrating on what we’re doing, but I think everyone around the Geelong region is excited about what’s coming, because we don’t know.
“Maybe six or seven years ago people were more confident about what was coming, but what we are now is genuinely excited and there’s a sense of anticipation because no-one knows what’s coming. But I can tell you, we’re not pessimistic about it.”
The Cats remain undefeated in Victoria this year, with their four losses coming on the road against Sydney, Fremantle, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide - three of the top four sides.
Geelong won without James Kelly, who withdrew due to soreness, and ruckman Dawson Simpson, who was left out when Scott saw rain was on the way.
“We’ve been beaten by some very good teams away, and the way the draw is, if you happen to play those teams away, it’s harder than playing at home if you only play them once,” Scott said.
“The way it’s gone, most teams have been beaten by those teams on their home deck, and I reckon we’ve been pretty good in Melbourne. We haven’t lost a game in Melbourne.
“We’re in a position where our destiny is in our own hands, and I think there are five teams all saying the same thing. From that perspective, I think this is going to be a really exciting season.”
Geelong worked its way to a six-goal lead during the first half, before allowing the Bulldogs to grind their way back into the game by improving their work around the stoppages.
Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney was pleased his side was able to adjust to what the Cats were able to do in space early on, but thought his players were beaten by a smarter, better team that knew what to do in the wet conditions.
“They were better at crucial times. I don’t think for one second that we should think they didn’t deserve the win. They were smarter than us at crucial times. They set the ground up really well and their older boys down back are brilliant at it, they learnt it a long time ago,” McCartney said.
"We were strong, we had a crack but we had periods in the second half where we didn’t get the result we should have because individually some people moved away from a plan that was working really well.”
While Marcus Bontempelli was one of a number of young Bulldogs to continue his good form, McCartney said young onballer Jack Macrae began the game in the substitute's vest because he had begun to stray from what the team needed him to do and had been lucky to stay in the side.
“Outside our club everyone would look at Jack Macrae getting it 25 times a game and doing this and doing that. Jack’s been letting us down in some areas and those areas he’s well aware of and they actually bobbed up again late in the game today,” he said.
“There’s possessions and then there’s team accountability and there’s defensive decision making which doesn’t overload your teammates. We've got a really good opportunity to mould some fantastic young players the right way, not kill their creativity and flair or their ability to play, but you’ve got to fit the play.”
The Cats conceded 12 more free kicks than the Bulldogs - 13 to 25 - with Scott saying he welcomed the wider football community’s recent debate about the holding-the-ball rule and would contact the umpires department about anything his club did not understand about Sunday’s game.
“The numbers are what they are. We're not here to make excuses or complaints. I've said a number of times, we all have bad days. And if they had a bad day, so be it,” Scott said.
“We've got to suck it up and get on with it. And if there's parts we don't understand, then we'll have a mature conversation during the week with the powers that be."