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Cats may rise from depths

Date

Martin Blake

Andrew Mackie lies on the ground dejected after Geelong was defeated by the Sydney Swans.

Andrew Mackie lies on the ground dejected after Geelong was defeated by the Sydney Swans. Photo: Getty Images

RECOVERY SESSION

HERE'S how fine a line football has. Geelong, the unkillable, is staggering as we speak, at least by its own impossibly high standards.

Seventh on the ladder at 7-5, the Cats probably cannot make the top four now, and by extension, seem highly unlikely to defend the premiership. But Chris Scott's team has had a string of close games in 2012 and it could have been otherwise, quite easily.

A four-point loss to Fremantle in Perth to start the season is an example. Against Collingwood in round eight the Cats drew level with the Magpies with two minutes to go only to suffer for a split-second decision by Josh Hunt to tackle Alex Fasolo after the Collingwood player had marked near the wing, Hunt convinced that he had touched the football. The 50-metre penalty made Fasolo's match-winning goal a certainty, and then Scott Pendlebury kicked another on the siren.

Then there was last Friday night in Sydney. In front with two minutes to go after a dynamic last-quarter revival, Geelong conceded a goal to Andrejs Everitt and was five points down when David Wojcinski ran on to a loose ball in the middle of the ground.

Wojcinski trapped it and headed forward; because Sydney was in its zone press, there was no one in Geelong's half of the ground. There were 26 seconds on the clock when Wojcinski the roadrunner baulked Heath Grundy and bolted towards goal.

But Grundy made the match-saving play with his outstretched right hand, spiking the football as Wojcinski passed him, and diving on it as it bobbled out of the Geelong player's grasp. Sydney held on.

Two games and percentage behind fourth-placed West Coast, Geelong should win its next two games against Port Adelaide and Gold Coast. Beyond that it has a tough draw and looks more likely to sit in the bottom half of the eight as some kind of wildcard entry.

The Cats still have to play the entire top four again, and they have only four more games at Geelong. It looks like it will take at least 16 wins to make top-four, and to do that, the Cats would need to win nine of the last 10.

Moreover they looked slow on Friday night when Sydney turned on the afterburners in the first quarter at the SCG. Here was a wonderful football irony: stodgy-by-repute Sydney was too quick, and free-wheeling Geelong had to shut the game down to get it back on its terms.

Sydney rightly gets plaudits for being a perennial power; the Swans have only missed the finals once in the past nine years and are a contender again. But Geelong is on another level for consistency, even up against Sydney. It has been ''up'' since 2005, the year of the Nick Davis heist game, with three flags and only one dip, in 2006.

The wheel is meant to turn. In Geelong's case, their numbers just keep coming up, and warrior-footballers such as Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel, Paul Chapman and Matthew Scarlett refuse to allow the slide to happen.

They are too good to write off, even now. What can be deduced is that Geelong probably will not make the top four but will be mightily dangerous as a bottom-half-of-eight team. A little like North Melbourne in 1997, when the Roos had a bad injury run and plummeted from the premiership in the previous season to seventh.

In those days, the first round of finals were all knockout, with second (Geelong) playing North in seventh. Wayne Carey duly kicked seven goals, and out went Geelong. Although North expired in the preliminary final, it had enough star quality to get there.

No one will want to play Geelong in a final regardless of where it finishes.

The season is about to get more interesting. For instance Geelong has a stretch between rounds 16 and 20 when it plays the top four, plus Hawthorn. The Hawks (8-4, sixth) probably need to win eight of their last 10 to go top-four, which makes the likes of this Friday's clash with Carlton pivotal.

For Al Clarkson's team, the games against Collingwood, Essendon and Geelong from rounds 17 to 19 will likely decide their fate. They also have to meet Sydney (at the SCG) and West Coast in the last two rounds, so it is a hard road.

But again, even if they are outside the top four, they are potentially dangerous with the Franklin-Rioli factor and Luke Hodge potentially reinjecting himself into the side.

Adelaide (9-3) has six more home games at AAMI Stadium and could yet threaten the top four, Essendon keeps performing and so does Sydney. Collingwood is a given, the deepest team in the competition and with superstar quality at the top.

As for the defending premier, Chris Scott continues to treat each game the same way. ''There's no such thing as a make-or-break game until the mathematics say that you can't make it,'' he said last Friday in Sydney. ''We can win every game from here, and what will be, will be.''

People keep saying that 2012 is a unique season and it looks that way. If Hawthorn and Geelong find themselves between fifth and eighth, you might well have the deepest finals series ever.

23 comments

  • Easy to highlight what could have been's and if only's, but it changes nothing. Had Hawthorn kicked one of the multitude of opportunities it had in the Geelong and West Coast game it would be on top, but they didn't so they're not. So it's no use even discussing it.
    Facts are Geelong have not looked convincing, even when they have beaten the bottom teams. I would not be surprised if Port beat them this week, they beat Gold Coast, then struggle to win another game or two for the year. I'd say more than worried about making the top 4, I think they will be lucky to make the 8, so that is their immediate concern.
    As for this garbage about being scared to play this team or that team in the finals, I'd rather play Geelong at the MCG than West Coast in Perth, Adelaide in Adelaide, or Sydney at the SCG.

    Commenter
    Will Turner
    Date and time
    June 26, 2012, 7:50AM
    • Ive got a bit of a problem with comments about Essendon recently. In this article it says Essendon keeps performing. In the last three weeks i saw them play awful footy and be beaten by Melbourne who had not won a game in 2012, the week after they were beaten by the Swans and so they beat Freo this week, so what. It extends to Jobe Watson who is brownlow material ? and has supposedly starred in each of these games mentioned here, against Melbourne he had 4 disposals and in the one win out of the last three he had 12, hes been good but not outstanding as everyone is saying ? He's not blessed for pace and against Collingwood he never gets a kick in any of those games.

      Commenter
      Buzz
      Location
      Aireys Inlet
      Date and time
      June 26, 2012, 8:04AM
      • Learn a bit about the game mate. We chased arse all day against Coll'wood & still got within a point. You forget we had an extremely bruising encounter against the undefeated carlton 4 days before whilst your blokes had a match against port. I think Jobe's stats of 10 kicks, 6 marks, 12 handballs & 7 tackles stands up OK against the best centreline in the league (both teams had staff missing that day) however brownlow swan shouldn't be forgotten. His stats 4 days earlier again, against the undefeated carlton who were flying until that day were 31 disposals, 17 kicks, 2 marks,14 handballs, 3 tackles. Best stay out of arguments that concern champions mate, they always rise above deriding comments, just like disparaging comments about how good Buckley was!

        Commenter
        bomber
        Location
        Ballarat
        Date and time
        June 26, 2012, 12:16PM
      • yes we lsot to melb. and we played poorly, but not terribly. melb were up, and it was a wet scrappy game.

        and we lost to sydney after playing 3 average qtr's. to almost win on the siren after being outplayed for 3 quarters says something about a team.

        we beat freo in freo, another tick in the box for us not having done that in forever.

        oh, and we happen to beat carlton & west coast by 10 goals each, got pipped by ladder leaders by a point, and beat rich, north as well.

        after we beat doggies by 5 goals plus this week, we'll beat saints (we beat them even when we were bad) and then beat port at home.

        geelong dont scare us, next real test for bombers is hawks.

        Commenter
        matty
        Location
        melb
        Date and time
        June 26, 2012, 12:32PM
    • "In those days, the first round of finals were all knockout, with second (Geelong) playing North in seventh.... and out went Geelong." Not true. Geelong played Adelaide the following week and were bundled out by virtue of the "Colbert mark."

      "It has been ''up'' since 2005, the year of the Nick Davis heist game, with three flags and only one dip, in 2006." Geelong made the preliminary final in 2004.

      A little more research next time, Mr Blake.

      Finals are a different level, as we all know. I don't think many teams scrapping into the final eight would relish playing Geelong first up. Go Cats!

      Commenter
      Christopher
      Date and time
      June 26, 2012, 8:14AM
      • The pies could have been shaky too and still might miss top 4. 1 point win to Bombers, the Cats game you mention in your article, Martin, and the close encounter with West Coast. They have to face all other top 4 teams, all other but one of the teams in the 8, and all but 2 of the other top 12 teams. And winning hides the little endemic problems.

        Commenter
        chugga
        Location
        jacksonville, FL
        Date and time
        June 26, 2012, 8:22AM
        • Geelong's impressive recent history dictates that the year they finally slid would always mean they'd be considered a 'dangerous floater', which I suppose they are.

          As of right now though, the stats back up what the eyes tell you - they have been unimpressive, and far from unlucky to not have more wins, they have been fortunate to have as many as they do.

          They have played teams ranked 1-12 on the ladder eight times so far for a 3-5 record, and in six of those games they've been down at 3/4 time.

          The Cats were outplayed in the eyes of neutrals despite winning against Hawthorn (who are mentally fragile against Geelong) and Richmond (who didn't have the experience or belief to get the job done), while the Bulldogs stuck it to them and Carlton were in the midst of playing some of the worst football of the year when they pushed them all the way.

          Come September, and the Cats will make it purely on will power if nothing else, they will be rightly considered a chance on any given day against any given opposition, but based on what they've shown so far, considering they haven't even won four games in a row with mediocre to poor opposition thrown in, they couldn't possibly win four finals in a row against quality.

          Commenter
          Cam Rose
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          June 26, 2012, 8:30AM
          • It would seem from the discussion that most top teams have a tough run home. And given how close many of the games have been, it would seem that many teams will trade results - a win one week followed by a loss (against good oppostion) the next.

            So who has the following draw?

            St. Kilda home
            North Melbourne away
            Richmond home
            Port Adelaide home
            GWS GIANTS away
            West Coast Eagles home
            Geelong Cats away
            Essendon home
            Fremantle home
            Brisbane Lions away
            Melbourne away
            Gold Coast SUNS home

            The crows.

            So one tough away game in the last 12 rounds. Only 4 games against teams in the top half of the table - 3 of those at home. 8 games against the bottom 9 teams. Hard to see them not finishing on top. (plus 4 games against the GCS and GWS when most teams only get 2).

            FIXture is the right word to describe this travesty.

            Commenter
            kepler22b
            Date and time
            June 26, 2012, 9:26AM
            • I think that you are all missing a vital piece of info - 2007 2009 2011 means 2013 is next. Aside from that we all know that a season has form slumps and lifts and builds and declines - No team will want to play them because as Hawthorn proved in '08 a good team can be the better team on the day. And the Cats are still at least a good team at the moment, and if they click, they are awesome. Better to be building and firing in August and September. Yeah, yeah there are issues about injuries and outside run and the ruckmen and players genuinely being slower over the first ten metres than their opponents - but lets not forget when J.Bartel first played people were crowing for him to be traded because he was 'too slow'. the quickest way to get the ball from one end of the ground to the other is to kick it not to run with it. So link play, leading forwards, players making space to lead into, spoiling and causing turnovers so the other side is ill-prepared to defend is the best way of winning.

              Commenter
              Mike tha Mad Catta
              Location
              Brissy
              Date and time
              June 26, 2012, 10:32AM
              • Nice to have faith in your team Mike, but 2013 for their next flag....ha ha ha.
                Id say more like 2031....

                Commenter
                Not a dreamer like Mike
                Date and time
                June 26, 2012, 1:17PM

            More comments

            Comments are now closed

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            AFL Home and Away
            Overall standings
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            Sydney Swans 22 17 5 0 142.88 68
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            Fremantle 22 16 6 0 130.40 64
            Port Adelaide 22 14 8 0 129.92 56
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            Essendon 22 12 9 1 106.34 50
            Richmond 22 12 10 0 105.77 48
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