Cats whet their appetite
Geelong v Sydney
Tom Hawkins outmarks Heath Grundy. Photo: Pat Scala
GEELONG 4.3 7.5 12.7 17.10 (112) SYDNEY 4.5 5.8 7.12 11.12 (78)
GOALS Geelong: Hawkins 4, Podsiadly 3, Chapman 3, Christensen, Mackie, Bartel, Duncan, Vardy, Johnson, Lonergan. Sydney: Goodes 2, McVeigh 2, McGlynn, Bolton, Kennedy, Jack, O'Keefe, Mumford, Walsh.
BEST Geelong: Taylor, Selwood, Kelly, Chapman, Bartel, Duncan.
Sydney: Kennedy, Jack, Richards, McVeigh, Armstrong, Goodes.
INJURIES Sydney: Smith (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Armstrong.
REPORTS Geelong: Chapman reported in the first quarter by field umpire Schmitt for striking McGlynn.
UMPIRES Schmitt, Meredith, Rosebury.
CROWD 20,045 at Skilled Stadium.
SYDNEY did what Sydney does at Geelong yesterday - it threw the kitchen sink at the Cats. Geelong did what it does at its best when confronted that way: a roaring trade in scrap metal.
For more than a half, the match was played at Geelong's end of the ground, but on Sydney's always ferocious terms. Geelong was happy to accept them; given the choice between a feather-bed preliminary to the finals and this furnace, coach Chris Scott said this was preferable. He would.
Harry Taylor of the Cats takes a mark as Adam Goodes of the Swans leaps up to contest. Photo: Getty Images
One team had to break and it was Sydney. Geelong kicked eight unanswered goals in less than a quarter of football, widely spaced at first, and then in a torrent as the Swans buckled. Thereafter, all was sundries. The Cats were able to shut up shop early and head for the metaphorical pub. Scott's only quibble was that with a 71-41 preponderance of inside 50s, the Cats profit margin should have been even more handsome this day.
But as he looked through the day's loot, two items would have pleased him more than most. In his first game for more than a year, the rangy Nathan Vardy took and won the first bounce. It was a resounding re-announcement. In a rare moment of fluency in the whirlpool that was the second quarter, he outmarked Marty Mattner one-on-one and coolly slotted a goal. Mid-way through the last quarter, he was subbed out, only because Geelong had that luxury by then, said Scott.
Don't be fooled by meagre statistics - Vardy opens up new timely horizons for the Cats. ''Nathan Vardy's a fantastic story,'' said Scott. ''We'll try not to get too excited about the way he played today, but it's going to be difficult. Right from the first bounce, where he jumped over the top of the Sydney ruckman, it was exciting to watch.
''Four or five weeks ago, we weren't really thinking about him at AFL level, but he just played well enough and felt good enough in the previous three weeks to force his way in. Trent West is still very much our No. 1 ruckman, but we think we've got good support there. We still don't have massive stocks of ruckmen, but we think we've got some pretty nice options there going into September.''
Vardy's display teased out the imp in Scott. Asked how he had pulled up, Scott replied: ''As the physios say, he's asymptomatic. Which means he's going OK. He's got a big broad smile.''
Geelong is a precious metal; it never loses its value. Yet, truthfully now, it is an amalgam. Vardy represents the new that somehow is melding perfectly with the old. The old was personified yesterday by Paul Chapman, fully a decade Vardy's senior, but still as hungry as any youth. When the game was at its hottest in the first quarter, he shook himself free to kick two goals. He added another in the third quarter from a classic goal-square mark. Others had time to size up each other and the incoming kick, but Chapman arrived at just the right moment.
Chapman has a lust to win every contest that by rights should have dulled at Geelong by now, but has not. He, too, tantalised Scott. ''It's a little bit unfair to say he's had an up-and-down season,'' he said. ''He's played more as a forward than he has previously, so he has been out of the play a bit. We haven't dominated games offensively the way Geelong has in the past. He's played his role really well. He's still a very, very dangerous player inside the forward 50. We saw that again today and hopefully we'll see it for the next month.''
Chapman also exercised Scott's humour. Asked if he was concerned that Chapman was on report, Scott said he had watched the incident again and saw nothing in it. Challenged that this was a violation of the coaches' see-no-evil code, Scott said that if he thought there was anything in it, he would have said that he hadn't seen it.
For Sydney, this day yielded neither a laugh nor a gilt edge. The loss of Sam Reid and, at the last minute, Nick Smith, left it bereft up forward. It wasn't just that the other forwards played poorly, but that for long stretches in the middle of the game, the Swans had no forwards.
At one stage in the second quarter, all but five players were in Geelong's forward 50. It meant that the Cats had no workspace and explained their inefficiency then. But it also meant that when Sydney's beleaguered and mostly honourable backmen won the ball, they literally had nowhere to go. Not the least beneficiary was Harry Taylor, who took 14 marks.
Coach John Longmire said the Swans were ''a bit stagnant''. But the least you know about the Swans is that they will go to Adelaide next week armed with a new kitchen sink.
Sydney belted out of the blocks to take Geelong head-on at its home fortress, so much so there were more tackles than kicks halfway through the first quarter. The Swans heaped on pressure in defence, playing chunks of the game without a player in their attacking half, throwing their big bodies onto the Cats and denying them runs on the scoreboard.
Cats fans did a double-take halfway through the second quarter when a ball booted from the middle landed in the paws of Tom Lonergan in the goal square. So what? Lonergan is a reliable backman. The only thing was he wasn't in defence. He had strayed to the forward line, and booted his third major for the season. Even radio commentators briefly misnamed him, thinking it was Tom Hawkins.
Hawkins showed no concern about pushing for the top of the Coleman Medal table early. After he marked in front of goal at point-blank range he chose to handball to Steve Johnson. But good things come to those who wait. Hawkins kicked two goals in the first half to tie with Fremantle's Matthew Pavlich and a goal from outside 50 late in the third quarter to give him a one goal lead. - JARED LYNCH