Western Bulldogs rookie Lin Jong shrugs off a tackle from Geelong's Jordan Murdoch. Photo: Paul Rovere
GEELONG 3.2 8.4 10.8 16.11 (107) WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 3.3 7.5 11.7 (73)
GOALS Geelong: Hawkins 4, Taylor 2, Corey 2, Chapman 2, Christensen, Hunt, Podsiadly, Duncan, Stokes, West. Western Bulldogs: Grant 3, Howard 2, Cooney, Giansiracusa, Jong, Griffen, Higgins, Skinner.
BEST Geelong: Enright, Hunt, Duncan, Mackie, Murdoch, Podsiadly, Hawkins, Chapman, Lonergan. Western Bulldogs: Wallis, Griffen, Boyd, Cooney, Jong, Higgins.
INJURIES Geelong: Smedts (finger), Varcoe (foot), Scarlett (ankle) replaced in selected side by Guthrie, T Hunt (groin) replaced in selected side by Smedts. Western Bulldogs: Giansiracusa (knee), Lake (foot/knee) replaced in selected side by Skinner, Johannisen (calf) replaced in selected side by Grant.
UMPIRES S Stewart, C Kamolins, H Ryan.
CROWD 18,047 at Simonds Stadium.
ONE team was young, inexperienced and one week away from finishing up for the year. The other team hopes, wants and is planning to be playing for a few more weeks yet. It was not surprising that they experienced, felt and saw different things in their match yesterday.
The Bulldogs yesterday beat Geelong for contested possession, winning by almost 30. They won the clearances, too, almost doubling the Cats' count. They were able, after trailing by five goals at half-time, to sneak back to within 15 points and score some easy goals when they forced the ball up, over or through the Geelong half-back line.
Geelong v Western Bulldogs
Geelong comfortably win their match at home against the Western Bulldogs Photo: Paul Rovere
Their coach, Brendan McCartney, was not happy with how they started or finished the match, but was pleased with how many of his players were able to worm their way into a game in which they had not set the initiative. Mitch Wallis got to see how Jimmy Bartel and Joel Corey do things, and still had six clearances.
Lin Jong, playing just his third game, made a few mistakes but ran, ran some more and jumped with courage all day. Jordan Roughead got to play against Tom Hawkins, the most in-form big forward around; Jarrad Grant picked out three holes in the Geelong back line; and Ryan Griffen got another 37 hard-won possessions.
The Dogs were the side that won't be around past next week, to whom small wins meant something much more, and McCartney saw quite a few of them. ''You talk about things for a few weeks but you need to spend time looking at footage with young players and not-so-young players about just hanging into a game and what it means to play contest by contest, every minute of the game and get little wins along the way - whether we create another stoppage or deny the opposition the ball or use your numbers, whatever it is, just keep some control of the game. We did that a lot better,'' he said.
But not quite well, or for long enough, which brings us to Geelong. The Cats won by a comfortable 34 points. When they did not get their hands to the ball first, they were able to win it back. And when they got it, they used it extremely well. Most members of their back line have played together for many years and, in the first half, they looked like it, picking where the ball was headed, picking it off and getting it moving, with precision, back towards the other end. Even the most recent addition, Jordan Murdoch, looked like he knew exactly when his teammates wanted him to sprint, or shoot off a quick pass.
Wallis, playing in the middle, noticed how much the Geelong players trusted each other, how quickly and emphatically they moved. ''We base our game around the contest, like they do, but their spread away from the contest and what they do with the ball … we can really take a leaf our of their book in that way,'' he said.
''They're very experienced and you find yourself playing on a big-name player and worrying about what they're doing, so they can sort of dictate the terms.''
With Brian Lake missing, the Bulldogs were left with Roughead - new to the back line - on Hawkins, and Michael Talia - new to the AFL - on James Podsiadly.
The Cats moved the ball forward beautifully - through Mitch Duncan, Bartel, James Kelly or Corey - and both Hawkins and Podsiadly marked well, particularly in the first half.
Their good kicking made way for marks all over the ground, and they took 43 more than the Dogs.
The Cats made the most of the Bulldogs' turnovers, too. Paul Chapman not only scored two goals in the second quarter but created other things simply by nudging players out of the way, clearing paths for the ball or running hard to get to where it was headed.
Leading by 31 points at half-time, the Cats allowed the Bulldogs to get back in the game, but only for so long. Josh Hunt was disappointed with how many easy goals the Cats let slip through, while coach Chris Scott thought they let things get away from them for much of the second half, albeit in a game that had no real consequences.
Still, his side controlled what happened. Even when the Bulldogs got going, the Cats were able to reset without fuss. That they did not win the contested possessions, or the clearances, was not something that worried their coach. After all, they won the game.
''Certainly, some of the statistical numbers weren't great, but I think in some ways it's an indication of the way modern footy's going,'' Scott said. ''Some of the things that people have held very dear maybe aren't as important as they think they are.
''I keep hearing on TV that if you win the contested possessions, you win the game. We were smashed there … but in the end we were in front in inside-50s. I'm not saying it doesn't matter, but the statistics can certainly be a little bit misleading.''
STEVIE J AT CHEEKY BEST
Steve Johnson spent much of the first quarter on the ball, but he headed forward after a goal and did his best not to be noticed, deep in the forward pocket. The Cats were going forward again when Johnson was spotted, Bob Murphy sending Easton Wood to pick him up before he could pull off the day's most mischievous move.
YOUNG PUPS SHINE
There were promising signs from Bulldog Michael Talia, who had his hands full, playing on James Podsiadly, Tom Campbell took some strong contested marks and Mitch Wallis was excellent in the clinches.
LUCKY FOR HIGGINS
Shaun Higgins got a little lucky before scoring his first goal midway through the third quarter; somehow, Dylan Addison's (extremely) short pass was deemed a mark, then a 50-metre penalty got him to the goal line.