JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Four amigos who could carry the Cats all the way

Date

Chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age

View more articles from Greg Baum

Email Greg

X-factor: Travis Varcoe, centre, celebrates a goal with Allen Christensen, left, and Steven Motlop. Photo: Getty Images

X-factor: Travis Varcoe, centre, celebrates a goal with Allen Christensen, left, and Steven Motlop. Photo: Getty Images

A senior figure at Geelong, watching as the Cats demolished Collingwood in a practice game this year, thought to himself that he had never seen such slick movement of the ball, in or out of season, and left certain the Cats would again be in the mix for the premiership this year.

Central to that blinding display was Geelong's indigenous quartet, Travis Varcoe, Mathew Stokes, Allen Christensen and Steven Motlop. Christensen and Motlop have had outstanding seasons, Stokes has been rejuvenated, but the luckless Varcoe suffered a shoulder injury in round three which meant the four did not play together again in the same team until round 20.

It is not easy for a pace-and-touch player such as Varcoe to pick up the rhythms of the game, but the ball is starting to come to hand for him again, and there is a school of thought this foursome represents the X-factor, a sort of multi-Rioli effect, that might prove decisive in the reckoning up of this year's premiership.

Varcoe, Stokes, Christensen and Motlop do not consciously form a clique, but they are close, and fate keeps nudging them closer. This week, all four were named in the provisional indigenous squad to tour Ireland in October.

Then there was a moment in a match against West Coast two weeks ago when Motlop blasted his way through a pack and snapped a handball to Stokes, who goalled, and all four found themselves in a ring-a-ring-a-rosy celebration. ''That was a pretty special moment,'' Christensen said. ''A few people picked it out.

''It's the first time all us four have played together pretty consistently. There's always been two or three of us. I think we all have a pretty good connection with each other and love playing with each other. The boys get a kick out of Stevie Motlop kicking a goal, or taking a mark like he did on the weekend, and Travvy Varcoe breaking lines and chasing down tackles …''

Geelong indulge that flair. ''We want them to play on their instincts,'' line coach James Rahilly said. ''They're naturally gifted players, every one of them, and we don't want to take that away from them and fill them with too many structures. Their unpredictability helps us.''

Christensen cherishes this. ''If you've got speed, you have to use it,'' he said. ''If you've got a leap, you have to go for your marks. The beauty about playing for Geelong is that we have a structure, but we can all play our own way in that structure to make the team better.''

Besides, all four attend to the less glamorous, more rigorous elements of the game. Geelong's defensive game is lesser-sung than, say, Sydney's, but no less effective.

Once, Cameron Ling was at the heart of it. Now he watches in awe from his boundary-line television eyrie. ''Maybe I'm a bit boring, but I love what Stevie Motlop's done this year off the ball,'' Ling said. ''His ability to transition deep into defence to help out his teammates, then bust his backside to get to the fall of the ball in the forward line … that's what makes me think these guys are playing great footy.

''Then kicking those really nice goals - their finish is pretty amazing sometimes - is real reward for the stuff that goes on off the ball.''

Varcoe, Stokes, Christensen and Motlop are linked by their heritage, and are as likely as not to be found together mid-week working on one of Geelong's indigenous projects, but each has made his own distinct journey. Varcoe's has been blighted latterly by injury and personal upheaval, but both are being soothed away. This season, he is the least performed of the four. ''But Trav's proven he can play good footy in big games,'' Ling said.

Stokes floundered a little last year, causing some at Geelong to think his days were numbered. Ling liked what he heard from Stokes early this season, that he was angry with himself about last year. ''He thought it was a wasted year. He didn't do the work that was required,'' Ling said. ''But he went and did something about it in pre-season. He attacked it with real desperation. And he's had an incredible year.''

Christensen and Motlop are youthful contemporaries. Christensen has improved in each of his three seasons. ''He's one of our smartest players,'' Rahilly said. ''He has a gift for the game. We can put him anywhere, in any situation, he reads the game so well. He spends most of his time in the midfield, but every time he sneaks forward, he kicks a couple of goals for us. That's crucial.''

Motlop has been the revelation, a veritable football whisperer. Geelong knew his talent - football manager Neil Balme proclaims to anyone who will listen: ''We've got the good Motlop!'' - but not what he would make of it. ''It was a challenge for Steve to do it on a consistent basis, against good opposition, week in, week out,'' Ling said. ''That's what he's done this year. He's not just showing flashes of brilliance. If he can string it together for a couple of years now, the way he can play, he can take himself into the real elite of the competition.''

Here are four parts whose whole potentially is greater than their sum. They give Geelong extra pairs of sure hands on the ball, and pace, and scoring power on the break. They lessen the Cats' reliance on Tom Hawkins and James Podsiadly. Individually and collectively, they constantly imply the possibility of a special happening any moment now.

''If you see Travvy out of the corner of your eye, and he's going flat out, not many people have got his speed, so you want to use it,'' Christensen said. ''You know if you're in traffic, you can always give it to Motty, because of his speed and his nice step. Stokesy's Stokesy. We're all different, but we work well together.''

1 comment so far

  • Be afraid, opposition, be very afraid

    Commenter
    Glocky
    Date and time
    September 02, 2013, 8:30PM

    Make a comment

    You are logged in as [Logout]

    All information entered below may be published.

    Error: Please enter your screen name.

    Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Please enter your comment.

    Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

    Post to

    You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

    Thank you

    Your comment has been submitted for approval.

    Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

    2014 Home and Away

    Round 1
    Fri, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
    COL 46 vs FRE 116 Report Stats
    Sat, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
    GWS 99 vs SYD 67 Report Report Stats
    GCF 87 vs RIC 69 Report Stats
    Sun, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
    CAR 87 vs PTA 120 Report Stats
    Thu, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
    GEE 119 vs ADE 81 Report Stats
    Fri, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
    NTH 60 vs ESS 99 Report Stats
    Sat, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
    HAW 139 vs BRI 91 Report Stats
    STK 68 vs MEL 51 Report Stats
    Sun, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
    WCE 134 vs WBU 69 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 2
    Thu, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
    RIC 98 vs CAR 86 Report Stats
    Fri, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
    ESS 86 vs HAW 90 Report Stats
    Sat, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
    STK 95 vs GWS 88 Stats
    PTA 127 vs ADE 73 Report Stats
    FRE 87 vs GCF 39 Report Stats
    SYD 69 vs COL 89 Report Stats
    Sun, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
    BRI 68 vs GEE 93 Stats
    MEL 30 vs WCE 123 Report Stats
    WBU 54 vs NTH 83 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 3
    Fri, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
    HAW 137 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
    Sat, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
    WBU 100 vs RIC 98 Report Stats
    ADE 71 vs SYD 134 Report Stats
    GCF 114 vs BRI 61 Stats
    WCE 83 vs STK 58 Report Stats
    COL 76 vs GEE 87 Report Stats
    Sun, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
    GWS 79 vs MEL 47 Report Stats
    NTH 97 vs PTA 90 Report Stats
    ESS 138 vs CAR 57 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 4
    Fri, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 72 vs COL 110 Report Stats
    Sat, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
    CAR 58 vs MEL 81 Report Stats
    PTA 159 vs BRI 46 Report Stats
    GWS 83 vs WBU 110 Report Stats
    GEE 107 vs WCE 32 Report Stats
    GCF 49 vs HAW 148 Report Stats
    Sun, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
    SYD 48 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
    STK 50 vs ADE 136 Report Stats
    FRE 113 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 5
    Thu, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
    BRI 63 vs RIC 106 Report Stats
    Sat, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
    COL 93 vs NTH 58 Report Stats
    SYD 92 vs FRE 75 Report Stats
    WCE 56 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
    ESS 65 vs STK 81 Report Stats
    Sun, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
    ADE 137 vs GWS 72 Report Stats
    MEL 78 vs GCF 86 Report Stats
    WBU 91 vs CAR 119 Report Stats
    Mon, 21 AprTimes shown AEST
    GEE 106 vs HAW 87 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 6
    Fri, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
    COL 83 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
    STK 79 vs BRI 82 Report Stats
    FRE 61 vs NTH 74 Report Stats
    Sat, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
    GCF 134 vs GWS 94 Report Stats
    CAR 92 vs WCE 89 Report Stats
    MEL 38 vs SYD 69 Report Stats
    Sun, 27 AprTimes shown AEST
    WBU 83 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
    RIC 52 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
    PTA 107 vs GEE 67 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 7
    Fri, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 70 vs COL 104 Report Stats
    Sat, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
    HAW 175 vs STK 30 Report Stats
    GWS 97 vs PTA 132 Report Stats
    ADE 67 vs MEL 70 Report Stats
    BRI 44 vs SYD 123 Stats
    ESS 73 vs WBU 65 Report Stats
    Sun, 04 MayTimes shown AEST
    NTH 77 vs GCF 120 Report Stats
    GEE 81 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
    WCE 54 vs FRE 73 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 8
    Fri, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
    SYD 107 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
    Sat, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
    PTA 94 vs FRE 76 Report Stats
    BRI 57 vs ESS 65 Report Stats
    MEL 83 vs WBU 99 Report Stats
    Sun, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
    WCE 188 vs GWS 77 Report Stats
    Mon, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 69 vs CAR 101 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 9
    Thu, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
    ADE 76 vs COL 55 Report Stats
    Fri, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 64 vs SYD 114 Report Stats
    Sat, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
    RIC 74 vs MEL 91 Report Stats
    NTH 125 vs BRI 38 Report Stats
    FRE 96 vs GEE 64 Report Stats
    Sun, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 87 vs GCF 125 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 10
    Fri, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
    GEE 111 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
    Sat, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
    GWS 41 vs RIC 154 Report Stats
    COL 109 vs WCE 101 Report Stats
    PTA 100 vs HAW 86 Report Stats
    Sun, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
    GCF 119 vs WBU 74 Report Stats
    CAR 81 vs ADE 76 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 11
    Thu, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
    SYD 148 vs GEE 38 Report Stats
    Fri, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 54 vs COL 140 Report Stats
    Sat, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
    MEL 75 vs PTA 95 Report Stats
    BRI 98 vs CAR 91 Report Stats
    ESS 104 vs RIC 54 Report Stats
    Sun, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
    ADE 109 vs GCF 77 Report Stats
    WBU 51 vs FRE 89 Report Stats
    HAW 94 vs GWS 87 Report Stats
    WCE 44 vs NTH 82 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 12
    Fri, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE 107 vs CAR 102 Report Stats
    Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW 123 vs WCE 79 Report Stats
    PTA 129 vs STK 59 Report Stats
    WBU 87 vs BRI 95 Report Stats
    GWS 66 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
    Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
    GCF 74 vs SYD 109 Report Stats
    FRE 90 vs ADE 50 Report Stats
    NTH 116 vs RIC 88 Report Stats
    Mon, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
    MEL 28 vs COL 61 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 13
    Fri, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR 90 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
    Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC 85 vs FRE 105 Report Stats
    SYD 98 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
    WCE 103 vs GCF 100 Report Stats
    BRI 80 vs GWS 125 Report Stats
    ADE 109 vs NTH 73 Report Stats
    Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE 133 vs STK 37 Report Stats
    COL 98 vs WBU 106 Report Stats
    ESS 77 vs MEL 78 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 14
    Fri, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC 51 vs SYD 62 Report Stats
    Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
    PTA 128 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
    HAW 115 vs COL 86 Report Stats
    GCF 118 vs GEE 78 Report Stats
    FRE 105 vs BRI 22 Report Stats
    ESS 101 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
    Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
    GWS 100 vs CAR 92 Report Stats
    STK 70 vs WCE 103 Report Stats
    MEL 66 vs NTH 107 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 15
    Fri, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE 89 vs ESS 80 Report Stats
    Sat, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW 116 vs GCF 63 Report Stats
    STK 73 vs RIC 117 Report Stats
    FRE 88 vs WCE 81 Report Stats
    SYD 106 vs GWS 60 Stats
    BRI 70 vs NTH 66 Report Stats
    Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
    WBU 91 vs MEL 85 Report Stats
    ADE 99 vs PTA 76 Report Stats
    COL 91 vs CAR 76 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 16
    Fri, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
    NTH 108 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
    Sat, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC 79 vs BRI 54 Stats
    GWS 72 vs ADE 140 Report Stats
    GCF 80 vs COL 75 Report Stats
    MEL 34 vs FRE 97 Report Stats
    PTA 60 vs ESS 62 Report Stats
    Sun, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR 151 vs STK 66 Report Stats
    WCE 51 vs SYD 79 Report Stats
    GEE 69 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 17
    Fri, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
    ADE 92 vs HAW 104 Report Stats
    Sat, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
    MEL 36 vs GEE 102 Report Stats
    NTH 92 vs STK 33 Report Stats
    WBU 94 vs GCF 66 Report Stats
    BRI 64 vs WCE 76 Report Stats
    SYD 122 vs CAR 51 Report Stats
    Sun, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC 126 vs PTA 106 Report Stats
    ESS 103 vs COL 39 Report Stats
    FRE 136 vs GWS 60 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 18
    Fri, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR 109 vs NTH 86 Report Stats
    Sat, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
    STK 118 vs FRE 60 Report Stats
    GWS 87 vs GEE 94 Report Stats
    Sun, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
    PTA 72 vs MEL 69 Report Stats
    WBU 94 vs ESS 101 Report Stats
    Fri, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
    WCE 42 vs RIC 59 Report Stats
    Sat, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
    BRI 110 vs GCF 56 Report Stats
    HAW 104 vs SYD 94 Report Stats
    Sun, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
    COL 82 vs ADE 98 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 19
    Thu, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
    FRE 83 vs CAR 78 Report Stats
    Fri, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD 79 vs ESS 57 Report Stats
    Sat, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE 105 vs WCE 136 Report Stats
    RIC 89 vs GWS 62 Report Stats
    GCF 117 vs STK 64 Report Stats
    NTH 79 vs GEE 111 Report Stats
    Sun, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
    MEL 51 vs BRI 74 Stats
    HAW 107 vs WBU 45 Report Stats
    COL 76 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 20
    Fri, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
    RIC 95 vs ESS 77 Report Stats
    Sat, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
    GWS 51 vs NTH 126 Report Stats
    CAR 97 vs GCF 58 Report Stats
    HAW 115 vs MEL 65 Report Stats
    PTA 58 vs SYD 84 Report Stats
    GEE 81 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
    Sun, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
    BRI 63 vs ADE 168 Report Stats
    STK 99 vs WBU 122 Report Stats
    WCE 126 vs COL 66 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 21
    Fri, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
    CAR 76 vs GEE 82 Report Stats
    Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD 127 vs STK 56 Stats
    GCF 47 vs PTA 56 Report Stats
    ESS 77 vs WCE 74 Report Stats
    COL 56 vs BRI 123 Report Stats
    ADE 69 vs RIC 79 Report Stats
    Sun, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH 111 vs WBU 61 Report Stats
    MEL 34 vs GWS 98 Report Stats
    FRE 110 vs HAW 91 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 22
    Fri, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
    PTA 140 vs CAR 37 Report Stats
    Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH 101 vs ADE 94 Report Stats
    ESS 108 vs GCF 89 Report Stats
    GWS 67 vs COL 75 Report Stats
    WCE 119 vs MEL 53 Report Stats
    HAW 94 vs GEE 71 Report Stats
    Sun, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
    BRI 48 vs FRE 106 Report Stats
    WBU 67 vs SYD 130 Report Stats
    RIC 98 vs STK 72 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 23
    Fri, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL 56 vs HAW 121 Stats
    Sat, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
    CAR 90 vs ESS 90 Stats
    FRE 105 vs PTA 97 Stats
    SYD 65 vs RIC 68 Stats
    NTH 123 vs MEL 93 Stats
    GEE 143 vs BRI 81 Stats
    Sun, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
    GCF 99 vs WCE 151 Stats
    ADE 141 vs STK 62 Stats
    WBU 109 vs GWS 115 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    AFL Finals Round 1
    Fri, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
    HAW 104 vs GEE 68 Report Stats
    Sat, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
    SYD 93 vs FRE 69 Stats
    NTH 93 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
    Sun, 07 SepTimes shown AEST
    PTA 132 vs RIC 75 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    AFL Finals Round 2
    Fri, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
    GEE 92 vs NTH 98 Stats
    Sat, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
    FRE 83 vs PTA 105 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    AFL Finals Round 3
    Fri, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
    SYD 136 vs NTH 65 Report Stats
    Sat, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
    HAW 97 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    AFL Finals Round 4
    Sat, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
    SYD 74 vs HAW 137 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    AFL Home and Away
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D % Pts
    Sydney Swans 22 17 5 0 142.88 68
    Hawthorn 22 17 5 0 140.78 68
    Geelong Cats 22 17 5 0 113.77 68
    Fremantle 22 16 6 0 130.40 64
    Port Adelaide 22 14 8 0 129.92 56
    North Melbourne 22 14 8 0 117.04 56
    Essendon 22 12 9 1 106.34 50
    Richmond 22 12 10 0 105.77 48
    View all
     
    Win an iPad mini by entering our Sport survey
    Featured advertisers