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Roos bust flat Cats

Date

Greg Baum

Ruthless Kangaroos take full advantage of a mentally and physically tired Geelong.

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Hits and misses of round three

Our footy experts review the highlights and lowlights from the weekend's AFL action.

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THIS was a landmark victory for North Melbourne, its first over a top-four team in the Brad Scott era. Geelong might have claimed an excuse. Its previous match was six days earlier. It was one of the best of the season, but it can have left little in reserve, and there was little time to replenish. North Melbourne's was 15 days previously and, in between, it took a weekend sabbatical in Hobart.

Chris Scott, though, was having none of it. "It's a feeble excuse," he said.

Nonetheless, from the beginning of yesterday's clash at Docklands, the Cats were atypically sluggish. Good players fumbled and made poor decisions. Joel Corey was caught red-handed with the ball - a once-a-year happening. Others could not force their way into the contest until it was over. Geelong lost the clearances, its birthright.

Geelong did not surrender the game, of course. North had to win it. This was the business of Brent Harvey, Daniel Wells and Jack Ziebell especially. Through their smarts, North made what can only be called a clean getaway.

North's ball movement was as Geelong's usually is, swift, neat and visionary. In all their work, the Roos were a thought ahead. Lindsay Thomas personified this when flinging himself with the flight of the ball, into onrushing Andrew Mackie, and somehow maintaining the presence of mind to palm it to a passing teammate. The outcome was a goal for Leigh Adams. The collision put Mackie out of the match with a mashed-up mouth; it was that sort of night for the Cats.

North was worthy of its match-long lead, but on another day might have paid for profligacy. Again, Thomas was representative, missing a point-blank set shot, but curling another like a Frisbee from the boundary line.

Oddly enough, North talisman Drew Petrie did not kick a goal and was ineffectual on the night. Instead, there was a steady stream from the rampant midfield.

James Podsiadly prompted the Cats with a baby screamer, and goal, the first of five for him. But they were exceptions to the night's rule. In the second quarter, the Cats betrayed their concern by trying to slow the game, as so many have tried to do to them over the years. Michael Firrito was having none of it; he drilled a 50-metre pass like an axeman's wedge through all 22 Cats to Harvey, for another goal.

After half-time, the questions were about North's nerve and Geelong's heart. Both proved strong. The Cats came at the Roos as the Roos knew they would. Joel Selwood put his neck on the line, Bartel busied himself at half-back, Harry Taylor stole forward for two goals and George Horlin-Smith coolly goalled on the run with his first kick in AFL football.

From quarter-time, the Cats had 33 shots to North's 22, belying the idea of heavy legs. But, falsely, this creates the impression of a victory somehow squandered. The fact is that the match always was North's for the losing. When the excellent Ryan Bastinac goalled at the start of the last quarter, the margin was 42 points. From there, Geelong outscored North seven-goals-to-three, academically.

Against Hawthorn, Geelong had shown itself again to be the team that will not be beaten. In disposition, it was again in the second half. But its handicap was too severe. That was North's signal achievement; in an indoor stadium, it had put daylight between itself and the best team of the era.

In some ways, this was the AFL's equivalent of the match played in a vacuum. Hidden at Sunday twilight, a Geelong-unfriendly time, in front of a modest crowd, with the Etihad roof shut, and not shown on free-to-air television. But it was scarcely the tree falling in the forest. Others will have watched and noted North's dauntlessness.

Perhaps the passing of the seasons at last is taking a toll on the Cats. Of course, few will catch them as flat-footed as North did yesterday. Within, a champion's heart still beats. But for the first time, the Cats looked sorely to miss Cameron Ling, for instance, to deal with Harvey, and Brad Ottens to take charge in the ruck, and, most of all, a nuggety little midfielder who had 40 more touches for Gold Coast on Saturday night.

31 comments so far

  • It's insulting to North that this article focuses so much on Geelong's preparation. Yes, North Melbourne got them at a good time, but every week in the league there are sides that have to travel, play after a six week break, or have an extremely physically demanding match the week before.

    Are we attributing Melbourne's loss this weekend to a six day break and a trip to Perth the week before? Of course not.

    Commenter
    Richard
    Date and time
    April 16, 2012, 9:01AM
    • Couldnt agree more - North outplayed the cats from the first bounce, lets focus on that.

      Commenter
      roogood
      Location
      NthMelbourne
      Date and time
      April 16, 2012, 10:22AM
    • I totally agree. Adelaide have been playing good football until they got thumped by Hawthorn.
      How can this article then attribute so much of the North Melbourne win on a "tired physically and mentally" Geelong team? If you listen to the gracious Cats fans on various forums, they are not making excuses but are putting down the loss to being purely outplayed for four quarters.

      The article should make a note of the six day turn around instead of making it the entire focus of the whole article.

      Commenter
      PseudoEdge
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 16, 2012, 10:32AM
    • It actually doesn't.
      He clearly says that the final scoreline flattered the Cats because the game was always North's and that the fact that Geelong won the last means that the 6 day turnaround wasn't a factor.
      I think this is a different North team this year. They might actually have a go at some Finals action.

      Commenter
      Betting Guru.com.au
      Date and time
      April 16, 2012, 11:53AM
  • Nothing more satisfying then seeing Stevie.J come off, grimacing in pain after a good bump, in the last quarter.

    Just one of those players you love to hate.

    Commenter
    Luke
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    April 16, 2012, 9:29AM
    • No - Tiges supporter and just love the panache and skill. He will probably kick six against us this week but I still love watching him.

      Commenter
      kepler-22b
      Date and time
      April 16, 2012, 7:19PM
    • Why because he is gifted as a footballer or do you just hate as a matter of course? As far as I can tell Steve Johnson is a player who cops sniping and hits off the ball very well.
      As for the shinboners they have no hope one swallow doesn't make a summer. God Essendon beat them and they are rubbish.

      Commenter
      Kel
      Location
      Barooga
      Date and time
      April 16, 2012, 11:18PM
  • From what i have seen this year North have increased their intensity and spirit. The skills seem much sharper and more players are presenting. Looks like it could be a good year for the Roos.

    Commenter
    Craig
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    April 16, 2012, 9:52AM
    • I agree with Richard. Hawthorn seemed to do fine against Adelaide after the six days before the previous match, and you could probably argue that Geelong should have had the confidence after the previous round.

      Commenter
      Erik
      Date and time
      April 16, 2012, 9:57AM
      • You can never take your foot of the gas against the Cats, Yes they had a tough game against the Hawks but what else do these guys do all week but prepare for the next game. Any challenge that was thrown their way the Roos had the answers. Great moral boosting win for the Kanagas.

        Commenter
        Georgie - Bendigo
        Date and time
        April 16, 2012, 10:32AM

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