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Two cool Cats show the Twain meets midfield

Steve Johnson aka 'Stevie J' (left) and Paul 'Chappy' Chapman.

Steve Johnson aka 'Stevie J' (left) and Paul 'Chappy' Chapman. Photo: Paul Rovere

IT'S a safe bet Mark Twain didn't feature too highly in the ''favourite author'' category when the Geelong list sat down to fill out those player questionnaires at the beginning of this season.

But his famous quip that ''reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated'' seems lately to have struck more of a chord with the Cats than any sporting biography or a Stephen King thriller might have.

While we seem to have waited most of this season to find out whether the Geelong of 2012 was anything like the outfit to be feared 12 months ago or one slowly disappearing into the sunset, the past few weeks have had ''we're not done just yet'' written all over them.

There was an imperious smashing of Essendon, the tone set in the opening moments with the relentless physical pressure the Cats routinely apply so well. There was an efficient enough win over Adelaide, perhaps underrated given the loss of Steve Johnson in the opening seconds and key midfielder Joel Corey after half-time. And last week's consolidation of the winning streak over a Hawthorn many had just about over the premiership line.

There have been some common denominators: Tom Hawkins upping the ante again as a powerhouse and goalkicking key forward, Harry Taylor and Tom Lonergan shoring up the Geelong defence, skipper Joel Selwood and James Kelly in top gear.

But for another couple of key contributors, it has been a different story. Paul Chapman and Johnson have been arguably even bigger parts of Geelong's greatest era than those mentioned above, but in their case it hasn't just been about more of the same.

Geelong's rise from the canvas has coincided with ''Stevie J'' and ''Chappy'', as they are almost universally known, playing almost mirror images of the roles to which we have become accustomed.

Johnson, the forward sharpshooter with the penchant for the freakish goal, has spent more time midfield as the Cats have upped not only the ante on hard ball gets and possession, but the quality of their disposal.

Chapman, along with Selwood so often the hard-nut presence in the centre square and around the contest, has slipped forward more often to offer everything in a goalscoring sense that his teammate regularly has been able to provide.

While Johnson was collected by Adelaide's Scott Thompson at the opening bounce of the game at Simonds Stadium a fortnight ago and was not able to have any impact at all, their numbers over the past month are instructive.

The biggest point to the switch is simply their numbers of centre bounce involvements. To the end of round 15, Johnson's average was four. Since then, it has been 18. Chapman up to round 15 had 10 per game, which has slipped back to three.

But the other numbers prove it has been a shift far more successful than merely redistributing the deckchairs on a sinking ship.

Chapman had a total of 16 goals in the Cats' first dozen games. Over the past five, he has kicked 14, including two bags of four, one of those last week, alongside Hawkins' half-dozen, accounting for more than half Geelong's winning score.

He's a hard-running forward, too, proven in his possession breakdowns in the games breakdown. Until the end of round 15, Chapman was accruing 68 per cent of his disposals, that number since having fallen only marginally to 61.

His rate in the forward 50 has soared from 17 to 33 per cent.

The value of Johnson's silky ball use in midfield, meanwhile, was never more evident than in that closing play against Hawthorn last Friday night.

With exactly 30 seconds left on the clock, and Johnson taking possession on the half-back flank just 15 metres in from the boundary line, he swung on to his left foot and centred a ball that nine times out of 10 would have had potential turnover in the most dangerous part of the ground and opposition goal written all over it.

This, though, was Stevie J. The 40-metre pass found Selwood, whose opponent Brad Sewell rightly expected a boundary line play, and in desperately trying to make up ground overshot the mark, allowing Selwood to turn and hit Hawkins on the lead. You know the rest.

Johnson's greater midfield involvement is reflected in his disposal count climbing from 22 to 28 over the past month, and the quality of his ball use headed into the forward 50 arc seeing his score assists climbing from an average 1.6 to 2.3.

Yet, as Chapman has still been able to retain an influence midfield while creating more scoreboard pressure, so does Johnson still hit the scoreboard from even further afield, averaging 1.3 goals in the latest period compared with one beforehand. Chapman and Johnson are two enormous talents with a big impact wherever they play. In this latest mini role reversal, Geelong has extracted even more from its biggest stars. The death notices for a great team and a great era might be on hold for a while yet.

15 comments

  • I must admit I hoped rather than expected Geelong to be this good early on in the season. There aren't too many teams that can stay competitive let alone play finals & be a genuine threat with the kinds of losses Geelong has sustained over the past 2 seasons, but I guess that's a testament to their great culture & resolve to be the best. They had great depth & are now blooding the next generation, which will welcome back Varcoe, Menzel, & maybe Boak. Chapman & Stevie J have been outstanding but the old guard cannot carry the load forever. As Scarlett, Wojo, Pods, Corey, Chappy, Enright etc depart over the next 2 to 3 years to join Ablett, Mooney, Ling, Otto, Rooke, Milburn etc the new Cats will have huge shoes to fill. Wow, what a list of players, what an era, what a team. GO CATS!

    Commenter
    Flex
    Date and time
    August 10, 2012, 8:45AM
    • CATS R Gone MATE! Wake up and smell the kitty-litter

      Commenter
      realist
      Date and time
      August 10, 2012, 1:38PM
  • Good article.
    Mandatory reading for Robert Walls.

    Commenter
    Pianto Man
    Location
    Berwick
    Date and time
    August 10, 2012, 8:47AM
    • Love it - every single cats supported utterly loathes Wallsy after his article last week (myself included). I think we should all take a deep breath and a step back, look at the article in light of the result last week and think it had to have been tongue in cheek...

      We should give him the benefit of the doubt. Should, but probably won't.

      ps: Rohan Conelly you are kicking some serious football journalism goals at the moment, keep up the insightful and interesting work

      Commenter
      mracroy
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 10, 2012, 10:40AM
    • Connolly. Are you serious??? The HAWKS threw that game away against the Cats, the Cats didnt win it!!! Rioli gets that free kick which every one saw barr the officiating umpire and you wouldn't be writing this article! Yes, they were great for one quarter against the HAWks but have lost 4 old soldiers for their efforts. Do you really think they will do the same in Perth??? Not likely sport! Still 2 more tough games against the SAINTS and SWANS and with no time for their old bodies to recover!! No chance for a top 4 finish means they must win 4 tough finals in a row!!! NO CHANCE!!!

      Commenter
      REALITY CHEQUE
      Date and time
      August 10, 2012, 10:58AM
    • Absolutely agree Pianto Man

      Commenter
      YDB
      Date and time
      August 10, 2012, 11:41AM
    • :) too right, p-man. and while, stalwart cats may i be, i suspect the hawks and the swans might make the g/f an avian fest, i don't think any team is relishing meeting this cats squad in september. and who knows?

      carna cats!

      Commenter
      samuel coleridge
      Location
      xanadu
      Date and time
      August 10, 2012, 12:46PM
    • can you please pass this to Robert Walls, he's been a bit quiet this week on the Geelong bagging, if they lose to WCE, he will be in big print again amount the Cats demise. whatever happens this year Cats are GOLD.

      Commenter
      gg
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 10, 2012, 3:20PM
    • Beat me to it! I wonder how Wallsy felt last Saturday morning on rereading that rubbish?

      Commenter
      JMac
      Date and time
      August 10, 2012, 3:56PM
  • I'm very surprised that Chappy has made the trip to Perth. I see (from another article on this site) that the Cats are resting James Kelly and Billie Smedts and giving Joel Corey and Josh Hunt another week off. All of that makes a lot of sense, and I think that if the Cats do win the Grand Final, the selection panel might be in line for a best and fairest, because they have managed this season brilliantly so far.

    Commenter
    Robertito
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    August 10, 2012, 12:12PM

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