Cats make late dash for the finish line

July 16, 2022 by
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons 

Round 17 – Geelong V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

It was no secret that we were facing the toughest test of the season so far. Geelong had won their previous six outings and would be a different prospect to the team that lost last year’s prelim in Perth.

Straightaway, the Cats started piling on the pressure but it was Bayley Fritsch who kicked the first major when he marked Jack Viney’s superbly placed kick. A minute later and Christian Petracca found the back of the net with his first kick of the night. Geelong hit back when Gary Rohan won a free kick and converted from 45m out. Then they took the lead via Mitch Duncan’s mark on the edge of the goal square. 

Ben Brown’s form has been uneven in recent times but his collect and kick from a tight angle in the pocket, proved he still has plenty of tricks in his armoury. With three minutes to go, Cameron Guthrie scored from an even tighter angle to reclaim the lead for Geelong. It was a two point game in the home side’s favour at quarter time; a reflection of the tight game between the top two competitors.

After an intense first term, the second quarter started just as aggressively. Both teams seemed to be treating the game as a grand final rehearsal; the Cats well aware of how Melbourne had chased them down in recent matches. Max Gawn almost laid claim to his first goal on his return from injury when he appeared to mark Ben Brown’s set shot kick from the pocket before kicking the ball over the line. Unfortunately, the ARC review showed the ball clipping the post’s padding before being marked. Nice try anyway Gawny.

The first goal eventually came halfway through the quarter when Tom Atkins marked the ball 40m out, then hit the target. The Demons’ reply came quickly when Ben Brown showed good vision in spotting Clayton Oliver on the other side of the ground, just inside 50. Oliver marked and went back to score and reduce the gap back to three points.

Both sides were making mistakes but also playing some creative footy. The Cats were playing at a fast pace and getting the ball inside 50, setting up opportunities. It paid off when Brad Close received a hand pass in the pocket and kicked on, scoring Geelong’s fifth goal.

Melbourne’s response was instantaneous after the bounce, with Oliver, Jack Viney and Christian Petracca combining perfectly to get the ball out and up the ground. Petracca’s kick from 55m sailed through and it was again back to three points.

Geelong had doubled their advantage to four points at the end of the second quarter and the game was living up to the pre match speculation of a tight contest. Both sides had settled into the game and now the question was who could better manage the pressure, both physically and mentally.

The Cats got the first of the half when Gary Rohan kicked his second set shot round the corner, much to the delight of the home fans. Geelong now had a two goal margin for the third time in the game. There was a few near misses for the Dees but neither group were running away with the match just yet.

Then Max Holmes received the ball 30m out and found some space to finish, giving the Cats a sixteen point lead. Suddenly Geelong seemed to be playing the game on their terms and gathering momentum. The Dees found themselves defending desperately. They needed a circuit breaker quickly or the game was in danger of escaping their clutches. The situation became even more dire when Isaac Smith’s kick, from right on the 50m line, sailed through and increased the margin to twenty three points.

The dark clouds were gathering for Melbourne but then Alex Neal-Bullen injected a ray of sunshine, that lifted the faithful, when his running kick from 40m crossed the line. We seriously required a follow up goal and quickly. It came when Toby Bedford took an intercepted mark and raced to the 50m line. His kick was meant for Bayley Fritsch but it sailed over the forward’s head and just missed being touched before happily bouncing across the goal line; a case of hit and miss at the same time.

The Demons would have been relieved to be going into the final term only trailing by two goals. The bad news was Geelong hadn’t lost a fourth quarter since Round 6.

Melbourne needed an early goal to build on the momentum from the latter part of the previous quarter. Tom Hawkins had other ideas though when he collected the ball after a stoppage just inside the 50m line. He found enough space to kick and score his only goal of the night.

Another star having a quiet game was Kysaiah Pickett but he seized his opportunity when the ball bounced up to him, then he turned and kicked, scoring from 25m out. Christian Petracca kicked his second a few minutes later from a 45m set shot and it was a seven point game. Then with ten minutes to go, Melbourne were only trailing by five points and still very much in contention.

However the script changed dramatically when Cameron Guthrie’s kick, also from 45m, swung the impetus back in Geelong’s favour. The goals dried up for the Dees and their fate was sealed with late majors from Mitch Duncan (a set shot from 55m) and Tyson Stengle’s opportunistic kick from 30m, putting the home side out of reach.

Overall we played well but the Cats looked hungrier throughout. It’s such a shame that the last ten minutes wasn’t a true reflection of how Melbourne played for the majority of the game.

Round 18 is against Port Adelaide at Traeger Park. The Power have won some quality games this season and if they hadn’t had such a disastrous start to their campaign, would probably be sitting comfortably in the top eight now.

Melbourne’s injuries continues to cause issues with continuity but we have the strength and depth to put those problems behind us and triumph in Alice Springs.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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