Third Strike and The Cats Are Out

September 13, 2018 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Elimination Final 1 – Melbourne Vs Geelong – Third Strike and The Cats Are Out

By Liam Chambers

An interesting statistic was a topic of discussion before Friday night’s decider. Geelong had eighteen players with finals experience, whereas Melbourne only had a paltry four. One was Nathan Jones; who’s last finals game was in 2006. This experience would be vital for Geelong if they were to edge out the in-form Dees. At the end of the first quarter, one could be forgiven for thinking that it was Melbourne who had the eighteen experienced players.

During the national anthem the Dees all had their arms around each other’s shoulders, facing a Geelong side where each member stood individually making no contact with their peers. Melbourne looked united and determined to succeed. If the lads were nervous they didn’t show it. The spirit was infectious. The Dees were on a mission.

From the start they played like a team who’d defeated a top side in each of their two previous matches. They were out to prove that they’d earned their place in the final eight and they made the Cats look pedestrian. Tom McDonald was marking superbly, Jack Viney played like he hadn’t missed the last seven games. Neville Jetta was again brilliant in the last line of defence and of course Sam Weideman was the star of the quarter. His mark just on the siren was symbolic of the way Melbourne played for the first thirty minutes.

The fans were ecstatic. If this was how the Demons intended to play for the next three quarters, then this could be a game for the ages. Melbourne again dominated at the start of the second quarter but just couldn’t seem to convert their superior play to results on the scoreboard.

Time and again, what looked like a certain goal saw the ball slip behind for a minor score; either that or the Cats thwarted our chances. Geelong were defending well and their record of limiting opposition teams to low scores was intact. The longer the situation went on, the more hopeful the Cats were becoming.

For the first time in the game a sense of doubt was creeping into the minds of the players and the fans. Midway through the second quarter, Geelong had clawed back two goals, one of them from our arch nemesis Tom Hawkins. Memories of Kardinia Park and Hawkins’ seven goal haul was creeping back into the collective memory of the Melbourne faithful.

At half time we were still a healthy twenty-three points to the good, but the Cats were far from defeated. The Dees would need all the self-belief they could muster if they were to stave off a side who specialised in come from behind wins. The Cats are particularly dangerous in the last quarter, so the Dees needed to regain the upper hand in the third.

In recent games the Demons have played their best and most dominant football in the third quarter. If they could do so again then the Cats would really struggle to stage an upset in the final thirty minutes.

Tom Hawkins gave Geelong the best start they could hope for with his second goal, reducing the margin to seventeen points and jangling Demon Army’s nerves. We needed to counter quickly, and Jake Melksham did the honours with his only goal of the game. Patrick Dangerfield was determined to keep the Cats competitive and applied plenty of pressure but his shot on goal went for a behind.

Angus Brayshaw was just as determined though and his inspirational play was pivotal in pushing Melbourne into Geelong territory. The Dees however, continued to struggle converting opportunities into goals. Luck was on our side though. Initially, a lapse of concentration saw Tom Hawkins mark the ball midway through the quarter. At twenty-five metres out and at a favourable angle, it looked like Hawkins had the goal in the bag.

I must admit, watching the game from the comfort of my lounge room chair, I did vent a little bit of frustration that we had allowed such a dangerous player to be in that position. Had he kicked the goal the margin would be reduced to fifteen points. The boost to Geelong would be enormous.

Then I could hear the beautiful lilting tones of the sideline commentator Daisy Pearce. She was confirming that there had been an off the ball incident. It involved Joel Selwood and James Harmes on their way back to the bench. Replayed footage showed Selwood throwing Jake Melksham to the ground in a high tackle. We don’t know what was said by Harmes or why Melksham was involved but Selwood’s reaction was bizarre. It was also inexcusable if you’re a Cat’s fan.

I didn’t even know that the bench umpire could do that, but it was a let off for Melbourne and a momentum breaker for the Cats. If I was religious, I might even say it was divine intervention by the gods of footy. Despite the reprieve the Dees failed to secure another goal for the quarter, so the Selwood incident was indeed fortuitous. It was a disappointing quarter with both sides only securing a single goal and four behinds each.

I’m not sure what Simon said in the break; maybe something like “I want you all to play like Angus”? Whatever it was, the Dees came out with all guns blazing. Viney gave away a free kick to Selwood almost immediately then when the Geelong Captain slipped while playing on, Viney pounced in a take no prisoners tackle to win back the ball. The ensuing free kick found Petracca who in turn found Jones who kicked a beautiful goal.

Suddenly the belief was back. Zach Toohey then got one for the Cats a few minutes later and gave a glimmer of hope to Geelong. The fans know how good their side is in the final quarter so there was still plenty of time to cause an upset. It wasn’t to be Geelong’s night though with Dangerfield uncharacteristically giving away plenty of free kicks.

Then Mitch Hannan finally slotted a goal. He had made several promising runs over the course of the night only to disappoint at the crucial moment. Not this time though and now the Dees had the momentum. A third goal from Sam Weideman in the twentieth minute gave Melbourne the buffer to play more confidently.

The Cats weren’t finished yet though and goals from Jordan Murdoch and Mitch Duncan kept things interesting. Alex Neal-Bullen finally put the result beyond doubt with just over two minutes to go. My triumphant yell broke several of the neighbour’s windows.


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