Ben Jensen 3 September 2008

By Ben Jensen (back in London) GEELONG will play Steven King's St Kilda in the 'first' Qualifying Final at the MCG next Sunday after thrashing the Eagles at Skilled Stadium on Saturday. However, they may find themselves minus Matthew Stokes, who was reported for striking the Eagles' Chad Fletcher to blight an otherwise good day on the field, will not face a suspension after the AFL Match Review Panel threw the case out. Stokes was facing a minimum one match ban, having had 31.25 activation points hanging over his head, and a 40% loading of any further assessment, had the charge sustained.

Again no coverage on Setanta Sports, so it was off to the 'Slug at Fulham' for a grainy replay 36 hours later. Felt a bit stupid wearing a Geelong shirt given the sign reading 'The Slug Supports the Eagles', compounded when the barman looked me up and down and mouthed 'Geelong supporter' before harrumphing and meandering off.

GEELONG 4.3, 12.9, 18.12, 24.20 (164) DEFEATED
WEST COAST 4.3, 6.3, 9.5, 10.5 (65)

GEELONG: S. Johnson 6, Lonergan 4, Mooney 2, Stokes 2, Prismall 2, Varcoe, Ottens, Taylor, Hunt, Gamble, Byrnes, G Ablett, Enright
WEST COAST: LeCras 2, McKinley 2, Fletcher, Priddis, McNamara, Hansen, Embley, A Selwood

GEELONG: S. Johnson, Selwood, G Ablett, Bartel, Ling, Taylor, Ottens
WEST COAST: Stenglein, Glass, Priddis, Embley, Lynch, Cox

CROWD: 21,752 at Skilled Stadium

UMPIRES: Armstrong, Jeffrey, Stewart

INJURIES: GEELONG: Andrew Mackie (back), replaced in selected side by Shannon Byrnes; Steve Johnson (finger); Joel Corey (elbow) WEST COAST: Nil reports.

REPORTS: Matthew Stokes (Geelong) for striking Chad Fletcher (West Coast) in the third quarter Cleared


It began late, forcing us to endure fifteen minutes of 'Biffs, Bumps and Brawlers'. We saw Dermie being cleaned up by Yeatesie plus Gary Senior crunching Johnny Gastev in his One Special Season (1993). Rex Hunt mannerisms, minus sound, really gave the locals something to laugh about (if they weren't already).

Andrew Mackie was a late withdrawal with a back injury, earning Shannon Byrnes a reprieve. Steve Johnson and Brad Ottens were on fire early, Johnson goaling inside 25 seconds. It appeared wetter at KP than here; even Johnson struggled with the conditions, comically missing the ball three times in 30 seconds. Surely this was to be the day 'wet ball specialist' Jimmy Bartel would dominate.

The Cats were hard at it from the word go while the Weagles seemed keen to go out with a bang. They would finally score their first goal nearly fifteen minutes into the game, and went on with it from there for the next five minutes to build an unexpected ten point lead.

Normal order was restored with five minutes to go, Johnson booting his second, however at quarter time scores were level.

West Coast kept in the game for the first ten minutes, drawing level again eight minutes in but from that point onwards it was all Geelong. Thought I was Geelong fan until I heard the familiar groans when Shannon Byrnes got the ball. A bit unfair, he was our best tackler on the day.

Finally spotted a Geelong jumper, sleeveless and all. Nice bloke; said he was a 'Sporting Poet' who wanted to get into sports writing. A dead ringer for Craig Cleeve, too. One to watch out for.

The umpires, nearly strung up after gifting a goal to Mark LeCras, made peace soon after, handing Johnson his fourth with a soft free kick and fifty metre penalty.

Harry Taylor and Brent Prismall did their finals chances no harm, kicking three goals between them, each of them a little bit cheeky.

By half time the Cats had doubled the Eagles' score.




Matthew Stokes' joy after goaling 15 seconds in was extinguished a minute later when he was report for striking. It was the only gloom for the Cats that quarter however.

One bloke clearly thought he was at a different game - he was calling out 'Go Tiges' intermittently earlier on but now screaming it out every stoppage. Better news though was the cry of 'MOOOONS' were really starting to take off; he was getting more of the ball.

West Coast kicked a few good goals; one each from the boundary forty-five out, the third generated midfield by Captain and All Aussie full back Darren Glass, who was about their best on a dirty day.

Coinciding with a break in rain Johnson booted his fifth halfway through in, as the Cats worked towards a three figure thrashing. This also coincided with the arrival of dozens of Chelsea fans from nearby Stamford Bridge, embarrassed at their draw with Spurs (an act akin to Geelong losing this match).

The Cats led by a lazy sixty-one points at the final break - the strategy for the final quarter would be one of avoiding injury and further reports. The announced crowd was unexpectedly down 3,000 on last week.

Joel Selwood, who earlier enjoyed a bit of push and shove with brother Adam, nearly spoiled the 'no injuries' script, copping a ball in the face. He's tough as nails though and pushed on - confirming the B&F votes he should have earned by now. Bartel was next to show his courage and skill; in one play booting the ball from mid-air, then following it up with a tunnel-ball through an opponent's legs.

Tom Lonergan, quietly plying his trade, soon had four goals to make it 31 from 13 games. Along with fellow reinforcement Taylor he can expect to play finals.

A cry of 'three votes!' rang out from the back as Bartel took another hander - starting to show off a bit now. The quarter had threatened to be a yawn fest but for him and Ablett, instead it capped off a season that hopefully for the Cats will yield a second flag in four weeks' time. The win, Geelong's twenty-first of the season, equalled Essendon's feat of 2000.

To the cries of 'have a shot' Josh Hunt did just that, launching a rocket off not even half a step from well outside fifty to put it through at post height.

Bartel was BOG, followed by Johnson. Selwood stole the final vote from Ottens and Ling. The backline was rock solid, Tom Harley particularly so along with Taylor, but they do need Mackie back against the Saints next Sunday. We're biased but no Eagle had a game of note; though Glass, Priddis and Cox battled hard.

I hope Max makes it back; though it'd be ironic if a Harry Taylor or Brent Prismall benefited from his absence, given last year he got a guernsey due to Matt Egan's injury.






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