IN THEIR FIRST FINAL in four seasons, Geelong were soundly defeated by Port Adelaide today. In front of a healthy crowd of just under forty thousand, the Cats weren't good enough for their seasoned opponents. The Power move straight into a preliminary final at home, while Geelong must now play Essendon, for the right to face off against the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in the other preliminary final.
Before the first bounce, as predicted, David Wojcinski came into the side - replacing David Johnson, who'd 'pulled up sore' after the last few rounds.
Geelong got off to a reasonable start but in the final few minutes of the first quarter, the Power grew their narrow lead to three goals. After having what appeared to be a sensational goal by Steve Johnson adjudged 'touched', the Cats lost it and saw their opponents boot four goals to Geelong's one.
It was the second quarter that really won the game for Port. Most of Geelong's players did seem a little overawed by the whole situation, the hostile crowd and fearsome Power players. While not playing overly badly, little slips, fumbles etc bring an inexperienced side unstuck in finals, especially when playing a team who's been there the previous few seasons. Port played good football, booting six goals to just one for the quarter, to take an eight goal lead into the main break.
After reorganising their strategy at the break, Geelong looked a much better side in the second half, but took some time before kicking their first goal. Going on to kick four for the quarter to Port's two, Geelong pegged the lead back to just over six goals. It was obvious that in the second half Geelong wasn't going to win, and needed to come up with a workable system for next week.
The Cats drew to within five goals early in the forth quarter, and had an RHG (Red Hot Go). But the Power were more than up to the task, and finished with four goals in junk time to run out fifty-five point victors, delighting the very parochial crowd. Those who didn't give up all day were Darren Milburn (one of our best the past month), Joel Corey, James Bartel and Steve Johnson.
Geelong just got slaughtered in and out of the middle, and having the likes of Darryl Wakelin grabbing marks in our forward line didn't help, either. Steven King didn't have a good day, neither did Cameron Mooney. The latter may not play for the rest of the season, after colliding late with Port defender Brett Montgomery in the second quarter.
Steve Johnson took one of the season's most courageous marks, when the game was virtually all over. With the game already over, Johnson could've been excused for not making the effort. Instead, he ran with the flight of the ball and leapt head on into Geelong and Power players, to mark an errant kick. Johnson was Geelong's most dangerous forward today, and may have kicked more than his two goals had his first goal not been taken away and he didn't get a touch of the fumbles. Better delivery from the forward line would've helped, too.
Gary Ablett, down on form today, was taken from the field late in the game, appearing to suffer an injury. Players who've been down the past few weeks are Paul Chapman, Josh Hunt, David Spriggs and King. Kent Kingsley improved and contested very well, but may not play next week, after he was reported for striking Chad Cornes. Corey Enright is a chance to return next week depending on injuries and whether the form of some players deserves dropping.
Geelong does have a good chance against Essendon next week, if they can shrug off this setback and start again. The Cats have consistently played a much better brand of football than the Bombers all season, and should be able to match them around the ground. Geelong may be troubled by injury and suspension, which may well tip the scales in favour of the Bombers. The Cats had the better of the Bomber last time around, to the tune of twenty three points in round nine (Read Match Report).
The important thing is that this is a vital stepping stone in the team's development. No team comes into a final series with virtually the entire list never having played a final and expects to beat the top team in the first match. Every player out on the ground, including experienced ones like Peter Riccardi, Ben Graham, will have learned something. That also goes for the coaching staff. The team will be much better prepared next season, and hopefully for the matchup against the Bombers this Saturday night
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PORT ADELAIDE: 5.2, 11.4, 13.7, 18.9 (117)
GOALS: PORT ADELAIDE: Lade 4, Pickett 4,
Dew 3, Mahoney 3, Tredrea 2, Schofield, Kingsley
1ST SEMI FINAL:
JOEL COREY, ONE OF GEELONG'S BEST