B Jensen 8 August 2004

THE CATS now have a stranglehold on fifth position, after defeating the Tigers by thirty-one points in front of 33,176 at the MCG today. Geelong's competition for fifth spot, Fremantle and Sydney, both lost. Geelong's now two games clear of Fremantle in sixth position, and three games clear of both the Kangaroos and Sydney, in seventh and eight positions respectively.

Geelong's fifth win in a row appears to have yet again came at a cost- David Wojcinski tearing a quadricep. His explosive pace and accountable work ethic appears to have been his undoing, while chasing an opponent. David Johnson was hurt early, appearing to be momentarily troubled by a collarbone, but played out the match without obvious discomfort.

The game began with a signature Gary Ablett goal; with not quite two minutes on the clock, the ball bounced in a big pack of players in front of Geelong's goal. Ablett pounced, and found enough space to kick through the pack for a goal, his twenty sixth of the year. Ben Graham, Steve Johnson, Paul Chapman and captain Steven King would finish with a goal each at quarter time. James Bartel had eleven possessions at the break. Richmond kicked just the three goals, two from Nathan Brown, in his first game back and a third to Joel Bowden.

With barely a minute on the clock in the second quarter, Geelong's Charlie Gardiner kicked a goal. After being given a subtle sledge from coach Mark Thompson after last week, Gardiner was also lively in the first quarter and looked set for a solid game. The Cats were helped in no small part by Matthew Richardson's inability to kick a goal. As a commentator said "He can't miss this surely", Richo, after beating Tom Harley to mark 5m out, hit the post.

Geelong went missing for a few minutes, but were helped by Richmond kicking a very wasteful one goal seven behinds for the quarter, to Geelong's also uneconomical two goals six behinds. Richo would continue to miss, letting his opponent Tom Harley off the hook on the scoreboard. It also wasn't Kent Kingsley's day, Kent booting three behinds to half time. Geelong lead by nineteen points at the main break.

Geelong's better players to half time were Joel Corey, who seems to be playing better football each week, James Bartel, Cameron Ling and Steve Johnson. Steven King worked well and Paul Koulouriotis, in just his third game in the blue and white, used the ball well. Matthew Scarlett was rarely beaten and Darren Milburn continued to bind together the backline, midfield and forward line as a link man.

As had been the trend for the first two quarters, Geelong came out of the blocks again. 'Mooooooooooooonnns' echoed around the ground, as the 'Big Hairy Cat' Cameron Mooney marked a very good kick and converted, kicking his first for the day and eleventh goal of the season. A short time later, Richo finally kicked his first, from his fifth attempt.

The Cats took advantage of Darren Gaspar, who handballed straight to Steve Johnson. Johnson, who reads the game so well, knew where to run to intercept Gaspar's handball, and kick his second. Young guns were to combine again, with Gary Ablett passing off to one of the older boys, Cameron Ling, who goaled, and soon after Ablett again dished off to Steve Johnson. Johnson kicked his third goal from a near impossible angle on the boundary. Ablett looked left but handballed to his right without looking, precisely to where Johnson was standing. It is hard to believe Geelong did without Johnson up until their Round thirteen win over Brisbane.

To go into the three quarter time break, Geelong took their foot off the pedal again, the Tigers missing three relatively easy chances, Richo missing two sitters and former Cat Adam Houlihan doing the same. Geelong's lead was twenty three points - Richmond still mathematically a chance but in reality streets behind Geelong.

Koulouriotis got Geelong's final quarter off to the best start possible, kicking from the midfield to find Paul Chapman deep in the forward line. Chapman booted his second goal and quickly acknowledged 'Koula's' effort. The game was soon practically over once Steve Johnson kicked his forth for the game, to make the lead thirty-five points. This time it was Chapman's turn to find Johnson with a pinpoint pass.

Johnson was to repay Gary Ablett's earlier generosity, dishing off to Ablett for an easy goal. Both of Geelong's 'key forwards' were to have relatively quiet days, Graham kicking two goals but being beaten early while Kent Kingsley took nine marks but could only manage four behinds and one out on the full.

By the end of the game, Cameron Ling was to amass nearly forty possessions. Bartel was not far behind, with thirty-five. Joel Corey was generally the best user of the ball, and saw it twenty-nine times. Once again Steve Johnson would have another huge kick to handball ratio, fifteen kicks to just the four handballs. When you're as good with the boot as Johnson is, you may as well kick it! (Link: Johnson aims to prove his worth, Sunday Age).

Josh Hunt didn't let fans down, with lovely, long, low trajectory kicks from full back. Matthew Scarlett went about his work quietly, as did Tom Harley and David Johnson. Henry Playfair didn't get much of a run, nor did Kane Tenace. David Wojcinski had a fair game but may be ruled out for coming matches due to his quadricep injury.

In one of the funnier moments, late in the game Richmond's Ty Zantuck 'bitch-slapped' Geelong's angry bald man, Paul Chapman - not a good idea! Fearing a costly reprisal, Chapman was pulled from the ground by the brains trust. In an amusing scene, Chapman stalked Zantuck from the boundary line. As Richmond won't be playing in September, any square-up will have to wait for the Brownlow Medal night or next season.

The Tigers kicked a few conciliatory goals in 'junk time', pegging Geelong's victory back to a lazy thirty-one points. Bomber Thompson was not impressed: "It was not the most impressive game, but a win is a win. We had a really big build up last week (before the home win over St Kilda) and we played accordingly today. But if you had said to me we would beat Richmond for our 13th win for the year I would take it any time. I was happy they did enough to win the game, but not happy with the game all together."

Next Saturday Geelong host the Fremantle Dockers. Last time, in round five, Geelong went down by twenty sixth points, and their record stood at one win four losses. This time, Geelong's locked in fifth position on the ladder while the Dockers, two games behind, battle for their finals berth. Expect David Spriggs to continue to press for a recall, as will James Rahilly.

The Cattery's pre-game prediction was Geelong by 34 points

GEELONG: 5.4 7.10 11.13 16.18 (114) DEFEATED
RICHMOND: 3.2 4.9 7.14 11.17 (83)

GOALS: GEELONG: S Johnson 4, Ablett 3, Chapman 3, Graham 2, King, Gardiner, Mooney, Ling
RICHMOND: Richardson 2, Brown 2, Fiora 2, Rodan 2, Bowden, Fleming, Krakouer

BEST: GEELONG: Bartel, Ling, Scarlett, S Johnson, Ablett, Koulouriotis
: Bowden, Brown, Zantuck, Hyde, Gaspar, Richardson

GEELONG 6.4 8.8 10.9 16.11 (107) DEFEATED BY
BENDIGO BOMBERS 5.3 9.6 19.8 22.12 (144)
GOALS: GEELONG: Greaves 5, Egan 2, Haynes 2, McCarthy 2, Blake, J. Byrne, Cook, Mackie, Thurley.
BENDIGO: Lovett 4, Watson 3, Nash 2, Moorcroft 2, Cosgriff 2, Mercuri 2, Bradley, Campbell, Winderlich, Rosa, Davies, Summers, Wilson.
BEST: GEELONG: Greaves Egan, McCarthy, Thurley, Greaves, Chambers.
: Carter, Lovett, Winderlich, Hunt, Mercuri, Moorcroft, Bradley, Cosgriff, Campbell.