B Jensen 15 August 2004

JUST OVER FIFTEEN THOUSAND fans braved the elements yesterday at Skilled Stadium, to watch Geelong triple a disappointing Fremantle's score in driving rain and Gary Ablett's 50th game. The win puts the Cats three games clear of Fremantle, and after Melbourne's loss to the Sydney Swans last night, puts Geelong into the top four for the first time, ahead of the Dees by percentage. Geelong is also level on points with Brisbane and St Kilda. The Cats kicked nine goals twenty-one behinds, to the Dockers' mere three goals seven behinds, their lowest score ever.

The conditions meant there were minimal marks taken, the Cats' game plan reduced to fumbling for the ball, and if given the opportunity, kick it as quickly as possible, preferably forward. There were a lot of tackles; 100 per team in fact. Darren Milburn had 14 to go with his 32 possessions (19 kicks, 13 tackles), Matthew McCarthy 12, Gary Ablett 11 and James Bartel 8.

The first quarter definitely won't be shown on any highlight reels, indeed James Bartel would wish it was never recorded at all. Bartel was reported for unduly rough play against Docker Troy Longmuir, and later for striking Dylan Smith in the forth quarter. After captain Steven King chose to kick to the city end, backed by a gale the ball was almost exclusively up Geelong's end. But the Cats could manage just nine behinds before Joel Corey snapped a goal just seconds before the final siren. The Dockers scored just the one behind, with almost all their players flooding in Geelong's half with Paul Medhurst alone in the other half of the ground.

Fremantle took advantage of the wind to kick three goals. Their first two were created solely from the brilliance of Paul Medhurst, the first a give to Jeffrey Farmer, the second kicked himself. Medhurst's goal was kicked from in front of this correspondent's vantage point, a miraculous goal given the conditions - ~45m out on the boundary line, on his 'wrong side'. Geelong answered back with a brilliant soccer goal to Matthew McCarthy. Criticised by the fans in the outer for coming in to replace the injured Wojcinski, the jeers soon turned to "Gee, isn't he good in the wet?" as he battled gallantly for the rest of the game. I was even driven to cry 'the Great McCarthy' as he flew for to take a great pack mark in the rain.

Fremantle Captain Peter Bell kicked the Dockers' third of the term, as Geelong took a nine behind lead into the half time break. But that was to be about as good as it got for the Dockers. Little did they know what was to come next. Kane Tenace kicked Geelong's other goal for the term.

In the third quarter, things started slowly. It took the brilliance of Gary Ablett, Steve Johnson and Peter Riccardi to break the game open. Johnson, who has been Geelong's 'X' factor since returning from a broken ankle to play the Lions in Round 13, kicked two brilliant goals. His goal from the boundary line, on his 'right' side of the flank but on his left boot, broke the Dockers' spirit and brought the water-logged crowd to life. If this goal, like last week's dob from the boundary, isn't nominated for GOAL OF THE WEEK it will be a disgrace.

Ben Graham setup a great goal to Peter Riccardi. Graham was forced to the left-hand behind post, and handballed to an open goalsquare, which Riccardi was running towards. With two Dockers on his tail, instead of taking possession of the ball Riccardi simply soccered it through. It was to be one of two soccer goals in the quarter to Riccardi, who has an Italian background.

Steve Johnson did the hard work and got the ball to Ben Graham, who took a few steps and snapped truly from just over forty meters from goal. This took Geelong's tally to five for the quarter, making the lead an unassailable forty-one points. The Dockers could kick just two behinds for the quarter. For the fans who spent two or three hours (some longer) in driving rain, it was a just reward.

The last quarter was always going to be a scrappy affair, the game being all but over and frustrations inevitably bubbling over in the horrid conditions. Several mini melees erupted. Each time, the umpiring was great; the ball either thrown up or thrown in. For some reason several players from both sides elected to continue fighting while the rest ran into Geelong's forward 50 (Hickey Stand end) where the ball was. As mentioned earlier, James Bartel was reported after collecting Docker Smith, who was shepherding Bartel away. Smith was visibly upset and had to be taken from the field.

Matthew McCarthy booted his second and Geelong's only goal for the last quarter, one of the only highlights of the term. Geelong also kicked six behinds to Fremantle's three behinds (no goals).

The win was another great team effort. Top players for the Cats were Bartel, Cameron Ling, Steven King (who just keeps getting better), Matthew Scarlett, Steve Johnson (please keep kicking), Darren Milburn and Gary Ablett.

Once more the game may come at a cost, albeit self inflicted, with Bartel's report. Next week Geelong must have an interstate win in Adelaide, while Fremantle needs to beat West Coast to stay in the finals hunt.

Read's match report

GEELONG: 1.9 3.11 8.15 9.21 (75) DEFEATED
FREMANTLE: 0.1 3.2 3.4 3.7 (25)

GOALS: GEELONG: Riccardi, S Johnson, McCarthy 2, Graham, Tenace, Corey 1
FREMANTLE: Bell, Farmer, Medhurst 1
BEST: GEELONG: Ablett, Bartel, King, Scarlett, Riccardi, S Johnson
FREMANTLE: Thornton, Hasleby, Smith, J Longmuir, Bell