August 16 2003

THE OLD TIMER in front of me said 'if it had of been a horse they would have shot it' once the final siren rang. While I'm certain he would have changed his mind if Gary Ablett had an extra three or four seconds to kick another point to steal the game, the match was otherwise forgettable. Geelong, who at one stage lead by 26 points to the West Coast Eagles no score, simply let the game slip away.

The Eagles booted three unanswered goals in the third quarter before the Cats fired, Steve Johnson slotting through a goal just before three quarter time, to hold the lead. But in the final term Geelong just didn't do enough early on. The lead changed hands twice, the Cats pegging back the lead first when McCarthy marked and goaled. The last time the Cats regained the lead was the result of a fantastic McCarthy play leading to Gary Ablett slotting one through.

Geelong fans were incensed, firstly when a West Coast Eagle player was paid a mark even though the Geelong player was in front, and secondly when dozens of seconds were wasted bringing the ball back. When play restarted the Eagles got it to an unmarked Michael Braun. Braun looked to have won the match with a goal but the ball curved and hit the unfriendly post. The Cats rushed the ball back up forward but clever checking by the Eagles held up Tom Harley, who got the ball to Gary Ablett. Ablett, just outside the 50m line fumbled the chest mark before kicking wildly as the siren sounded. The Cats did not get the extra behind needed for the win.

Matthew McCarthy, who was dangerous but was again nervous when kicking, launched high above the pack in the final term to take a mark of the year contender (right). McCarthy presented well all day, as did fellow rookie forward Henry Playfair. McCarthy and Playfair have both shown they have what it takes to be marking, mobile forwards. But both need time in the AFL to gain confidence, something which only time can cure. If the Geelong midfield can only lift another notch in their skill level, particularly disposal by foot, the forward line may finally lose their scapegoat status.

The Eagles are now assured of a finals berth and next Saturday night face Melbourne at Subiaco while Geelong travels to the Lions' Den at the Gabba. Geelong hope to regain in form defender Darren Milburn, replaced in today's side by Cameron Mooney due to an ankle injury.


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Matthew McCarthy's contender for Mark of the Year (Click for larger image)

GEELONG: 4.4, 6.7, 7.8, 9.9 (63)
WEST COAST: 2.1, 4.3, 7.5, 9.9 (63)

GOALS: Geelong: S.Johnson, McCarthy 2, Corey, Ablett, Chapman, Street, Ling 1. West Coast: Matera 4, Chambers, Chick, Jones, Haynes, Wirrpunda 1.