B Jensen 18 September 2004

GEELONG went down gallantly in the preliminary final tonight, beaten by nine points. After leading at quarter time and late in the third quarter, Geelong lost control and were forced to play catch-up football, but remained in the game until the last minute, but with the Lions in control. The Brisbane Lions now take on Port Adelaide for their forth flag in a row. A great crowd of 55,768, most of them Geelong supporters, packed the MCG.

Brisbane opened up the scoring, a goal to Nigel Lappin. Kent Kingsley opened up Geelong's scoring with two goals and a behind in the opening quarter, but would go missing from then on. Cameron Ling kicked the Cats' other goal for the quarter, while Jonathan Brown kicked his only goal for the match. The Cats lead by two points at quarter time after conceding a late goal.

Geelong started off the second quarter very well, culminating in a great goal to very-small forward Paul Chapman after about seven minutes. Brisbane quickly replied while the Cats again dominated, eventually scoring another goal through Ling, his second. But the match's momentum swung, the Lions kicking the next two goals to take a two point lead into the half time break.

Gary Ablett kicked Geelong's first for the quarter while at the other end, Darren Bradshaw kicked his second for the match. Charlie Gardiner made up for his 'yips' in front of goal last week and earlier in the season, taking two strong marks and kicking two critical goals. The Cats suddenly lead by ten points, and looked like they were going to go on with it. Geelong supporters suddenly began to speak out loud their contingency plans: make that mad dash for light tower number two, in the rush for finals tickets, after the final siren. But it wasn't to be- Darren Bradshaw kicked two goals within a couple of minutes, to finish with three for the quarter and put his side four points ahead at three quarter time. He also inadvertently rearranged the face of teammate Shaun Hart.

Gary Ablett kicked one of the more crucial goals in his career, after Paul Chapman, twenty five metres out on a forty five degree angle, quickly passed it to Ablett, who sat about forty metres out but was not expecting the kick. After marking despite the best endeavours of Lion Justin Leppitsch, Ablett drilled the set shot through to put the Cats back to within a goal of the Lions.

But soon after, the Lions' lead was ten points, after former Bomber Blake Caracella, unmarked, took a mark in front of goal. The Lions held, conceding a behind and chipping around for the next five minutes of play, to win by nine points.

The game was played under enormous pressure throughout, with players from both teams missing relatively easy shots for goal. Geelong's Ben Graham finished the night with four behinds, as did Brisbane's ailing Alastair Lynch, who also kicked one goal. In fairness to Graham, he only missed one of what Rex Hunt would call an 'unmissable gooaaaal' while Lynch had three. What should have been a vital goal in the second quarter to give the Cats a handy two goal break ended up being a rushed behind, the ball bounced off Peter Riccardi's thigh.

In most of their defeats this season, the Cats have been relatively inefficient in front of goal. Tonight their efficiency was just 40% (not including out of bounds on the full), while the Lions had 50%. Two goals here or there, instead of behinds, can make all the difference when playing the elite teams like Brisbane and Port Adelaide. Geelong went 'inside 50' twenty more times than the Lions.

Geelong's backline had their hands full from the word go, Jonathan Brown starring in the opening term, troubling Tom Harley. Harley later got on top of Brown, who had little real impact, but made his presence felt for the rest of the game. Daniel Bradshaw came alive in the last half, booting four crucial goals for his team.

In one of the more unusual coaching moves of the season, Matthew Scarlett, having played every minute of every game this season, was taken from the ground in the forth quarter. Scarlett had an off night; each opponent he was matched upon ran riot at some stage. He later made an appearance in the forward line and helped his team to a goal. In a rather comical scene, his sister, Emma, called radio station K-Rock to complain about her brother's treatment.

Darren Milburn, Joel Corey, Cameron Ling, Cameron Mooney, James Bartel and Gary Ablett were the Cats' best. For the Lions, Simon Black, Lappin, Bradshaw, Mal Michael, Chris Johnson and Michael Voss were excellent. Lynch was great at getting the ball but due to his dodgy hamstring was unable to kick accurately. David Johnson did a great job of keeping Jason Akermanis quiet.

Brisbane's players were in the wars, however it was mostly self inflicted. Steve Johnson KO'd Lion Luke Power, who later returned to the field to play a vital role (including thirteen possessions in the final term). Others to fall to friendly fire were Michael Voss, Jonathan Brown and Shaun Hart. Hart's injury was the most serious, a sickening collision with Bradshaw.

After the game, Geelong coach Mark Thompson was philosophical: "I learnt we are going to be a very good side, and I think St Kilda would have learnt that last night. And I think our time’s not too far away. They have certainly exceeded expectations. I think most time we put around 10 players with less than 50 games' experience out there. It’s been an enormous year. I'd like to see other teams win games with that amount of young players. It just doesn’t happen all that often."

BRISBANE LIONS: 3.3 6.4 9.10 12.12 (84) DEFEATED
GEELONG: 3.5 5.8 8.12 10.15 (75)

GOALS: BRISBANE LIONS: Bradshaw 4, Voss 2, Notting, Lappin, Brown, Lynch, Akermanis, Caracella
GEELONG: Kingsley 2, Ling 2, Ablett 2, Gardiner 2, Chapman, Corey
BEST: BRISBANE LIONS: Lappin, Bradshaw, Scott, Black, Johnson, Voss, Brown, Power
GEELONG: Ling, Bartel, Graham, Milburn, Hunt, Corey, Mooney, King

On Cats Claw, Reaction to the loss ranged from measured criticism, to total bewilderment:

"Why did we start chipping it around? Why did we stop winning the clearences (sic)? Why did we only play for the last 2 minutes like we should have for the whole quarter??? Why did Riccardi do his first 2 bad kicks in about 15 years? Why did Ablett disappear from view?" - caitsith01

"Disappointed, but bloody proud
Bring on 2005" - Strider

"Hear hear, I don't mean to sound negative, we should indeed be really proud of their efforts, they came from nowhere in the eyes of the footy world this year and stuck it to the reigning triple premiers for 4 quarters in the second biggest game of the year.

It's pretty clear what the difference was tonight: forwards who can mark and kick goals. They had one, we didn't. If Graham had kicked those 4.... if if if!!! I reckon we were better over the rest of the ground for at least 2/3 of the game." - caitsith01 again.

"Disappointed but proud just about sums it up.
A prelim final was along way away after 3 rounds, so to get this far is a wonderful effort from everyone involved.
Unfortunately it has all boiled down to not been able to kick a winning score when he had the opportunities. Wanted one key forward, come on down the Not So Fat Lance." - hoss

The final word of reason game from media darling Pampered Kat (who, it must be noted, attracted attention from SEN's Deep Throat after calling for a blockade of Skilled Stadium earlier in the season):

"Some need to stop and think of where we were after round 3. Would you have preferred to stay bottom? These lads have worked bloody hard this season to get themselves where there were tonight and don't need shite flung at them, but praised for the enormous effort and transformation that has happened in the last 21 weeks."

The general consensus is that while we had our chances, the team had a wonderful season, coming from the depths of the first three losses, to lose a preliminary final by two kicks was a great effort. Something that can be built upon in 2005. The danger is that the club will rate their players too well, that many of them may have 'played above themselves' this one season. But that is unlikely; this group of players has been well-groomed by the match committee, and will stay together for a long time. Several senior players such as Peter Riccardi may have come to the end of their careers, while others at the fringe level will need to be moved on.

"Disappointed, but bloody proud.
Bring on 2005" - '