B Jensen June 20 2004

THE CATS did what they couldn't for nine years; they have defeated the Brisbane Lions in a Premiership match. After trailing at half time, Geelong dominated the second half won by twenty seven points. Just under eighteen thousand braved the wintry conditions at Skilled Stadium, and were rewarded with a magnificent display from their team. In contract, there were simply too few winners for the Lions; over half the team did not get into double figures (possessions), while for the Cats all but four achieved the feat.

Going into the break, Geelong are now eight wins for five losses, and sit in fifth place on the ladder. All after losing the first three games to St Kilda, Carlton, and Sydney. Geelong has a 100% home game winning record, including matches at Telstra Dome. Membership sits at just over 25,000, against a budget of 24,800 although this places Geelong at just 14th on the Membership ladder.

Brisbane lead the game up until half time, but was never more than a few points in front. Michael Voss, Nigel Lappin and Jonathan Brown did much of the damage in that first half, although Voss was ineffective after quarter time. Up forward for Geelong, Gary Ablett was blanketed by Chris Johnson, leading to several scuffles, Kent Kingsley was offline and Paul Chapman was off the boil. But Ben Graham stood out, booting two goals before half time and keeping the Cats in the game.

The rain that earlier engulfed Geelong and threatened the game did not spoil most of the first three quarters. In fact the first half was played in sunny conditions, with no clouds in site. But the wind was blowing a gale. The rain finally arrived in the third quarter but was could only be described as a persistent shower.

Many Geelong members with reserved seats opted to stay at home and either tune in to one of six radio stations covering the match of the round, or watch the game on Foxtel. The game was once again not on free to air television; a situation that is preposterous in an era when sponsor exposure on a national level is critical.

The third quarter saw the Cats rain goals to the Hickey stand end. The second half started off with the Cats chipping away at the deficit with four behinds, before the Lions booted another goal through Jason Akermanis. Steve Johnson kicked two for the term, while Gary Ablett bombed from just outside 50m, into the wind, to snatch the lead back, which the Cats would not let the Lions steal again.

Darren Milburn was superb in the third quarter. He spent some time in the middle during the match as well as 'down back'. Cameron Ling ensured Black couldn't do much damage while David Wojcinski backed up last week with another near-best performance. Joel Corey performed well in his comeback game after minor knee surgery. James Bartel was relatively quiet after starring the past two rounds but nonetheless gathered just under 20 possessions.

Ben Graham had 15 kicks, 5 handballs and pulled in 8 marks. But it was his attack on the ball and the Brisbane players that was just as valuable. An injured Justin Leppitsch couldn't hold Graham and spent the second half resting on the sidelines, forcing Lions coach Leigh "Devine Homes - get yourself into deep debt at Docklands" Matthews to move Darren Bradshaw onto him. Bradshaw, goalless to half time, was even less effective in the backline, as was Mal Michael. Geelong coach Mark Thompson hailed Graham's game as his best ever up forward.

Tom Harley struggled on Jonathan Brown but two of Brown's goals were from either free kicks or a freak performance. The Harley and Matthew Scarlett show rolls on - Scarlett a certain All Australian at this point while Harley would have to be under serious consideration.

At times Brown was Carey-like, his sidestep fake and goal on a difficult angle on his left foot in the third quarter was uncanny in its appearance to Wayne Carey. The weather conditions did not suit the big forward, although Graham had no trouble at the other end. Akermanis did not do much up forward, other than getting on the end of a chain of handballs to kick a goal in the second quarter. David Johnson, brought into the side to play on Akermanis after shadowing him in recent seasons, got the better of the bleached one yet again to ensure there would be no handstands after the final siren.

At three quarter time Geelong lead by a handy twenty points. Most pundits would have thought the Lions would come out and attack this lead and run over their opposition; they were partially right when Nigel Lappin sprinted away to kick the first goal of the last term, but that was to be as far as the Lions revival would go. Geelong would kick another three goals four behinds to finish the match winners.

Kent Kingsley, off target all day, booted two, the first one of which was the sealer. Joel Corey was the other goalkicker for the quarter. Kingsley now has 31 goals for the season, Graham 22, Chapman 21, Ablett 16, Cameron Ling, Cameron Mooney and late inclusion David Haynes 10. Haynes replaced Charlie Gardiner in the selected side and was very effective, as he has been all season. Gardiner should be available for selection against West Coast in a fortnight's time.

The rain fell once more a few minutes from the end, but in the immortal words of Tony Greig "It's p&ssing down but they don't give a flying f***". A well rounded Geelong fan dressed in red danced the last few minutes away, standing in the new umpire's race for the eastern stand (under construction). Other sang WE ARE GEELONG in anticipation of the final siren. On the final siren, the crowd was united (except the Lions supporters) as the rain fell and the tinny-sounding PA system pumped out the theme song.

Media commentators love to write and talk about a winning Geelong team, and haven't held back this time. Billy Brownless 'kept a lid on it' in another hilarious performance on the Sunday Footy Show, wearing an XXL Geelong jumper. Even Member No. 19,000-odd Robert Walls is on the bandwagon, after stating earlier in the season that Richmond had cracked the winning formula that the Cats simply couldn't find. To be fair, Walls had every reason to bag the Cats and in fact has a crack at most teams on the off chance he may turn out to be right.

Geelong take on West Coast at Subiaco on July 4. One of the AFL's most difficult road trips (besides the trip down the highway to Skilled Stadium!), Geelong has a fortnight to prepare and is a very good chance to knock off the Eagles on their home turf for the first time since Round 16 2001, when the Cats won by seventy points. Last time these two teams met, in Round 20 at Skilled Stadium, it ended in a sloppy draw.

Next Sunday the Geelong VFL side take on the Box Hill Hawks at Box Hill City Oval at 2PM. Players pressing for a senior recall will include Matthew McCarthy, James Rahilly and Henry Playfair.

GEELONG: 2.3 5.4 10.10 13.14 (92) DEFEATED
BRISBANE LIONS: 3.5 5.7 8.10 9.11 (65)

GOALS: GEELONG: Graham, S Johnson, Kingsley, Mooney 2, Haynes, Corey, Ablett, Wojcinski, Ling 1
BRISBANE LIONS: Brown 4, Notting, Akermanis, Pike, McLaren, Lappin 1
BEST: GEELONG: Graham, Ling, Sanderson, D Johnson, Mooney, Wojcinski, Kelly, Scarlett
BRISBANE LIONS: Brown, Black, Voss, Lappin, Akermanis, McLaren