CATS SEE OFF BULLDOGS, INTO GRAND FINAL
By Ben Jensen (In London) GEELONG are into the Grand Final for the second year in a row after defeating the Western Bulldogs by 29 points in front of 70,140 punters at the MCG in the first Preliminary Final. Geelong will play either St Kilda or Hawthorn in the Grand Final, those two meeting at the MCG tomorrow night. It will be the first All Victorian Grand Final since 2000, when Essendon thumped Melbourne after winning 21 of 22 games in the home and away season, a feat the Cats are hoping to emulate.
All that remains now is the big question: If presuming he is fit and selected, who will Paul Chapman replace? Bomber Thompson has already stated the Travis Varcoe will NOT be the one to make way: "Travis won't go out; he (Varcoe) wouldn't be considered (for omission). I'll say that publicly, if he doesn't get a virus he'll play next week". So while there's some Costello-style 'wriggle-room', Varcoe is set to have a chance at the Premiership he and indeed Mark Blake missed out on last season.
Others in the gun are Tom Lonergan, David Wojcinski, James Kelly and Matthew Stokes. One one hand Lonergan should keep his spot being the only tall forward of the batch, but on the other hand Wojcinski and Kelly are proven finals winners. Stokes didn't play too bad in last year's Grand Final either, and has been good all season. Our money is actually on Stokes to make way; someone has to go and the cards point to the little man whose position will be filled be Chapman and Kelly switching roles between the forward line and midfield.
Another school of thought is that Brad Ottens, no slouch in front of goal, could fill the void should Lonergan be left out. This is all well and good but you're robbing Peter to pay Paul in many respects, particularly should Hawthorn's ruckman get on top of Blake. Should heavy rain be predicted however, the likes of Stokes, Chapman, Varcoe and Kelly could come into their own so Lonergan could turn out to be the unlucky man to miss out.
GEELONG 5.3, 8.8, 10.9 12.11 (83) DEFEATED
CROWD: 70,140 at MCG
UMPIRES: M Vozzo S McBurney S Ryan
INJURIES: GEELONG: Nil injury reports WESTERN BULLDOGS: Nil injury reports
Geelong started off the game slightly more dominant than the Bulldogs, although on the scoreboard it was even for the opening ten minutes. The Bulldogs then got going, two goals from Shaun Higgins and Brad Johnson putting them up by four goals to two. This only served to anger the Cats into action however, who then marched on to kick six of the next seven goals for the half. The Cats remained flat, however, not displaying the killer instinct of recent weeks, although booting three goals five behinds in the second term didn't help.
Captain Tom Harley's wobbly goal minutes from half time gave his side and the fans a boost, that it came from a fifty metre penalty conceded at centre-half back made it all the more sweeter. Ruckman Brad Ottens, without whom the Cats may not have made last year's Grand Final, helped himself to his only goal after fellow big man Mark Blake took the ruck work in front of goal. The Cats took a handy twenty-one point lead into the main break.
Like the first quarter, the Bullies were first out of the gate in the second half, but again didn't capitalise on the scoreboard at all. They were all over the Cats in the opening ten minutes but kicked just the two goals, both from second year player Jarrod Harbrow. Will Minson had a chance to put his side within ten points but sliced the kick wide for a behind; this was to be the closest the Bullies got to Geelong for the rest of the match, the Cats. Cameron Mooney, overlooked for All Australian honours earlier in the week, kicked a timely goal to give his side back the momentum as they kicked an economical two goals one behind for the quarter to finish with a three goal lead.
The final term was a bit of a yawn fest, resembling an indian arm-wrestle earlier on, and finishing with the Cats booting two goals while the Bulldogs failed to trouble the scorers with any majors, scoring just the three behinds.
Max Rooke snuffed out any hopes the Bulldogs may have had of getting back into the game, cleaning up Brad Johnson while going for the ball and accepting a wayward handpass a split second later before snapping the ball home from fourty metres out. Steve Johnson, who was quiet on the scoreboard but did a job all over the ground creating several scoring opportunities and saving others, chimed in towards the end when it was clearly all over.
Although it wasn't as overawing occasion as last year's Preliminary Final win over everybody's favourite enemy Collingwood, there remaining a clinical ruthlessness about Geelong's win; they got the job done, came out with no injury or report worries, and are on track and focused on winning their second Premiership next Saturday at the MCG. We won't be there this season but will certainly hear the roar, hopefully by our side, at twenty past five next Saturday from our bar in Munich, Germany.
AFL 2008, PRELIMINARY FINAL
GEELONG V WESTERN BULLDOGS
FRIDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 2008, 19:40 AEST
AFL PREMIERS VICTORY PACK - FOUR DVD'S - THREE FINALS PLUS SEASON HIGHLIGHTS