CATS DEFEAT MAGPIES, INTO GRAND FINAL
By Ben Jensen GEELONG CATS V COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES GEELONG is first side through to the AFL Grand Final, defeating a gallant Collingwood by just five points in front of 98,002 at the MCG Friday night. Geelong were certainly not on top of their game, but Collingwood played one of their better matches of the season, defying the odds to go within a kick of making the Grand Final. The Cats play the winner of Port Adelaide and the Kangaroos, being played at 5PM Victoria time at Adelaide's AAMI Stadium.
GEELONG 4.4 7.6 9.13 13.14 (92) DEFEATED
CROWD: 98,002 at Melbourne Cricket Ground
Geelong certainly made hard work of the win. Collingwood kicked the first goal of the match, courtesy of veteran midfielder Scott Burns. The Cats answered back quickly, Matthew Stokes kicking the first of his three first quarter goals. At one stage Geelong led by three goals to one, before the Pies stole back another after Joel Selwood gave away a fifty metre penalty that put plodder Shane O'Bree within range. Brad Ottens was the other Geelong goalkicker for the term, the lead over the Pies eleven points.
Shortly after Ottens' goal, this columnist was struck on the shoulder by a Collingwood supporter who took umbrage at the Geelong tradition of standing to applaud a fine goal - commenting she came to watch football 'not the back of your head'. Well, you won't have that problem in the Grand Final as you won't be there, my dear.
Neither side kicked a goal for the opening six minutes of the second quarter, and it was the Pies who struck first blood through Sean Rusling. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Carringbush hit the lead for the first time since the five minute mark of the opening term, and the ferals united with one voice as Paul Medhurst kicked his first goal less than a minute later. Collingwood held the lead until the fourteenth minute when Steve Johnson calmly slotted through his first for the day. As if that wasn't enough, he followed it up less than two minutes later with his second, the Cats out to a handy lead of less than two goals.
Max Rooke, who earlier in the day was the subject of an enlightening story titled 'The Max Factor' in The Age, kicked Geelong's third unanswered goal; but unfortunately it was the final goal of the quarter. Collingwood kicked the final two goals of the half, to cut Geelong's lead back to just five points. Alan Didak kicked the first, what could only be called a miracle goal, although these days standard for the cunning Didak. Rusling kicked the other from a tight angle near the boundary line, fourty-five metres from goal.
Chatter at half time revolved around how similar this game was to the last outing, back in Round 15, also at the MCG. Then, Geelong led by eleven points at quarter time, and six points at half time. But crucially, by sixteen points at full time. Almost the same situation tonight!
As in the first half the Magpies came out of the blocks early. The Cats also had a crack but stuffed up shot after shot at goal. James Kelly was the first Cat to kick a goal, in the eleventh minute, making ammends for his earlier miss to slot one home from about fourty metres. Magpie Leon Davis kicked the opening goal of the quarter five minutes in. Collingwood answered straight back, Travis Cloke finally kicking his first of the day after escaping Darren Milburn's grasp. Cloke had plenty of kicks in the opening half, but most of them came on centre-wing, out of range even for him and Anthony Rocca. Rocca, incidentally, played a Shocker, missing his only shot at goal from outside fifty, putting it several rows back out of bounds on the full.
In the eighteenth minute Paul Medhurst's third goal put the Pies back in front for the third time, which brought the Magpie army to their feet. It took another ten minutes and a deliberate out of bounds free kick against retiring veteran Shane Wakelin for Cameron Mooney to make a direct impact on the scoreboard. Mooney's free kick was just beyond the behind post on The Cattery side, or left forward pocked Ponsford Stand end of the ground. While not making a flawless attempt, Mooney nonetheless calmly slotted through his kick and immediately turned to the crowd to deliver the mother of all rev-ups.
When the siren sounded less than one minute later, the Cats were in front nine goals, thirteen behinds to the Magpies' nine goals eight behinds - a lead of just five points, the same as at half time. A smother from All Australian and 150 gamer Joel Corey prevented the Magpies from regaining the lead.
Danger man Cloke struck with his second goal, in the second minute of the final term to put his side in front for the fourth time of the evening. Fortunately, Mooney kicked his second goal of the match the very next play to snatch back the lead. When Steve Johnson and Paul Chapman both converted set shots in the fifth and tenth minute, the lead stood at three goals and it appeared as if it was nearly game, set, match and Grand Final berth to the Cats. But the game had only just begun.
The Magpies were desperate to get into the Grand Final to give Captain Nathan Buckley one last shot at a Premiership that has eluded him in his AFL career. Cloke kicked his third goal at the halfway mark of the quarter, and should have kicked another a minute earlier. Alan Didak booted his second three minutes later and the Pies were back to within one goal of the lead and an unlikely Grand Final berth.
Enter Gary Ablett. Best on ground Brad Ottens expertly palmed the ball into Ablett's path, the All Australian rover slapping away two opponents and kicked a cool snap-shot at goal about fourty-five metres from goal. The Cats, however, just could not break the Magpie resolve. Several brave smothers, amoung them Jimmy Bartel, held out the Magpies but in the last minute Anthony Rocca received a gifted free kick in front of goal, about thirty metres out. Rocca then claimed he couldn't take the kick and it was given to Medhurst. Medhurst snuck the goal in, cutting the deficit to just five points. History shows the Cats hung on, the brave Ottens still on the ground and involved in the final play, a ball-up right on Collingwood's forward fifty-metre line.
Geelong's best on the night were, in order, Ottens, Ablett, Corey, Bartel, Matthew Scarlett and Rooke. Those quiet or ineffective for much of the game were Cameron Ling, David Wojcinski, Nathan Ablett, Paul Chapman and Corey Enright. Mark Blake struggled but wasn't too bad and should retain his spot. Shannon Byrnes raises the ire of fans, quite often deservedly so, but as a player fast earning the 'much maligned tag, his mistakes are often unfairly remembered ahead of the good things. Mind you, his tackle of a teammate in the final term was one of the more absurd things I've seen this season.
GEELONG PLAYERS CELEBRATE AFTER THE FINAL SIREN