Cats' patience wearing thin as Burns struggles

Tuesday, August 6

IT'S said that Geelong star Ronnie Burns is a different player this year, that he's learnt to do the team things, shepherding and tackling, chasing.

In the past the enigmatic Burns was given free rein to weave his magic, excused if he didn't always follow the team plan because his bursts of brilliance could ignite the side.

The forward line was his domain and he always patrolled it with one eye on the goals.

But this year the spark is missing and the goals have dried up, replaced by a look of frustration when the ball hasn't bounced his way.

Coach Mark Thompson has tried Burns further up the field in a bid to work him into form and while it's been acknowledged that he has started doing the team things, his return remains below expectations.

Thompson admitted as much in his post-match press conference after the Kangaroos loss, saying he had been ``pretty patient'' and that he would sit down and talk with Burns during the week.

The suggestion is that Burns' position in the senior line-up will come under pressure but that will be measured against his value in opposition team planning and the fact he is generally assigned a premier defender.

He may also win a reprieve with the injury to another key opportunistic forward, Aaron Lord, who injured his abductor muscle at training last Thursday and remains in doubt.

Burns' tackling has been a feature o f his game this year, the seventh highest in the club at 38, but on the debit side he has given away 16 free kicks, the second worst in the side behind Steven King.

He is averaging just under five kicks a game, a couple of marks, just over four handballs and has kicked 14 goals from his 15 matches. They are not the sort of glowing statistics one would expect from one of the club's top 10 players but with the club struggling to consolidate its place in the top eight, now is the time for Burns to repay the faith the match committee has had in him so far this year.