Cats get up in hard slog

ON THE BALL: In just his seventh game, James Kelly burned for the Cats in shocking conditions. Here, he dodges another AFL newcomer, Ashley Sampi. Photo: GEELONG ADVERTISER  
Monday, July 8

SPECTATORS sitting in the Reg Hickey Stand must have been moaning about money for nothing at three-quarter time in the Geelong-West Coast game on Saturday.

Just one goal had been scored at the Barwon River end, into a bitingly cold southwest wind that ripped across the ground and forced play onto the eastern wing.

But Geelong defied the goal-scoring trend, and the wind, to kick three goals in the last quarter and run out winners 8.17 (65) to West Coast 4.9 (33).

Supporters' patience had been rewarded and their hunger for a fifth straight Geelong win sated. Not since the opening five rounds of the 1999 season has that feat been matched by the Cats.

Geelong went into the last quarter with a 12-point lead after failing to capitalise on opportunities with the wind in the third and booting two goals from nine scoring shots.

But what was expected to be a final quarter marked by defensive pressure to protect the lead turned into an offensive assault as Geelong lifted a gear to dominate the play with three goals and at the same time hold West Coast scoreless.

``The last quarter, for us to score three goals and keep them scoreless, was certainly a good effort,'' Geelong coach Mark Thompson said after the game.

The strength of the wind relegated Saturday's contest to a desperate game of inches played out along the eastern wing.

It wasn't pretty and the wind humiliated players from both sides who tried to finesse.

Geelong's James Kelly was one player to tame the elements in a best-on-ground performance, two weeks after picking up a Rising Star nomination, and had a hand in the sealing goal with a slick handpass to Aaron Lord at the 15 minute mark of the last quarter.

``I was going to have a shot myself and then I got caught so I had to give it off but Lordy was fantastic today,'' Kelly said.

Lord was fantastic, and the only multiple goal scorer for the day, booting three goals for the Cats.

``Hard day to play the forward line today,'' Thompson said.

``The pretty kicks just never come in windy conditions. Three (goals) was a good effort.''

For the second week in a row, Cameron Ling blanketed the opposition's danger man: West Coast skipper Ben Cousins, after he beat Richmond skipper Wayne Campbell the week before.

Ling held the dangerous Cousins to 17 possessions, a modest tally for the outright Brownlow favourite, while picking up 18 himself.

West Coast coach John Worsfold found some positives despite a second half in which the Eagles scored just two points.

In particular, there was Ashley Sampi, who replaced Michael Gardiner in the starting line up and with his first kick in league football dribbled through a goal early in the second quarter.