Cats defence must step in Hall's way

Thursday, June 13
Geelong Advertiser _ Ken Hinkley

PLENTY of sighs of relief heard out of Skilled Stadium this week.

Well and truly in control of the match, the Cats found themselves relying on Peter Riccardi kicking the most important goal of his career to win a game against Carlton which they had in the bag.

The match committee would be grateful they won, but make no mistake that last quarter effort was very close to being the most disappointing 30 minutes of footy the team has produced this year.

The first challenge for Bomber and his assistants this week would have been to analyse that last quarter and find out just what went wrong.

There would have been a lot of negatives come out of their post match review but I'm tipping not all would have been relayed back to the player group.

Having been in footy for a long time and experienced these situations, I think the best thing to do is to promote the positives out of the game rather than dwell on the negatives.

You don't want too many negative thoughts in the players' minds about that last quarter fade-out.

You're better to talk about the reasons why you got 38 points up and reinforce the good things they did.

Interstate teams playing at home this year have proven hard to beat, with Sydney the only side (except Port Adelaide in round one) to lower their colours.

They lost heavily to the Western Bulldogs, whose form has been as good as any in the competition since.

The Swans were also pipped by Essendon at Stadium Australia, but that was almost considered a neutral ground having been the first game played there.

Looking through the AFL stats this week, I noticed one very interesting thing; that Sydney has not got one player in the top 10 for kicks, marks or handballs.

This would suggest they haven't got a player enjoying a great season in the midfield.

They do, however, have the player second on the AFL goalkicking list in Barry Hall.

Having had the chance first-hand to work with Barry, I have great respect for him as a player who I now believe is in the top five forwards in the game. He's particularly good in one-on-one contests.

Barry has great strength and speed for a big man.

He does, however, need plenty of space to work in and very quick movement of the ball forward for him to have a big influence in games.

I noticed in the game against the Saints that his old team always had more than one player helping out to take away his space by just putting themselves into the zone he normally likes to lead.

Their knowledge of him really did give them an advantage in nullifying his input.

Barry has shown in the past that with limited involvement early in the match, he can lose focus, as he showed in the game against Geelong last year.

The Cats must have a player or players prepared to stop him early and make him frustrated.

This can be done by players up the ground holding up their opponents and not allowing quick ball movement into the Swans forward line.

I think Tom Harley has the speed to go with Barry, as well as the strength but he will still require the ruckman to drop back and help out, especially if Plugger Lockett is also menacing out there.

It is a big game in the context of the Cats' season. If they are to play in this year's finals, this is one game they must win. And only a four quarter performance will do it.