Reality check for Cats

Thursday, May 16
Geelong Advertiser _ Ken Hinkley

IT'S often said that a week is a long time in footy and in Geelong's case we could be forgiven for thinking that a fortnight makes a season.

In the past two weeks Geelong has played two of the top four sides in the competition and this weekend faces off against Port Adelaide, the most likely challenger to Brisbane's crown.

It's taken a couple of beatings after its two wins but shouldn't lose sight of the big picture and what it set out to achieve, which was to blood its exciting prospects.

Confidence can be a delicate thing among even the most experienced players, Ben Graham has proved that, and while Geelong's may have been dented a little it is something the coaching staff would have been careful to address this week.

I'm sure the coaching staff at the beginning of the season, with its youth policy, would have guarded against such losses and will have a plan in place.

Geelong's most recent wins against Fremantle and St Kilda were won against ordinary opposition on the day and maybe they thought they were a little ahead of themselves.

But the reality check would have hit home hard in the past two weeks and I'm sure they have a more modest assessment of where they sit in the competition.

That being said, Port Adelaide this weekend presents another real challenge for this young outfit.

Port's preseason form was the best in competition. It won the Wizard Cup but started slowly when the season began.

Whatever the reason for its slow start Port soon hit top gear, but for the loss against Brisbane last weekend, and has shown it is a force in the competition. I believe it will live up to the top four finish that everyone expected at the start of the season.

Geelong basically will have to have everything going right, from its kick-ins to stoppages, defence and forward set-ups to have a chance.

It cannot afford to make the basic mistakes that have marked its games in the past couple of weeks.

The forward line is obviously of particular concern and a lot has been made of that already this week.

But the fact is if a side can only kick 12-13 goals a match and is not going to flood the game, which Mark Thompson says he won't, it's going to be hard-pressed to come home with the points.

Geelong's forward line this week will come up against the likes of Darryl Wakelin, Darren Mead, Damien Hardwick, Matthew Bishop and maybe Brent Guerra and Jared Poulton.

These defenders, while not all class, have been getting the job done in a no nonsense fashion until last week but expect them to bounce back.

What do I believe are Geelong's best options to kick a winning score?

I think it rests largely with Ronnie Burns who should come back into the forward line after a couple of weeks out with a hip injury.

He gives Geelong an element of the unknown.

He can be electrifying but if the ball doesn't fall his way early he has a tendency to drop his head.

I think Port will probably play Hardwick on him. He runs hard and straight at the ball and likes to run off his opponent and set up attacking moves.

The best option for Ronnie is to take him right back to the goal square, not dissimilar to what Kevin Sheedy had Dean Rioli do with Andrew McKay on Friday night.

Give Ronnie the goal square and see if he can weave his magic.

Geelong would be well served to also take a close look at recalling David Mensch to work in tandem with Steven King in the ruck.

His form has been great in the reserves and he deserves another shot.

That would allow King considerable time up forward where he has already proved this year that he can kick the goals. And he should have a good height advantage over whoever stands him.

He's 202cm and Port's tallest defender, Bishop, is 195cm.

It is an area that Geelong needs to exploit.

Kent Kingsley is in form and Geelong's leading goal scorer and the Cats will obviously be hoping he can continue his good form.

I also think it's time for Gary Ablett Jnr to start on the ground. He has a creative mind and quick hands and was instrumental in getting Geelong back in the hunt last week in the second quarter against Hawthorn.

If he does start on the ground and up forward, I'd expect Aaron Lord to start on the bench because three small opportunistic forwards would expose a lack of height.

Cameron Mooney at full forward, Ben Graham at centre half-forward and Kent Kingsley on a forward flank, and King going forward at any stage, is scary on paper.

It hasn't worked the past two weeks, but against Port I think it will create major worries for the Power's coaching staff.