Young Cats win over doubters
FIRST DAY: Paul Chambers leapt into the AFL in his first game for the Cats, seen here contesting the ruck against Saint Trent Knobel.  
Monday, April 22
Geelong Advertiser

MARK Thompson in a preacher's hat and robe wouldn't have looked out of place last night.

You could just picture the Geelong coach standing before the masses at Kardinia Park, arms outstretched and proclaiming: ``I told you so, you just had to keep the faith.''

The sermon has been the same since the Cats showed their hand at last year's national draft by picking up seven kids.

Just as Brian Cook has been the man carrying the collection plate for sponsorship and membership dollars, Thompson has been the preacher telling us all to have faith in his young side. In time they'll become good footballers, he maintains.

That day may have come earlier than even he expected after his young cubs yesterday fed on the carcass that is St Kilda.

That the kids slaughtered a hopelessly undermanned opposition was no miracle. Without Nathan Burke, Robert Harvey, Peter Everitt or Fraser Gehrig and injuries to Aaron Hamill, Stewart Loewe and Max Hudghton, the Saints were ripe for the plucking.

But 122 points! It's a big win in anyone's language, and with so many baby faces on the paddock, there was plenty to get excited about from a Geelong perspective.

There was James Bartel's ability to win the footy and find space around the ground, Aaron Lord's six goals, Jarad Rooke's poise across half-back, Paul Chambers' impressive debut in the ruck and, of course, Gary Ablett junior.

The kid with the surfy locks and biggest set of boots to fill in the game, lit up the park whenever he went near the ball.

He kicked two goals and had a hand in a couple more with his quick hands and hard running.

The young Cats were given the freedom to run by St Kilda and took full advantage.

An upset win over the Kangaroos wasn't enough for some doubting Thomases, but yesterday's caning presents undeniable evidence.

The Cats will test many teams this season and most probably get better as the year goes on. Father Time and the preacher will see to that.