Versatility the key to success

TOP DOG: Bulldog Brad Johnson in one of his 25 kicks on Saturday was best afield. Photo: GEELONG ADVERTISER  
Monday, May 27

DEMANDS are growing on the modern day footballer.

It is no longer enough that every touch be clean, every attack on the ball be without fear and every shot at goal taken as if life itself depends on it.

Having a big fella at centre half-forward that can play down back was once a bonus. Having a couple of them is now a minimum requirement.

The modern day player is expected to be able to hold his own at either end of the ground.

Versatility is the key and its importance to winning a match was plain to see at the Cattery on Saturday.

It was a day where the runners from both clubs earned their money, as Terry Wallace and Mark Thompson made move after counter-move in a bid to gain the ascendancy.

Both claimed minor victories but Wallace won the day.

There was the obvious one of relieving Kingsley Hunter of his duties after a red hot Kent Kingsley kicked three goals in the opening 12 minutes.

Then there were the inspired moves of Matthew Scarlett to attack in the third quarter and Chris Grant as a loose man in defence in the last.

At 26 points down late in the third, things were getting desperate for the Cats. Graham to defence is usually the ``we're in trouble'' barometer but with him already there, Scarlett to attack became the new distress signal.

Scarlett booted two goals and shepherded through another in a five-minute burst that took the Cats to within eight points at the final change.

His opponent, Grant, was freed up to play loose across half-back in the last term in what proved a pivotal move. The skipper took six marks to shortcircuit many a Geelong attack.

Then there was best afield Brad Johnson. He was sent back to plug gaps in the first quarter as Geelong got off to a flyer with the breeze. Released forward in the second, he created havoc near goal with his skills overhead and lethal kick, finishing with six.

It was that versatility that proved the difference in the end.

``You certainly do have to be able to play anywhere now,'' Johnson said afterwards.

``That's the good thing about the under-18 competition. The coaches there understand that when you make AFL footy you have to be able to play all parts of the ground.

``The coaches at that level will teach the kids to do that. That is why a lot of our younger players can do that, because they've had that drilled into them as they've come through the junior competition.''

Two of the youngest Dogs, Robert Murphy and Lindsay Gilbee, were immobilised on the bench for most of the second half, with Steve Kretiuk injuring a groin in the warm-up.

With Johnson and Grant working wonders at both ends, you almost didn't notice them missing.