What's bugging our Ronnie?

Rocket Ronnie
ON HIS WAY: Ronnie Burns gets a kick away as Jeff White arrives on the scene. Photo: GEELONG ADVERTISER  
Monday, June 3

RONNIE Burns has been Geelong's leading goalkicker the past five years.

His mercurial skills, quick thinking and uncanny goal sense make him one of the first Cats assigned a tagger when opposing teams plan their strategy.

But the bursts of magic that so often leave Geelong fans amazed have been few and far between this year.

He hasn't kicked a goal for two of the past three weeks. He snagged two in quick succession against the Bulldogs in round nine to bring his season tally to seven from seven games.

He's averaged seven possessions the past three games and amassed eight clangers in that time.

So what's buggin' Burns?

The death of his grandfather earlier this year is one theory. Insiders at the club say Burns took the loss hard but is coping well now.

A more tangible theory is the arrival of Aaron Lord, Gary Ablett junior and Paul Chapman to the Cats' forward line.

The crumbs that Burns dined on in previous years are now being shared with the newcomers; reluctantly it seemed at times on Saturday.

The body language suggested that Burns was one frustrated man when the ball didn't bounce his way or he was overlooked when darting forward as an option. His absence from many post-goal celebrations in his area confirmed the frustration.

Mark Thompson said after the match that he had to work on ``keeping Ronnie up''.

Just as his skipper, Ben Graham, turned his form around on the weekend, the coach believes Burns isn't far off finding the spark.

He did a lot of work off the ball on Saturday and had a hand in the Cats' last two goals despite not earning a stat either time. First, he provided a shepherd to Brad Sholl who found an accurate Steven King and then he kept a David Clarke shot at goal alive by tapping it forward where Paul Chapman jagged one out of mid-air.

It was those little things that led to Burns being the centre of attention in the rooms afterwards.

He earned praise from the coach for having recorded the most number of defensive efforts for the game and was duly cheered by his team-mates.

``I think the players, his team-mates, are really happy with him,'' Thompson said.

``Even though he didn't kick a goal, if you look at his tackles and all those sorts of things that us coaches widely keep records of, he rated really highly. The players really appreciate him doing that if he's not kicking goals.''