First published in The Age on September 1, 2013
Cats put to the test by desperate Lions
Conventional wisdom has it that Geelong would take a visiting interstate team, its beloved stadium brimming with its own, and a sunny afternoon with spring in the air on every Saturday of the year. Fortunately — and historically — the Cats will come back next week to try and do the setting justice.
Lion Daniel Rich is tackled with the ball.Credit:Wayne Taylor
Ross Lyon wasn’t the only one who gave Brisbane Lions no chance, but this came perilously close to one of the great upsets. Poor Ryan Lester will rue not getting more boot to his snap with the last kick of a cracking game which, under pressure, couldn’t get the elevation to clear Paul Chapman and Harry Taylor on the goal line.
Lester and his teammates slumped to the turf, and in a brooding changerooms 70-odd kilometres up the Princes Freeway, Fremantle’s coach was surely relieved that he would make it back through Perth airport without the need for a bodyguard.
Steve Johnson.Credit:Wayne Taylor
Chris Scott brushed off what in other circumstances would have been an almighty scare, saying it was good for Geelong supporters to see a tight game on their almost impregnable home track. The numbers suggested the Cats were good around the ball, just wasteful with it by hand.
On another day, he might have noted that for large chunks of the game they were matched or bettered by a team that played a very Geelong brand of football, taking the game on through the corridor with strong overlap running and pushing hard towards goal, where Ash McGrath was the chief beneficiary with six majors.
“Our game — like most of the other teams up toward the top of the ladder — is in part based on taking the opposition’s game away from them,” Scott said. “We didn’t do that well today.”
Geelong’s Tom Hawkins takes a mark.Credit:Wayne Taylor
When McGrath’s fifth goal capped another end-to-end attack late in the third quarter, the unsung visitors held both the lead and the knowledge that the wind filling their metaphorical sails would be at their backs in the last.
Even when it looked like the Cats had finally been shaken to life — as before the last change Travis Varcoe and Allen Christensen screwed goals from the pocket, and Mitch Duncan put them 20 points clear — the Lions kept coming.
Josh Caddy’s snap at the start of the last seemingly made it safe, but the likes of substitute Josh Green, Mitch Golby, Tom Rockliff, Jordan Lisle or former Cat Brent Moloney were having none of what coach Mark Harvey conceded — that nobody had given them a chance.
Without the intervention of Chapman, deservedly praised by Scott for his second-up effort, and captain Joel Selwood — subdued by a mix of Andrew Raines and Daniel Rich — the brace of goals from both Lisle and Green, and one from Golby would have sent Cats’ fans home wondering about the worth of a home final.
The unusual happened from the outset — Steve Johnson moved to baulk an opponent and let go of the ball, Jimmy Bartel and Selwood made critical errors, James Podsiadly’s fingers weren’t sticky, Taylor got lost in an aerial contest.
Joel Selwood evades a tackler.Credit:Wayne Taylor
The latter didn’t win his first kick until shifted forward midway through the second quarter.
Matt Maguire was loose in the Lions′ defence, and the locals kicked it to him like he was still playing for the Geelong Falcons. Up on the wing, Johnson collided with an umpire, and they were still picking themselves up as Dayne Zorko’s second on the run put the Lions a goal in front.
Doubling Geelong in second-quarter tackles illustrated Brisbane’s work ethic, while McGrath’s fourth to put his team 10 points up just after half-time underscored their superior polish. Where the Cats’ shots on goal faltered on the breeze, McGrath showed them how to do it.
In the end, the Lions kicked two more goals than their opponents and became just the second team to kick 100 points against Geelong at Geelong since that triumph by Port Adelaide in late 2007. These were the ultimate small victories that counted for nothing.
GEELONG 5.5 7.11 12.20 15.22 (112)
BRISBANE LIONS 3.3 9.5 11.6 17.9 (111)
Geelong: Caddy 2, Chapman 2, Varcoe 2, Christensen, Taylor, Bartel, Kelly, Podsiadly, Selwood, Duncan, Johnson, Hawkins.
Brisbane Lions: McGrath 6, Lisle 3, Zorko 2, Green 2, Lester 2, Golby, Bewick.
Geelong: Bartel, Stokes, Chapman, Selwood, Caddy, Duncan.
Brisbane Lions: McGrath, Rockliff, Golby, Redden, Rich, Raines, Moloney.
McBurney, Kamolins, Ryan.
27,483 at Simonds Stadium.
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