Cats in Close Call

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Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval

All indications for the Round 11 West Coast versus Geelong match predicted that the Eagles would struggle to produce a half-respectable performance against the Cats' talented and so far unbeaten team. In past years, Subiaco Oval has been infamous as a hostile ground, difficult for interstate teams to conquer, but this time, even with the home town advantage, the pundits were anticipating a thrashing for the Eagles.

Geelong is a powerhouse team with potential match-winners on every line and for the first 15 minutes of the game their teamwork was as impressive as their dazzling display of foot and hand skills. Tom Hawkins and Gary Ablett Jr had goals on the board within minutes and West Coast barely touched the ball past the half back line. When Geelong scored another three goals in quick succession, the hushed home crowd could see a rout in the making. Finally West Coast managed to attack but their historic lack of forward potency came back to haunt them with Dean Cox and Andrew Embley failing to convert. Young Eagle Tom Swift was in the action in his debut game and although the West Coast players made many skill errors under the enormous Geelong pressure, their endeavor could not be questioned. This stronger work ethic eventually paid off with a good Cox snap out of a ruck contest sparing West Coast the embarrassment of a no goal quarter. At the interval, Geelong led the contest by a healthy 22 points.

After a long kick into the Eagles' forward line produced the first goal of the second quarter, West Coast fans entered into the spirit of the game. Although Geelong were quick to reply through Cam Mooney, Mark LeCras used his body well to get a quick kick off to Quinten Lynch. Lynch's one handed mark and subsequent goal put the Eagles within 16 points and striking distance of a major upset. Senior Eagles Cox, Adam Hunter, Embley and Tyson Stenglein led the way for the eager West Coast youngsters and the quarter became a goal for goal affair. West Coast outscored the Cats four goals to two, forcing Geelong to play on their terms and narrowing the half time margin to only eleven points.

Matt Priddis ignited the Eagles in the third quarter but early opportunities on goal were frittered away by Josh Kennedy and LeCras. When Lynch snapped a goal from a pack, alarm bells rang for Geelong with the lead whittled to only five points. Geelong steadied with a goal through sharpshooter Steve Johnson who had been well held up to this point. A terrific run and carry by Travis Varcoe combined with coach Mark Thompson's well-timed move of Gary Ablett Jr to the goal square gave the Cats another six points on the board and some breathing space. The Eagles kept their heads, maintained their hard efforts at the ball and were rewarded when Ben McKinley took an excellent contested mark and followed up with a goal. Proving why they are favorites for the Flag, the Cats had an answer for every thrust by West Coast. Majors to Paul Chapman and Shannon Byrnes took the lead out to 28 points and it seemed clear that try as they may, the Eagles would capitulate to the Cats' superior talent. A late goal to Scott Selwood gave West Coast the ghost of a chance and at the final break Geelong led by 22 points, setting the scene for an intriguing final quarter. Would the Cats overrun the young Eagles or could the inexperienced home side with nothing to lose cause an upset?

McKinley gave West Coast the ideal start with a goal but Chris Masten and Brad Ebert missed opportunities and prompted groans from the West Coast fans. Again it was the composure of the Cats under pressure that prevailed. Although the Eagles continued to play tough and hard at the contest, their young players made wrong decisions at the wrong times. The Eagles came to within 14 points of the Cats but goals to Mooney and Matthew Stokes put the game away. Even though it was clear Geelong was not in top gear for most of the game, there were encouraging signs for West Coast who were gallant and courageous in defeat.

Geelong 5.1 7.5 12.7 15.9  (99)
WCE     1.3 5.6 8.9  11.11 (77)

Geelong G Ablett Jr, T Varcoe, J Selwood, P Chapman, T Hawkins
WCE     A Embley, D Cox, A Hunter, M Priddus, T Stenglein

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 W  L  D %   Pts
Crows  15  6  1  135.98  62
Cats  15  6  1 117.38  62
Tigers  15  7  0  118.29  60
Giants  14  6  2  114.85  60

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 W  L  D %   Pts
Lions Women  6  0  1  151.4  26
Crows Women  5  2  0  157.3  20
Demons Women  5  2  0  141.0  20
Blues Women  3  3  1  112.5  14

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