Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
Geelong booked their passage into a Grand Final face-off with reigning Premiers Collingwood after a comfortable 48 point win over the West Coast Eagles at the MCG on Saturday. First year coach Chris Scott has proved many critics wrong by taking the Cats back to the Grand Final, in the wake of losing the game’s best player in Gary Ablett Jr to the Gold Coast Suns.
Geelong dominated possession early in the first quarter. Travis Varcoe scored the first goal before wayward finishing failed to convert on some solid midfield work from the hard running Cats. The normally aggressive West Coast outfit seemed timid as James Podsiadly stretched the lead with a second Geelong goal. After Jack Darling missed for the Eagles, Trent West marked and goaled for Geelong once again and things were looking grim for last year’s wooden spooners. The Eagles finally had their first goal when Josh Kennedy – still sporting a half-closed eye from the previous game against Carlton – kicked truly after taking a solid contested mark. David Wojcinski kicked a wonderful major to blow the margin out to 28 points before Nic Naitanui brought one back for the Eagles just before the siren ended the first quarter. Geelong dominated the inside 50 entries 22 to eight but led by just 22 points at the break.
West Coast drew first blood through Marc LeCras in the second quarter and after a Podsiadly miss at the other end, a Luke Shuey goal had the Eagles back to within ten points of the Cats. The Eagles, uncharacteristically reserved in the first quarter, appeared to find their mojo and were no longer second to the ball. The Cats were still finding their way into the 50 meter arc but some great work from tough nut Beau Waters helped to stem the steady stream of attack. Just when it looked like the Eagles had the momentum, the vastly improved Tom Hawkins extended the Cats’ lead before an inspirational Joel Selwood added another. The Eagles hung in, working hard in the midfield to contain Geelong’s early dominance. A great long goal from Darling kept the margin manageable, but with just seconds remaining in the half, midfield gun Jimmy Bartel broke free to extend the Cats’ lead to 25 points at the half.
There was drama in the third quarter with Geelong goal sneak Steve Johnson kicking a sweet left foot goal before being involved in an ugly collision with Andrew Embley. Johnson’s knee appeared to hyper-extend as it buckled under Embley, and the initial thoughts were of a possibly ruptured ACL. Cats’ fans looked stunned by the sight of Johnson being helped off the ground, but his team mates continued to maintain their ascendancy over the Eagles. Geelong kicked two unanswered goals and the Eagles went back into their shells, being indecisive with the ball in defense and only sporadically moving into attack. Goals to Kerr and Kennedy kept the Eagles in touch but a final five minute frenzy, highlighted by a powerful Paul Chapman run and goal, saw the Cats leading by a whopping 56 points at three quarter time.
An early Hawkins goal had the crowd thinking “blowout” but to their credit the Eagles refused to lay down, and goals to Kennedy and emerging superstar Naitanui kept the scoreboard respectable. The sight of the injured Johnson emerging from the rooms without the aid of crutches brought a roar of approval from the Geelong fans. It was party time for the Cats’ faithful as the game sauntered to its inevitable conclusion, a comfortable 48 point win for Geelong.
The Cats will now face the might of Collingwood looking for back to back flags and are no doubt hoping that Johnson can make a miracle recovery and take the field on Saturday. The Eagles were beaten but not disgraced. For a team that finished on the bottom of the ladder just 12 months ago, they have come a long way in a short period of time. With a young, talented list at their disposal, West Coast has plenty to look forward to in 2012 and beyond.
Scoreboard Geelong: 5.7 8.11 15.14 17.15 (117) West Coast: 2.3 5.4 7.6 10.9 (69) Best Players Geelong: Kelly, Mackie, Selwood, Taylor, Chapman, Scarlett West Coast: Naitanui, Waters, Kerr, Priddis, Gaff, Shuey, Waters
Article last changed on Monday, February 27, 2012 - 7:51 PM EST