Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
A sellout crowd of over 40,000 fans packed Patersons Stadium to see the West Coast Eagles take on a determined Geelong Cats. This was a chance for the Eagles to prove that they were real contenders for the Finals even without the in-form Quinten Lynch, who had been suspended for rough contact the week before. Geelong have not lost two games in a row for so long that people have arguments about when that was. The script was supposed to read that the Eagles would put up a valiant fight but go down in the end by five or six goals – but it didn’t go according to the script by a long way.
Tight checking and congestion around the ball was how the game was played early in the piece. The Cats were on the board first through Travis Varcoe. James Podsiadly was given a free kick and goaled for their second. The Eagles needed to be much cleaner with their possessions and disposals. Luke Shuey nearly had his head taken off and scored the Eagles’ first goal with the free kick for a head high tackle. The Cats were very efficient when they had the ball in their 50 meter zone. Cats’ star forward Steve Johnson turned Will Schofield inside out to run on and kick truly for Geelong’s third goal and fifth inside 50. In contrast, the Eagles had been inside their 50 meter zone nine times for only one major. Podsiadly scored his second from a great pass by Johnson and it looked as if the game might be over in the first quarter. Missed shots were costly for the Eagles, none more so than when Nic Naitanui missed a sitter from directly in front. West Coast turned it up a notch and Naitanui redeemed himself with his next shot on goal. Josh Kennedy read the ball off the pack and kicked a good crumbing goal off his left boot. Mark Nicoski shrugged a tackle and put a left foot snap through the big sticks to put the Eagles in front. Mark LeCras made the most of a Geelong turnover for another goal giving the Eagles the last four in a row. Uncharacteristically the Cats looked rattled and seemed to have lost their poise. They were down by ten points at the end of the first quarter.
With the Eagles’ forward press working to perfection, Geelong found the pressure intense in their defensive half. Ashley Smith ran in and kicked a telling goal after intercepting an errant Josh Hunt pass. Nicoski kicked his second after Jack Darling took a strong mark and handballed. West Coast’s energy was outstanding as players swarmed to every contested ball with ferocity. When LeCras marked and goaled, it was seven goals two behinds by the Eagles to Geelong’s zero. Tom Swift got into the action next for the home team making the trendsetters for the last couple of years wobbly at the knees. Shuey scored his second and took the Eagles to a 40 point lead. They had 16 scoring shots to six so far in the game and were serving up some of the punishment that Geelong had dished out for years. The Eagles were anticipating the movement of the ball and moving to position to make the most of the play. Jimmy Bartel began the long march back into the game with a mark and goal, a long 34 minutes after their last. Brad Ottens kicked back to back goals for Geelong when he won a free kick for an off the ball incident. The hapless Hunt again had a kick intercepted, this time by Brad Ebert, whose goal gave the Eagles a 43 point lead at the half.
Geelong is a proud club and didn’t get to where they are now by being pushovers. They came out after the long break with determination to get some of their own back. Cameron Ling scored the all-important first second half goal from 50 yards out. James Kelly and Paul Chapman followed up and the game was on. The Cats were going harder at the ball and when Johnson kicked the next Geelong had four goals in ten minutes. Dean Cox kicked the only goal for the Eagles in the quarter. It was now the Eagles turn to feel the pressure and they desperately needed to stand up to underscore their claim as Finals contenders. The Cats knew they were back in the game and it looked as though they had all the answers. They had clawed their way back to trail by only 11 points as the quarter wound down.
As the final quarter got under way the Eagles were nervous in their back half. The crowd was cheering them on and acted as the 19th man when some backbone was needed. Nicoski came through and goaled from a turnover and when Andrew Embley followed up there was belief that the Eagles might just sneak away with a win. Podsiadly and Daniel Menzel put that on the back burner with a couple of Geelong goals and the scene was set for a thrilling finish. Podsiadly hit the post in the dying minutes of the game to effectively give the Eagles a hard fought win. They ran out winners by only eight points.
This was the second loss in a row for the flag favorites. The Eagles are going from strength to strength after finishing last in 2010. It has been six years since the Eagles have beaten the top of the table team and they are looking dangerous for the Finals. The hoodoo bye didn’t do them the harm it has done for most teams this season. Geelong has been knocked off top position with the loss and will be looking for revenge against the lowly Brisbane Lions next week.
To view David Woodley's photos from this game, go to:
Scoreboard West Coast: 5.5 11.7 12.10 14.12 (96) Geelong: 4.1 6.2 11.5 13.10 (88) Best Players West Coast: M Priddis, B Ebert, A Smith, A Embley, N Naitanui Geelong: C Ling, H Taylor, J Corey, C Enright, S Johnson
Article last changed on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 10:53 PM EDT