Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from Australia
Those who condemned Geelong to the “too old, too slow” basket will be adding “too good” to the slogan after the Cats produced a powerhouse final quarter to win the 2011 AFL Premiership. Geelong held a narrow seven point lead at the final change and the game looked to be set for a close and exciting finish. The much talked about second Premiership Cup for retiring Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse was not to be, as the Cats ran over the top of the 2010 Premiers in front of 99,537 screaming fans.
After raining all morning, the sky cleared for the beginning of the 2011 decider. Against the odds, Darren Jolly and Ben Reid lined up for the Pies and star Cat forward Steve Johnson ran out to play after making a miraculous recovery from a serious knee injury in last week’s Preliminary Final. Two young stars wore the substitute vests for each team, Mitch Duncan for Geelong and Alex Fasolo for Collingwood. Most fans agreed that the two best teams of the year were about to face off in a do or die Grand Final.
Cameron Ling won the toss for Geelong and the Cats produced a thrilling first passage of play as ruckman Brad Ottens and Joel Selwood combined to give a hard-running Travis Varcoe the first goal in the first ten seconds. Varcoe was the man of the moment, scoring a second goal two minutes later. Travis Cloke’s marking power loomed as a threat in the forward line and his two goals (one from well outside the 50 meter arc) brought the Pies back into the game. Andrew Krakouer regained the lead with a long goal but the Cats’ miracle man Johnson kicked a beautiful goal to snatch it back for the Cats. Collingwood’s Luke Ball scored a handy major from a free kick and 50 meter penalty before another free kick, this time to Joel Selwood for a hit across the face, resulted in a steadier for Geelong. At the end of a free-flowing and highly entertaining quarter, Geelong entered the short break with a one point advantage.
Eight goals in the first quarter were followed by another goal fest in the second. Collingwood was on the board first after a brilliant Krakouer snap. Dane Swan (crowned the 2011 Brownlow medalist during the week), Scott Pendlebury and Leigh Brown were dominating play and Jolly lifted in the ruck contests as the Pies played more desperate football. Cloke produced another long goal and Ben Johnson joined the celebrations as Collingwood went out to a three goal lead. The signs looked ominous for the Cats but a defiant Matthew Stokes crumbed a loose ball and goaled. James Podsiadly fell awkwardly after a marking contest and badly dislocated his shoulder. He was stretchered off as Krakouer kicked a terrific goal after an unbelievable pack mark to add to the Cats’ woes. Collingwood looked like the team to beat and another goal through Steele Sidebottom made the going look tough for the Cats. Substitute Mitch Duncan took the field, his Geelong team mates cranked up the defensive pressure and the game took a sudden turn. A brilliant piece of play by Johnson on the boundary line kept the ball in play for Selwood who swooped and goaled to bring the Cats back to within nine points. Jolly hit the ball over the line on the full from a ruck contest, gifting Jimmy Bartel a free kick although from a very acute angle. No problem for the skilful Bartel who kicked the goal. Geelong had fought back to go into the half time break less than a goal behind the Pies after several momentum swings in the one quarter. It was anyone’s game from here.
A thrilling eight goal quarter kept spectators at the game, and those watching worldwide, on the edge of their seats. Tom Hawkins was continuing his brilliant form in the Finals and he conjured up a goal from nowhere to put the Cats ahead three minutes in. The Pies were quick to reply but in controversial fashion, after the replay showed that Sharrod Wellingham’s goal had clearly shaved the post. Hawkins was unstoppable in the Cats’ forward zone and after taking a strong mark, he scored his second for the quarter. Reid appeared to have no answer to the young Cat’s speed and athleticism. Tom Lonergan was doing a masterful shutdown on Cloke but some strong forward play by Brown, playing his last game for the Pies, saw him goal and regain the lead for Collingwood. It was football at its best with the two sides trading goals over the last five minutes of the quarter. Bartel kicked a fantastic goal from deep in the forward pocket then substitute Duncan scored a handy one for the Cats before Sidebottom replied with a superb goal. Hawkins finished off a torrid quarter with a soccer goal and Geelong entered the final break of the year with a slim seven point advantage. It looked like the game would go down to the wire in as good a Grand Final as anyone could hope to witness.
Hawkins was prominent early in the fourth quarter, flying high at marking opportunities but missing crucial shots on goal. When he marked for the third time on a slight angle, he handballed off to the dangerous Johnson who goaled and gave Geelong a 14 point lead. Johnson was again in the play kicking long into the forward arc to a running Varcoe who kicked a six pointer. The Cats were playing clinically now with their defense turning back attacks as Lonergan and Harry Taylor reigned supreme. Collingwood tried hard to counter-attack but goals were hard to find and Cloke, Tarrant and Dawes all missed gettable shots. As the Pies fell to pieces, the dam wall broke open and Geelong stormed home with goals to Bartel, Johnson and Ling.
Geelong rose to the challenge and charged to victory in the 2011 Premiership by 38 points. The Cats’ peaked late in the season when it mattered and fully deserved their third Premiership in five years. The winner of the Norm Smith Medal was Geelong midfield player Jimmy Bartel.
Scoreboard Geelong: 4.2 8.6 13.7 18.11 (119) Collingwood: 4.3 9.3 12.6 12.9 (81) Best players Geelong: Bartel, Selwood, Hawkins, Johnson, Ling, Lonergan, Varcoe Collingwood: Thomas, Pendlebury, Tarrant, Cloke, Sidebottom
Article last changed on Thursday, October 06, 2011 - 6:47 AM EDT