Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
Much was at stake when the West Coast Eagles took on the visiting Geelong Cats. The winner would still be in contention for a double chance in the Finals, while the loser risked drifting towards elimination from the Top Eight. The Cats were hot from their win last week against a definite Premiership favorite in Hawthorn. It was all up for grabs as the ball was bounced.
West Coast got off to a great start with Dean Cox making the most of the ball landing in his hands to slot the opening goal. Fast movement through the middle of the ground had the Eagles’ second on the board when Quinten Lynch scored. The Eagles looked pumped but were soon brought back to earth when Tom Hawkins scored the Cats’ first goal from a free kick. Allen Christensen, who had been lively in the clearances, quickly evened the score when he was the beneficiary of a free kick resulting from a poor tackle by Tom Swift. A 50 meter penalty gave Shannon Hurn a chance to run and bounce through the middle to drop the ball on Nic Naitanui’s chest for a mark and goal. In what was to be the first of many contentious free kicks on the night, the umpire penalized the Eagles with a deliberate out of bounds decision. This gave James Podsiadly a free kick that he converted into a goal from the forward pocket. Mathew Stokes got into the goal scoring action when the umpire got in the way of a movement out of the back line and the ball was turned over. Much of the game was being played in the Cats’ half with Steve Johnson carving up his opposition and clearing the ball regularly for Geelong. A high kick into the 50 meter zone resulted in a sickening injury to Hawkins as he flew for the mark. He rose high, landed on his head and didn’t move. The game was stopped as team doctors came to his aid and stretchered him off in a neck brace, bringing the sub David Wojcinski on to the field. Steven Motlop waltzed through the Eagles’ defense with dash and scored the Cats next goal to have the alarm bells sounding in the home camp. Towards the end of the quarter there was a bizarre incident between two brothers on opposing teams. Geelong’s Joel Selwood, the elder, was heavily bumped by his West Coast brother Adam who injured himself in the collision. As Adam lay writhing on the ground, Joel ran over and pushed him with intent, much to the ire of the home crowd. The act drew a blast from his coach, the boos of the spectators whenever he went near the ball for the rest of the match and, on Monday, a reprimand from the Match Review Panel for misconduct. As the siren blew Geelong had opened up a comfortable 16 point lead.
With their forward press starting to have effect, West Coast players fought their way back into the game. Cox, the Eagles’ best player at this stage, kicked his second major and Matt Priddis gave them back to back goals when he kicked accurately after a brilliant Luke Shuey run, bounce then pass. The bleeding had stopped but Geelong was not lying down. Taylor Hunt got the lead back for the Cats with a goal to return some momentum. It was goal for goal for much of the quarter with Cox marking strongly over the best full back in the business, Matthew Scarlett, and kicking his third goal. Geelong started to hurt the Eagles when they piled on the next three goals in a row, none better than neophyte Jordan Murdoch’s 55 meter booming drop punt on a flat out sprint from straight in front. One thing is certain, big men don’t get any smaller as players start to tire, and “Nic Nat” proved no exception when he leaped up and marked on the goal line for the Eagles. His goal saved some face but the deficit was still 14 points at the end of the half.
Daniel Kerr was gifted a goal from a 50 meter penalty as proceedings got under way in the third quarter. The game was opening up on the big ground, giving Podsiadly room to move and lead. His strong mark and goal kept Geelong’s lead in tact. West Coast had an attack of the fumbles at this point, dropping easy marks and booting the ball as they tried to pick it up. In stark contrast, Geelong’s kicks were sticking and their disposal was accurate. Jack Darling, after a horror run of blunders, finally managed to grasp a mark and kick his first goal to peg back the margin again. It was to no avail, as some crisp ball movement down the ground delivered another goal to the “JPod”. It was the Cats’ best passage of play so far in the game – silky smooth and a touch arrogant. The Eagles bounced back as if they had been stung and Shuey kicked their next two goals to bring them to within one point. He had been relatively quiet so far and relished the chance to run and break free from his tagger to have a real influence on the outcome. The bumbling Swift was substituted in the latter half of the quarter for Andrew Embley, who was playing his fist game for some months after injury. A fan favorite and West Coast Premiership player, he received a huge ovation as he took the field and immediately began to inject some passion and heart into the Eagles’ fight.
West Coast finally took the lead back when Lynch imposed himself on the contest with a strong mark and goal. It was short-lived when another Cat newcomer Dawson Simpson wrested it back with his goal from some clever evasion and run. Jacob Brennan was fearless at half back and his gutsy mark and delivery forward saw Chris Masten regain the lead for the Eagles with his shot on the big sticks. With their tails in the air and a belief that this important game was there to be won, West Coast began to power away from the Cats. They scored the next two goals to take a strangle hold on the game and move to a 17 point lead. This was undone by some sloppy work from Hurn when he gave away a 50 meter penalty. Jimmy Bartel was the recipient and he made no mistake to loosen the Eagles’ grasp just a fraction. The deliberate out of bounds rule was getting a hammering from the umpires and this time Priddis was the winner of another dubious decision by the men in white. The crowd was howling from the stands every time the ball went out of bounds, getting on the umpires’ case to make another decision no matter which team took the ball out of bounds, or how. These decisions had a ring of farce about them and could have ruined what was an otherwise engaging and hard contested match.
To their credit Geelong fought the game out and came back at the Eagles. Josh Walker, another youngster off the Cats’ rookie list, booted his first goal and Johnson kicked their last to bring them back within five points. Unfortunately time ran out and along with it Geelong’s chances of defending their Premiership from a double chance Top Four position.
Geelong goes on to play St Kilda in Round 21 in a Friday night blockbuster. A loss in this match up could see them out of the Top Eight on percentage. The Eagles will go on the road to play against the hapless Port Adelaide, the first team this year to have its coach sacked. For the Eagles this is a must win game to finish the season in the Top Four.
To view Dave Woodley's shots from this game, go to http://www.afana.com/drupal5/category/image_galleries/2012_season/home_and_away_games/round_20_west_coast_v_geelong/14-2232
Scoreboard West Coast: 3.1 7.3 11.5 16.6 (102) Geelong: 5.5 9.5 11.6 15.7 (97) Best Players West Coast: Cox, Naitanui, Shuey, Kerr, Gaff Geelong: Johnson, Christensen, Podsiadly, Enright, Mackie
Article last changed on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - 9:49 AM EDT