The Fremantle Dockers have re-energized their season with their third consecutive victory to sit just outside of the top eight. The Geelong Cats were beaten by the Richmond Tigers last week and were determined to return to their best. However, with a number of players unavailable through injury, the Cats found the pressure on the ball and the run of the Fremantle Dockers too much to handle. With the afternoon temperature nudging 79 °F, the big Cats lacked the fitness and stamina to stay with the young Dockers.
Sean Darcy had another dominant game in the ruck winning 43 hitouts and laying six tackles, allowing the Dockers getting first use of the ball 46 times compared to Geelong's 40 clearances. It wasn't just the clearances that gave the Dockers the edge. They laid 70 tackles compared to Geelong's 64. Geelong found it tough to break free when they got their hands on the ball with Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong, Lachie Shultz, and Jaegar O'Meara laying a combined tally of 33 tackles around the ball. With the Geelong midfielders under pressure, the Dockers had the luxury of playing man-on-man in defense. The substandard entries by the Cat midfielders made it easier for the Docker defenders to spoil marks (catches). The league's leading goal kicker, Jeremy Cameron, was held goal-less for the game as his shorter opponent Luke Ryan outplayed him in the air and on the ground. Tom Hawkins also had a tough day at the office opposed to Alex Pearce, who took eight marks compared to Hawkin's four. However, Hawkins still booted three goals to keep Geelong in the game for the first three quarters.
It was in the midfield where the Dockers won the game. The clearance work of Brayshaw, Serong, and O'Meara overshadowed the clearances of Jonathan Ceglar, Mark Blicavs, and Max Holmes. The smaller Dockers outmaneuvered their larger opponents at stoppages and used chains of handpasses to deliver the ball to the speedy Docker runners outside of the packs. The Cats had no answer for the pace of Michael Frederick, Brandon Walker, Jordan Clark once the ball was in the clear. The Docker midfield players lowered their eyes enough times to pick out their forwards with Jye Amiss continuing his improvement and booting three goals. When the Dockers put the ball in the air to their forwards, the Cat defenders Esava Ratugolea, Mark O'Connor, and Jake Kolodjashnij were able to spoil. Ratugolea played an impressive game, moving up to the wing on occasions to stop Docker attacks. The Cats did not stop trying throughout the game. In fact, they made more forward entries than the Dockers (52 to 45) but due to midfield pressure applied by the Dockers in chasing and tackling, the Cat attacks were shallow and poorly directed. The Docker incursions forward were more effective as they used fifty more handballs to cut through the Cat midfield. This combined with the run of their speedsters allowed the Dockers to progress deep into attack. When the ball hit the turf, the Docker small men feasted and ten players shared in the goals, with Michael Walters being the standout small forward with three goals.
Isaac Smith used his run and carry when the ball came to him on the outside and he also booted two goals for Geelong. Jack Henry brought Geelong back into the game late in the third quarter taking two contested marks and slotting two goals to bring the margin down to ten points. Amiss responded quickly with his second, before Mark Blicavs booted one to keep his side in the game. The Cats had responded with their own pressure game in the third quarter to take the match up to the Dockers by the last break.
Geelong ran out of puff in the final term as the Dockers broke free with pace. The tiring Cats could only manage three behinds (worth a point each) as the Dockers reapplied the midfield pressure and kept running. The enigmatic Cats were beaten but not disgraced and will need to learn from the game in order to return to their premiership form. Next week the Cats have a chance to rebound against the GWS Giants in Geelong, where the cold climate will be more to their liking. The Dockers travel to the MCG to challenge the Melbourne Demons who were narrowly defeated by the rising Port Adelaide Power.
Scores: Fremantle Dockers: 3.2 8.4 13.6 16.10 (106) Geelong Cats: 3.4 6.7 11.8 11.11 (77) Best: Fremantle Dockers: Brayshaw, Darcy, Serong, Shultz, Ryan Geelong Cats: Smith, Ratugolea, Blicavs, Hawkins, Bruhn
Article last changed on Saturday, May 20, 2023 - 10:22 PM EDT