Slip up: Geelong’s Corey Enright tries in vain to gather the wet ball.GEELONG 3.4 6.8 9.10 14.15 (99) PORT ADELAIDE 2.3 2.7 6.9 8.13 (61) GOALS Geelong: Taylor 3, Selwood 2, Hawkins 2, Smedts, Enright, Horlin-Smith, Duncan, Johnson, Motlop, Lonergan. Port Adelaide: Westhoff 2, Lobbe 2, Ebert, Wingard, Pfeiffer, Cornes. BEST Geelong: Selwood, Kelly, Christensen, Bartel, Scarlett, Enright. Port Adelaide: Pearce, Logan, Broadbent, Cornes, Chaplin, McCarthy. UMPIRES S Stewart, S Grun, L Farmer. CROWD 13,736 at Skilled Stadium.
AT 12.30pm yesterday it was almost dark at the stadium with various names within the bounds of the parklands area in central Geelong called Kardinia Park. Rain showers passed through and the fans stayed away, which was some occurrence for the stoic lot who follow Geelong. The 13,736 attendance was the lowest since 1991, one for diehards only.
But wet weather is Geelong’s balm – there may never have been a better wet track team – and it shaped as a day for an annihilation of a Port Adelaide side that had lost virtually its entire leadership group to injury. Even with Travis Boak, Jackson Trengove and Dom Cassisi available, Port is not an outstanding team, and the Cats had won 32 of their previous 33 games at home.
That the hammering did not happen is instructive. Geelong is just ticking over, outside the top four and providing a pale imitation of its 2007-11 teams. The Cats won by 38 points, but the Power was within four goals midway through the final quarter. The thunder in Chris Scott’s face at three-quarter-time, when he lambasted his players for slackness, told the tale.
Not that they are hiding it. ”It’s reflective of where we’re at,” said midfielder James Kelly. ”The competition’s evened out and we’re not the dominant side that we were in ’07 and ’08. It’s reflective of the competition, not us. We’ve got a lot of young guys. It’s not something we talk about it. We don’t think ‘we should have won by 100 points’. We’re still happy with the win and the four points.”
The Cats may yet find their mojo. Perhaps they will uncover it on the Gold Coast, where they headed last night. ”I woke up this morning and heard the rain and I was thinking ‘jeez I’m glad we’re heading up there tonight’,” said Kelly. ”We’ve got a couple of days to ourselves up there. We’ll have a bit of recovery and some sun. It’ll be nice.”
Port came with a strong game plan yesterday, put numbers around and behind the football, and slowed down Geelong. Combined with the slippery ball and surface, it became a game of rugby.
Grinding was required and the hard men stepped up. Mud runner Jimmy Bartel was brilliant early, then Joel Selwood jumped in. Kelly played as though it was a dry day. The younger Allen Christensen showed that he is learning quickly. Those four won loads of the football and Geelong wore down Port, albeit without the corresponding results on the scoreboard.
With James Podsiadly and Tom Hawkins well covered by Troy Chaplin and Alipate Carlile, the goals did not come easily. Ultimately it was Harry Taylor’s venturing from centre half-back to full-forward for three goals that provided the best finishing, although Scott still sees Taylor as a tall back, primarily.
Geelong keeps unearthing players and trying them. Yesterday it was a roadrunner from Adelaide, Jordan Murdoch, who impressed with his dash off half-back. ”We encouraged him during the week to back himself and use his pace,” said Kelly. ”He did that fantastically today.”
Scott had nine players with fewer than 50 games. So, in essence, the Cats are rebuilding and nurturing their list while trying to contend.
”The team’s changing and the list is changing,” said Scott. ”Our performance is going to waver a bit but we’re still pretty confident that our top level is pretty good.”
Kelly said it was contested football and defence that needed attention.
”The first half of the year we gave up a lot of easy goals to some sides, and gave up goals at crucial times. If we can get better defensively and get our hands on the ball a bit more it’s going to help a lot. We’ve got young guys who are going to improve and that will help as well,” he said.
Geelong unveiled another new player in 20-year-old Jordan Murdoch yesterday, a loping left-footer who can run and kick. Wearing’ Cam Mooney’s No. 21 guernsey, Murdoch had a chance to goal with his first kick in AFL football, early in the first quarter, but missed. Later he revealed a burst of speed (his 2.76 seconds for the 20-metre sprint made him the fastest at the draft combine last year) and a powerful left leg. Geelong has played eight first-gamers this season.
It was a good day for a duck at Kardinia Park, and also for James Kelly, Jimmy Bartel and Joel Selwood, all candidates to be the best wet-weather players in the competition. Bartel came out in long sleeves and had 10 disposals by quarter-time. Selwood’s two quick goals in the second quarter helped break open the game. Kelly just played as though it was dry.
Port Adelaide’s injury list is calamitous, and it mostly involves its senior men. In the absence of captain Dom Cassisi and virtually the entire leadership group yesterday, coach Matthew Primus nominated seven senior players to captain the team jointly.
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