Round Two Fremantle V Geelong Subiaco Saturday April 2 2011
The footy talk all week has centred on concussion. So much so it’s given me a headache to rival the one Joel Selwood copped courtesy of Farren Ray’s hip last week. The media speculate all week: Will Selwood play? Much as I love having him in the team I really hope the Cats play it safe and don’t pick him to play the Dockers. Why take the risk, especially when it involves flying to Perth and back? I’m relieved when the news comes through that he’s not playing but am less thrilled to hear that both Mooney and Lonergan are out too! With Scarlett already serving a week’s penance we’ll be significantly under-manned in the backline. On the strength of this and home ground advantage I’ve tipped Fremantle. On the plus side Ling is back and Chappy will line up for his 200th game.
The warm up game on TV is a sad affair with Gold Coast being given a stark reminder that this is the BIG League and no amount of gun recruits and first round draft picks can make up for lack of experience. It looks like being a long slow learning experience for the Suns. The fortunes in the actual curtain-raiser at Subi are more encouraging. My WAFL team East Perth kick three goals in the last four minutes and snatch an unlikely victory against reigning VFL premiers North Ballarat in the Foxtel Cup. Having lived in WA for the last 38 years before a recent move back to Victoria it is the first Geelong game at Subiaco I haven’t been to in 20 odd years.
So to the main event: the Cats and the Dockers. Emergencies Menzel, Guthrie and debutante Christensen line up for the Cats as Chappy leads the boys out and tosses the coin. Sandilands and Ottens go head to head for the entire game with the jolly purple giant winning most of the taps but the Cats sharking well to lead the centre clearance count. Freo make the early running and kick the first couple of goals. Pavlich is on fire in the first quarter but Chris Scott swings Lingy on to him at quarter time and that severely restricts his impact on the game. Late in the term the Cats start to find their range with Stevie J refusing to do things simply and Menzel looking like an inspired inclusion. Geelong by 5 points at the break and I’m encouraged rather than confident.
Geelong look like they’re getting on top in the second and manage to get out to a 22 point lead before the Dockers claw them back. Kepler Bradley has three goals and at half time the margin has been cut to three pints. It’s a good game, a vast improvement on last week’s dour struggle with the Saints.
Half way through the third quarter there is a cataclysmic collision between Steve Johnson and Mt Sandilands. I feel the earth move from 3000 kilometres away! In an act that inspires groans and then amazement Johnno bounces straight up and chases after the ball. The biggest man ever to play football has failed to stop him and I begin to think it might just be our night. Ballantyne is making a pest of himself as usual. He sucked Lingy in earlier which gifted Pavlich a goal and now he’s looking like a match-winner, bursting through packs and kicking a goal from 50. Every time Geelong kick a goal the Dockers get a quick reply.
We’re 9 points up at the last change but by no means safe.
Our recent record in Perth is very good but this is not the Dockers of old. They’ve put a number of their old stars out to pasture and the kids like Hill, Suban and Fyfe seem to have sparked a new lease of life in the likes of Mundy McPharlin and McPhee. Will the heat and the travel take its toll or can we hang on? Ottens twice has chances to kick goals that would make us safe and twice misses. I expect nothing less, as a forward Brad makes an excellent ruckman. At the other end Mayne misses twice as well before Pavlich, playing his 238th game to equal Shane Parker’s games record for the Dockers, lines up a very gettable shot but also misses. As a commentator said, “There’s no such thing as a captain’s point” and I feel my hopes rising.
Enright has been brilliant all night and once again clears for the Cats. The ball travels the outer wing and ends up in the hands of Matthew Stokes who coolly and calmly slots the winner. We’re home by 11 points and there is much rejoicing in the lounge room at Ocean Grove.
The boys chair Chappy off the ground to the applause of the small band of WA based Cats fans. It’s a suitably hard-fought win that matches the milestone man’s own tough character.
Votes 3 Enright 2 Ling 1 Ballantyne