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STEALING THE CATS’ CREAM by George On The Outer


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They were leading by 44 points well into the third quarter of a game to decide the minor premier, having kicked nine unanswered goals. The Cats were about to lap up their bowl of cream, dreaming of next week but the Demons led by Max Gawn had other ideas. In a stunning finish, they stole the game from under them to claim the plaudits as best team and top of ladder position.

In a remarkable game, it all came down to Max having to kick the winning goal after the final siren, something which seems to have become a regular feature in Geelong-Melbourne games in the past few years.  This time Max struck the ball truly and ignited a riot of emotion among the Melbourne players, coaches and supporters glued to their TV screens throughout the country. The vision of scenes that will become iconic.

The game started as expected, given this was a match between the top two sides in the competition. It was hard contested football with neither side conceding. The Demons had the upper hand but small mistakes were costly. Once again, their set shot kicking was slipping with both Jack Viney and Bayley Fritsch missing chances to put the side well in front early in the piece. Tom Sparrow was showing all his nervousness with kicks into the man on the mark, but composed himself to provide a good shut-down job on Dangerfield during the quarter.  At the first change, for all their troubles, the Demons led by a mere two points.

The second quarter was a complete disaster for the Demons. The Cats kicked eight goals in a row, mostly in a 15 minute patch, where they simply got one centre clearance after another, and their forwards capitalised on the free entry coming their way.  Max Gawn was being given a bath in the middle by Stanley, who was simply jumping over him to provide his mids with first touch. It wasn’t helped with James Harmes time and time again losing his man at centre bounces, as he often did last week. The rot was finally stopped when Viney was re-introduced late in the quarter and the Demons finally began to get their hands on the ball again. But the damage had been done, and the Cats took a 39 point lead into the main break.

Something had to change. Early in the third, Luke Jackson missed a set shot, to continue the goal drought for the side, which had recorded a single goal from their previous 23 entries into the forward 50m.  But slowly the pattern of the game began to change with Clayton Oliver finally kicking a major to put an end to the sequence of nine unanswered goals for the Cats.

Jackson was thrown into the ruck, and matched Stanley’s athleticism. Geelong’s clearances stopped. The conditions also became slippery which was inhibiting the Demons skills and swift ball movement. By three quarter time, they had clawed back the Cats lead but it was only to a deficit of 32 points.

All seemed lost from the fans’ perspective. Although the momentum had swung through persistence and hard work, nobody in the history of the game had come back from this far behind at the final break to win against Geelong on its home turf. 

Cue the Gawn and Oliver show.

Within the first minute a swift clearance resulted in a Kozzy Pickett goal.  This was quickly followed up when Charlie Spargo got his toe to the ball in the goal square to record another major. Max was winning the taps now, and the clearances from the middle continued. Clarrie snapped truly from the pocket and the Demons had put three in a row on the board. Spargo crumbed and snapped truly with 15 minutes to play to bring the score within seven points. Suddenly, it was game on.

With seven minutes to play, Fritsch who had been absent for a majority of the game, outbodied his opponent to run into the open goal and the Demons were only a point down. The Cats seemed to be floundering and their main playmakers Dangerfield and Selwood were on the interchange, spending seven or eight minutes resting in an attempt to revive the old legs. Geelong had a chance to put it beyond doubt with Cameron missing and a collision between two Cats players in the dying minutes denied them a certain goal. 

It was all down to the final minute and a quick kick forward by Angus Brayshaw was inexplicably deemed deliberate out of bounds.  Fortunately, Guthrie put the resultant free over the boundary on the full, and in a game already on a knife edge, Close punched the ball away after the whistle had blown. Lever took the resultant 50m penalty, spotted Gawn unattended, standing 15 metres out from the goal with Harmes by his side. The kick to the spot that Max pointed out was perfectly placed and he obliged with the mark. 

The siren sounded and Max converted truly - the smile on his face could have been compared to a Cheshire cat. The look on the face of Chris Scott and the finger pointing of the Geelong defenders in the vicinity was priceless. 

The outcome from the Melbourne perspective gave the true meaning of the phrase… “a game-changer” with Gawn going from being soundly beaten to a match winner.  Clayton Oliver with 37 touches and 9 clearances simply moved the goal posts.  Chipping in with two goals of his own put the icing on the cake for his performance, and may well have put the Chas Brownlow medal around his neck for the season. 

Down back Lever took twelve intercepts including nine marks to turn the tide and those who questioned the draft picks that Melbourne gave to secure his services had only to look at this game to see his value. Jackson had reversed the ascendancy of Stanley at a low point of the game for the side. All these little things caused others to come into the game and make the contributions needed to get over the line.

It is worth remembering that this was the side’s third successive six day break. That they still got the job done was another big credit to Darren Burgess and his team. Kudos must also go to the coach who was able to inspire the remarkable turn-around and has now finished up with a 17 win and 1 draw season. 

The side now has belief entering the finals series.  When they encounter the same situation in coming weeks, they know they can overcome what previously would have been impossible. 

For them, the cream at the top is now theirs for the taking. 

MELBOURNE 2.3.15 3.5.23 6.7.43 12.9.81

GEELONG 2.1.13 10.2.62 12.3.75 12.5.77

GOALS

Melbourne Pickett 3 Brown Oliver Spargo 2 Fritsch Gawn Viney

Geelong Hawkins 4 Cameron Rohan 2 Close Dahlhaus Dangerfield Selwood

BEST

Melbourne Oliver Petracca Gawn Salem Lever Pickett

Geelong Selwood Dangerfield Hawkins Smith Henderson Guthrie

INJURIES

Melbourne Nil

Geelong Nil

REPORTS

Melbourne Nil

Geelong Nil

SUBSTITUTES

Melbourne J. Jordon (unused)

Geelong S. Higgins (unused)

UMPIRES

Matt Stevic Craig Fleer Jacob Mollison

Official Crowd 0 at GMBH Stadium

ReportRd232021.png

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