|The Cats celebrate another victory over the Hawks|
The Hawks & Cats played out a modern classic at the MCG this afternoon, with the Cats emerging as 2 point winners, 14.8.92 to 13.12.90. Remarkably it was the 8th consecutive time the Cats have beaten the Hawks, with Geelong emerging victorious in all of their clashes since the 2008 Grand Final. Although I don’t expect this result to have too much of an influence in either team’s ability to make the top 4 this season, it revealed a lot about both teams and could be a precursor of what we might come to expect in September.
The Hawks’ mental block
Before the season Alastair Clarkson, the Hawthorn coach, claimed that it was laughable for his team to be the Premiership favourites after they went 0-5 against Collingwood & Geelong last season. After overcoming the Pies by 22 points last week the Hawks went into this clash as warm favourites; they were the form team with the momentum behind them, particularly after the Cats lost last week against Fremantle. However despite dominating much of the stats and general play, the Hawks failed to put the Cats away and were outplayed in the last quarter, with Geelong deservedly claiming another famous victory.
In at least 4 of the recent clashes between the two clubs the Hawks have been leading in the final quarter, only to stumble at the final hurdle. Whilst the Cats step up a level when the pressure is on, a number of Hawks players start to fumble marks and make elementary errors. Until the current Hawthorn team manage to record another victory over the Cats, doubts will remain in their players’ minds about their capacity to beat their fierce rivals.
The final quarter specialists
|Jimmy does it again|
It’s easy to forget how close last year’s Grand Final was going into the final quarter, with the Cats only leading the Magpies by 7 points. In the end the margin was 38 points, with the Cats dominating when it mattered most. Geelong have been making a habit of stepping up in the final quarter, with a similar performance keeping the Saints goalless in the final quarter of the 2009 Grand Final, after the Cats had been outplayed for much of the first 3 quarters
Whilst some of the credit for this must go to Geelong’s fitness and conditioning staff, it’s also noticeable how a few Cats can always be relied upon in a close encounter. Jimmy Bartel is making a name for himself as the most reliable big-game player in the game, with Joel Selwood not far behind him. Both players are fierce competitors who love nothing more than a big occasion at the G. Paul Chapman & Steve Johnson also managed to produce when it mattered, despite Johnson carrying an injury into the final quarter.
What this means going forward
|Clarkson will have much to think about|
Geelong have avoided an unpleasant 0-2 start to their Premiership defence, and with a run of winnable fixtures coming up will be looking to establish themselves within the top 4 over the next month. They’ve once again proved what a formidable outfit they are, and it’d be a serious surprise if they don't feature deep into September once again.
On the other hand Hawthorn will know that there’s still a lot of work for them to do if they want to be serious Premiership contenders. I expect them to comfortably beat most teams week-in, week-out, but doubts remain over their ability to win close games against the other top teams. It’ll be very interesting to see how they go against the West Coast Eagles in Perth in a couple of weeks’ time.