Gary Ablett put in another vintage performance for the Cats. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Gary Ablett put in another vintage performance for the Cats. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Cats’ glimmer of hope Ablett could play on

It was "out of this world" for one, and "out of the ordinary" for the other.

At 22 points down 12 minutes into the second quarter, the Cats had to elevate themselves, and it was into another stratosphere that they launched.

Pouncing on the Lions with aggression and speed, Geelong delivered one of the most blistering quarters of football for the season.

From midway through the second term, there were nine unanswered goals, leaving even Lions coach Chris Fagan scratching his head.

"Third quarter was just out of this world for Geelong," he said.

"They played a fantastic quarter of football. I've got to admit I didn't see that coming at halftime. We didn't take enough of our chances in front of goal.

"Danger (Dangerfield) was one of them (who starred), but it was the collective group of Geelong midfielders that dominated clearance and contested possession in that quarter. That hasn't happened to us in a long, long time, and it did tonight.

"It was so out of the ordinary for our blokes to play like that in the third quarter. Was just an astonishing quarter by Geelong."

 

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Patrick Dangerfield was the star of the show against the Lions.
Patrick Dangerfield was the star of the show against the Lions.

 

 

(LITTLE) MASTER CLASS

 

It was questioned whether Gary Ablett would play this week - a five-day turnaround, the travel, settling into life in the hub after revealing a deeply personal and heartbreaking diagnosis for his young son.

But Chris Scott backed his man in and it paid dividends.

As Australia's leading commentator dubbed him "struggling", it was as if the two-time Brownlow medallist heard him over the 1000-odd fans in the house.

Just when the Cats were threatened, it was Ablett who dobbed a fourth-straight goal for the Cats who snatched the lead and ran with it, assisting with a few more.

A night that went from one extreme to the other, but there's still plenty left in those legs.

Ablett has expressed his stance that this season will be his last in the AFL, but skipper Joel Selwood said he held a glimmer of hope that the star Cat could play on.

"I think it's unlikely, but we hope so," Selwood said on Channel 7.

"He's got himself in some good form, you've seen his touch around that forward line.

"We want it in his hands when we can get it down there. He's so silky with the ball."

And there was another father-son pick who stepped up.

Sam Simpson - son of former Cat Sean - notched a game-high 27 disposals in just his seventh game.

"He's been knocking on the door for weeks," Selwood said.

"He showed little glimpses of what he can do."

Scott said his ability to step up when the team's depth was tested was a testament to the 22-year-old, and set a standard he hoped would be replicated in coming weeks.

"He's been just on the edge of our team for a long time … (there is a group of them) who, through no fault of their own, who have found themselves out of the team at the moment," he said.

"It gives us great confidence that Sam could come in and do a job - I think there'll be others over the course of the next four to six weeks who will come in and do the same thing."

 

Gary Ablett celebrates a goal with his teammates. Picture: Getty
Gary Ablett celebrates a goal with his teammates. Picture: Getty

 

THE NERVOUS WAIT

 

Quinton Narkle and Mitch Duncan will fly to their home state of WA on Saturday with some unwanted baggage in tow - a pair of hamstring injuries.

As the Cats prepare to embark on their Perth hub stint of at least three games, Narkle and Duncan managed just 10 minutes of football against the Lions before they were felled.

"They will travel to Perth," Scott said.

"I don't know if it is positive or not, but they were both issues where they were either pushed or really stretching - it wasn't just a standard hammy where they were running and it came out of nowhere.

"The initial feedback is that they were quite minor. Duncan was assessed for a long time and there was the real possibility he could come back. So I think that's a good sign.

"Narkle was more obvious he couldn't come back.

"That's pretty much all the feedback I can give you. The physios and doctors hate it when I try to be a physio or a doctor."

There's also a nervous day ahead for Cat Gary Rohan, who was reported for an in-air clash with Brandon Starcevich.

Initial assessment indicates that Rohan could escape sanction for that incident, but his early aggression was evident with a bump on Ryan Lester soon after that could see him in match review officer Michael Christian's sights on Friday.

 

 

There is cocnern over the fitness of Mitch Duncan.
There is cocnern over the fitness of Mitch Duncan.

 

 

BATTING DEEP

 

The Cats have opted to travel on their multi-state hub tour with their entire list, and it could pay off.

Scott said not only could it work in the team's favour as the league plots a potential cramming of games in coming weeks, it is breeding positivity for the second-placed Cats.

"It's hard to say (what value it will have)," Scott said.

"We thought right at the start of the season, it was going to be important to have a deep list.

"You can't just make that up. You can't just talk yourself into it. You've got to have the players that you think are ready. As much as anything, we thought that it would be a good opportunity for our training as much as anything, to keep those guys with us, and we are fortunate at the moment to have a group of young players.

"I know we've got some older guys and that skews the average age of our group, but the median is actually quite young, and they love spending time together."

He said like every team, there would be challenges of being away from family and friends for more than a month, but "there is a silver lining to it, as well".

"We've got a group of guys that love spending time together, and I think we've got a big group … I don't really want to put a number on it, but we've got some young players and some older players, to be honest, who are just outside the team, who would be thinking 'my time is going to come'," Scott said.

"So that leads to a bit more positivity, I think."

 

Sam Menegola was one of the Cats’ best. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Sam Menegola was one of the Cats’ best. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

 

THREE FROM THREE

It's one of the more quirky statistics - and there's been a few.

But Geelong is now three wins from three games when playing at "home" at the SCG, over a period of 117 years.

Highlighted by stats king Josh Kay as "one of the great records in world sport", the Cats first played at the famous ground in 1903 and notched the triple treat over the Lions on Thursday night.

"1903 def Carlton by 10," Kay tweeted.

"1981 def Melbourne by 49.

"2020 def Brisbane Lions by 27."

Give these Cats a sniff and they'll hunt the cream.

 

JUST HOW THEY DID IT

Well, it was the definition of all-round dominance.

Disposals? 47 to the good.

Contested possessions? 23 to the Cats' favour.

Clearances were positive, too, notching eight more, with an extra eight inside 50s as the Lions grappled to keep hold as the game slipped further and further.

And the Lions could only scramble.

 

 

The Cats are flying near the top of the table.
The Cats are flying near the top of the table.

 

"It's difficult, because if you can't get your hands on the ball, you can't change the momentum because the momentum's with the other team," Fagan said.

"I think they were plus 23 in the third quarter for contested possession. If you're not winning the ball at the source, it's difficult to bring other tactics in that can change the course of the game.

"We just needed to get our hands on the footy and slow the game down a bit, but we couldn't get our hands on the ball."

Lions great Jonathon Brown said the shift had been seismic.

"The game turned on its head," he said on Fox Footy of the moment things shifted after Sam Menegola's second-quarter goal.

"We were thinking halfway through the second term it could be the Lions by 10 goals.

"They absolutely blew Brisbane off the paddock.

"That is a demolition by every sense of the world. They didn't get the ball. Disappointing for Brisbane, because that's been a real strength before the game. Both good stoppage teams.

"The Lions had been dominant especially in centre bounces and they were blown away. They'd be disappointed with that, but take nothing away from Geelong."

Brown had earlier dubbed the Lions as Brisbane's "darlings", "especially with the Brisbane Broncos struggling", but they return north to lick their wounds and regroup.

 

Cats v Lions at the SCG, who would have thought?
Cats v Lions at the SCG, who would have thought?

 

DANGER ZONE

Two words: Patrick. Dangerfield.

What a force, and a true all-round performance.

He had 26 touches - 14 of those contested - took seven marks and launched seven inside 50s and ran rampant as the Cats put the foot down in the third quarter.

Oh, and eight clearances, too.

He has to be a real chance to take out a third Brownlow Medal if this sort of form continues.

His physical dominance went to the next level as things ramped up midway through the second quarter to deliver what was arguably his best game of the season so far, as he later admitted he thrived off the prospect of taking on the likes of Brownlow favourite Lachie Neale.

"You love playing against the in-form players and the best players in the competition," he told Channel 7.

That's why I love coming up against the Nat Fyfes of the world, the Dustin Martins, Lachie Neales, they're the best players in the game. Who better to challenge yourself against individually and collectively?

"It's special and every team has great players and it's a great challenge."

Geelong coach Chris Scott hailed the team's victory as "full of merit".

"The odds were against us and to a man our guys found a way to fight their way through it. We're really proud of them," he said.

"There was a real possibility that the game could have got away from us (after halftime). So I'm just really proud of the resilience of our group to hang in and believe we could turn the tables even though the odds were against us with those important inside mids out of the game."

 

Dangerfield was back to his explosive best. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Dangerfield was back to his explosive best. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

 

THE "BLUE-CHIP" MATCH-UP

It was experience that reigned when Tom Hawkins lined up on Lion Harris Andrews.

Andrews, who earned All-Australian selection last season, has been touted as the heir apparent for the game's most recent dominant defender, Alex Rance.

But after a stellar start to the season, it was Hawkins who got the points in a mouth-watering match-up.

"It was a real blue-chip match-up," Brisbane great Jonathon Brown said on Fox Footy.

"Harris Andrews, the form defender of the competition, coming up against Hawkins, arguably the form forward.

"He started to get really conscious of Tom … got dictated to. Harris Andrews was all at sea, and that was one of his poorer performances, albeit against one of the great players that's been around for 15 years. Tommy got him for experience."

Unfortunately for Andrews, his colours were lowered in the key areas he has prided his game on in the first five rounds.

He had conceded a maximum of just one goal to his opponents so far this season, holding Power beast Charlie Dixon goalless last week.

But as Hawkins notched three, Andrews's disposals fell from an average of 11.2 to just 7, he collected no marks - down from an average of 3.4 - and managed just six spoils compared to his average of 10.4 per game.

But Chris Scott wasn't as sold.

"I didn't necessarily see it as dominance," he said.

"I thought they were two good players going at it and Tom took his chances and looked really good. A couple of times Tom had best position and Harris was able to get a hand in, so he deserves his billing as one of the premier tall defenders in the competition at the moment.

"I tend to not watch the game that way, so my initial assessment of the match-ups can change once I've had a bit more time to look at it, but Tom has played well for the last two weeks - no doubt about that."

 

Tom Hawkins booted three goals on Harris Andrews. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Tom Hawkins booted three goals on Harris Andrews. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

 

 

MUSCLES FLEXED! DON'T WRITE THE LITTLE MASTER OFF

Experience reigned as Geelong set out to prove it is the real king of the jungle, for now at least.

The Lions - dubbed a premiership fancy - looked out to hunt as they completely outplayed the Cats - at "home" at the SCG.

It was an arm wrestle, and they appeared to like it that way.

Until the muscle was flexed.

The Lions uncharacteristically fell away in a dramatic slump where things truly unraveled as Geelong - started by Sam Menegola - piled on eight straight goals to land the punishing blow.

And it was the stars that shone - Dangerfield, Selwood, Ablett, Hawkins and young Sam Simpson in just his seventh game.

"We, as a club, we love to play against the best sides," Hawkins said on Channel 7.

"I think we played some outstanding footy there. It is nice to play in front of some crowd, albeit not many. A great win for the club."

The third quarter was easily the Cats' best of the year - and was the highest-scoring of the season - to dismantle the Lions, who won all three other quarters, that will no doubt leave them licking their lips for the month on the road.

"I thought it was a win full of merit. The odds were against us and to a man our guys found a way to fight their way through it. We're really proud of them," Cats' coach Chris Scott said.

"There was a real possibility that the game could have got away from us (after halftime). So I'm just really proud of the resilience of our group to hang in and believe we could turn the tables even though the odds were against us with those important inside mids out of the game."

 

 

Gary Ablett put in another vintage performance for the Cats. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Gary Ablett put in another vintage performance for the Cats. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

DON'T WRITE HIM OFF

It was questioned whether Gary Ablett would play this week - a five-day turnaround, the travel, settling into life in the hub after revealing a deeply personal and heartbreaking diagnosis for his young son.

But Scott backed his man in and it paid dividends.

As Australia's leading commentator dubbed him "struggling", it was as if the two-time Brownlow medallist heard him over the 1000-odd fans in the house.

Just when the Cats were threatened, it was Ablett who dobbed a fourth-straight goal for the Cats who snatched the lead and ran with it, assisting with a few more.

A night that went from one extreme to the other, but there's still plenty left in those legs.

Scott said Ablett would travel to Perth.

"Yeah Gary is going. Gary has an intensely personal situation that he's dealing with and I want to be really careful not to speak on his behalf," Scott said.

"And even though it's out there a little bit there's some nuance to it that's for him to speak about if he so chooses.

"Right at the moment the plan is for him to come."

 

Lachie Neale had another fruitful night finding the footy — and kicked an incredible goal. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Lachie Neale had another fruitful night finding the footy — and kicked an incredible goal. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

LACH HIM IN

Brisbane star Lachie Neale told a bold punter in August last year to "cash out" on a multi-bet that hung on the midfielder taking out the Brownlow.

This time around, it might pay to let it ride.

Pushing forward more this season, Neale's danger has been doubled with his true threat on show in a blistering boundary dribble goal that put the burners on Geelong star Ablett.

He struggled to have an influence as the Cats pounced, but only continues to shorten in Brownlow betting.

LICKING THEIR WOUNDS

It was a heavy double-blow that loomed as the ultimate test of midfield depth.

But what a response.

The Cats had just two players on the bench for three quarters, with Quinton Narkle and Mitch Duncan now sweating on hamstring injuries.

The Western Australian pair are preparing to fly to Perth on Saturday to prepare for their three-week hub stint which will begin with rehabilitation.

"(Duncan and Narkle) they will travel to Perth," Scott said.

"I don't know if this is a positive or not but they were both issues where they were pushed or really stretching, it wasn't just your standard hammy where they were running and it came out of nowhere.

"The initial feedback was they were quite minor. Duncan was assessed for a long time. There was a real possibility he could have come back so that's a good sign. Narkle was a bit more obvious he couldn't come back."

Gary Rohan will also be sweating after a feisty first half, reported for a clash with Brandon Starcevich before a later heavy bump on Ryan Lester.

Scott was confident Rohan had little to worry about.

 

 

The Tomahawk flexed his muscle with three goals for the Cats. Picture: Getty Images
The Tomahawk flexed his muscle with three goals for the Cats. Picture: Getty Images

CATS' 'ASTONISHING' QUARTER

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said his side's stunning fade out - allowing seven goals without answer in the third term - was "out of the ordinary".

"Third quarter was just out of this world for Geelong," said Chris Fagan.

"They played a fantastic quarter of football. I've got to admit I didn't see that coming at halftime. We didn't take enough of our chances in front of goal. Danger was one of them but what that collective group of Geelong midfielders did to us … hasn't happened to us in a long, long time and it did tonight.

"It was so out of the ordinary for our blokes to play like that in the third quarter. Was just an astonishing quarter by Geelong."

Fagan had hope that Mitch Robinson (corked quad) and Hugh McCluggage (shoulder) might pull up OK for Brisbane's next clash, still eight days away.

MORE AFL:

 

Fixture squeeze: Footy almost every day

 

Round 6 teams: Hub chaos as Tigers make nine changes

 

 

Reign of error? Pies' rap sheet under McGuire

 

 

SCOREBOARD

 

GEELONG 1.4 3.4 10.7 11.7 73

def.

BRISBANE 1.6 4.8 4.9 6.10 46

 

GOALS

 

Cats: Hawkins 3 Ablett 2 Menegola 2 Rohan 2 Parfitt Ratugolea

Lions: Rayner 2 Cameron Hipwood McCluggage Neale

 

LAUREN WOOD'S BEST

 

3 - Patrick Dangerfield (GEE)

2 - Sam Menegola (GEE)

1 - Sam Simpson (GEE)

 

LAUREN WOOD'S VOTES

 

Cats: Dangerfield, Menegola, Simpson, Selwood, Blicavs, Hawkins

Lions: Neale, Zorko, Berry, Rayner, Lyons

 

INJURIES

 

Cats: Narkle (hamstring), Duncan (hamstring)

Lions: Robinson (quad), McCluggage (shoulder), Rayner (knee)

 

REPORTS

 

Cats: Rohan (GEE) for striking Starcevich (BRI)

 

CROWD

 

800 at the SCG

 

 

 

Originally published as Cats' glimmer of hope Ablett could play on