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Five things we learned: Perfect storm of curses sinks Cats

Three moments that mattered: Geel v Coll The crucial plays and pivotal highlights from the match
1. Perfect storm of curses sinks the Cats

The pre-game omens weren't good, if you believe in such things. The Cats were coming off a week's break (they're 2-12 off a bye since their 2011 flag), in a final (they're now 3-10 in September since 2011) and the venue was the MCG instead of their preferred GMHBA Stadium. It didn't augur well for Chris Scott's men. The Cats tried to make things as homely as they could, even bringing up their pre-match brass marching band from Kardinia Park, but the questions will continue to be asked. Incredibly, the Cats came nail-bitingly close to winning a game they had no right to, kicking the only two goals of the fourth term to cut the margin to an edgy 10 points. But in the end, near enough wasn't good enough.

CATS v PIES Full match coverage and stats

2. Collingwood's outside play is premiership-worthy

The Magpies were simply imperious with their spread, run and carry on the outside of packs. You wouldn't have known Steele Sidebottom had suffered a ruptured testicle two weeks ago; he scythed paths across the ground playing on the wing and at half-forward. Taylor Adams, Adam Treloar and Scott Pendlebury also starred, spreading and slicing Geelong's defence. The Magpies won the uncontested possession count 242 to 166, comprehensively outplaying the Cats. In the pre-season, the talk was that Collingwood had the best midfield in the competition. Now, in September, it could drive them all the way to the flag.

3. Blicavs is a great player, but he can't be Geelong's ruckman

Fans were left scratching their heads when Geelong swung a late change before the game, omitting ruck Rhys Stanley and bringing in midfielder Sam Menegola. It left Mark Blicavs – who won Geelong's best and fairest last season playing at full-back – to take on two-time All Australian Brodie Grundy, along with assistance from key forward Esava Ratugolea. Blicavs would leave Grundy to do as he pleased across the ground, moving back as a loose man in defence. It's a tactic that the Cats' can't afford to repeat. All four of Collingwood's first-quarter goals came from stoppages, and Grundy finished with 48 hitouts, 21 disposals and seven score involvements. Stanley – or one of Geelong's other three ruckmen in Zac Smith, Ryan Abbott or Darcy Fort – simply has to play next week against West Coast and Nic Naitanui.

4. Both clubs' medical staff will be working overtime next week

They dropped like flies. First Jed Bews was injured in the warm-up, tried to start on the bench but was told as he was in the starting 18 he needed to be on the ground. He promptly stood Jamie Elliott in the goalsquare, much to the bemusement of all. Luke Dahlhaus retreated to the rooms early and returned with an apparent corked thigh, but the news wasn't as good for Mitch Duncan (left knee), Jordan De Goey (hamstring tightness) and Levi Greenwood (knee), who were all ruled out just before or at half-time. Gary Rohan also spent time off the field with right shoulder and left hamstring complaints.

 
5. Geelong's slow play isn't built for finals

Much has been made of Geelong's tendency to stop and prop after marking the ball, rather than play on quickly like the Western Bulldogs or run in packs a la Richmond. While it's a controlled form of play, against Collingwood it was often counter-intuitive and led to more turnovers, not allowing leading space for its forwards. It was no coincidence the few times the Cats got it in quickly, they scored. Geelong were missing the dash of Cam Guthrie (calf soreness), who will hopefully be back next week to face West Coast, when a greater ratio of quick to slow play will definitely be needed.  

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs