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How a horror start came back to haunt Geelong again

The Cats have won just one of their past six finals - AFL,Geelong Cats,Collingwood Magpies,Tag-Analysis
The Cats have won just one of their past six finals

GEELONG should have had an early inside 50 before either side had scored in Friday night's qualifying final.

Instead, a slick Cats build-up came unstuck when the generally brilliant Tim Kelly – under little pressure – fumbled a handball from Tom Atkins and fluffed his attempt to give the Sherrin back.

Kelly then watched as Jordan De Goey ran down Atkins, before Adam Treloar swooped. The Magpies were away.

Not even a minute had passed.

The moment could easily have been lost amid the sizeable chaos before and after the opening siren, yet was one that arguably set the tone for what was to come.

Jed Bews had already hobbled from the field after tweaking an ankle in a warm-up drill as players prepared to run to their positions for the start of the match.

 

Bews was soon bolting back onto the ground, firstly to the wing, then to his defensive goalsquare, while ushering Zach Tuohy to replace him on the bench.

Minor premier Geelong's reputation as a perennial slow starter in recent finals didn't need that drama, or for Kelly to botch his opening opportunity to make an impact.

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More than 13 minutes passed before the Cats pierced their forward-50 arc. Collingwood had 10 inside 50s by then, and three goals from five scoring shots.

It was happening again.

Chris Scott's men trailed by more than five goals at quarter-time in their past two finals, led Sydney by five points in the one before that, but failed to kick a goal in the previous two.

Geelong's past six finals

FINAL

OPPONENT

GEELONG

GAME RESULT

2019 qualifying final

Collingwood 4.2(26)

Geelong 1.2(8)

Lost by 10 points

2018 elimination final

Melbourne 5.3(33)

Geelong 0.2(2)

Lost by 29 points

2017 preliminary final

Adelaide 6.3(39)

Geelong 1.2(8)

Lost by 61 points

2017 semi-final

Sydney 2.2(14)

Geelong 3.1(19)

Won by 59 points

2017 qualifying final

Richmond 2.4(16)

Geelong 0.4(4)

Lost by 51 points

2016 preliminary final

Sydney 7.2(44)

Geelong 0.5(5)

Lost by 37 points

The Cats had also confirmed 90 minutes before the first bounce the game's worst-kept secret, that Rhys Stanley was a late withdrawal and Sam Menegola was coming in.

That news was public knowledge by Thursday afternoon, but Stanley was named in Geelong's 22 that night. Was it really necessary to play silly buggers?

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Kelly wasn't a lone ranger in the Cats' blooper-filled opening term on Friday night.

Mark Blicavs – the defender entrusted to take on All Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy in Stanley's absence – tapped the ball straight to opponent Taylor Adams to gift the Pies their first goal.

 

Not long after, Tuohy and Harry Taylor inexplicably both overran the ball and left it for the returning Jaidyn Stephenson to explode away and set up Jamie Elliott for the second major.

The third goal came when three Geelong defenders contested a skied deep ball then agonisingly watched as Stephenson accepted the Sherrin and smashed it home from the goalsquare.

Scott could hardly have envisioned a worse start.

The Cats, to their credit, belatedly wrested control in general play and actually had the next six inside 50s – kicking one goal in that time – only for Elliott to drive another one through from the goal line.

This time, two clever Steele Sidebottom touches were pivotal, which is worth noting.

For all of Geelong's wonky ways, Collingwood's laser-like understanding between one another was a sight to behold.

That contrast was again wonderfully illustrated four minutes into the second quarter.

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Mitch Duncan hung tough in a defensive one-on-one contest, but looked ahead and in a split-second of madness he desperately grubbered a left-foot kick out of the Magpies' 50.

The problem?

Duncan's kick went to a two-on-one in Collingwood's favour, with Jeremy Howe stalking the ball from the other direction – without deviating – before drilling a magnificent goal from barely inside 50.

The night belonged to moments such as this. And those moments typically belonged to Nathan Buckley's Magpies.

Elliott featured in another one we'd be remiss not to mention, as part of his team's march to a six-goal lead by the 18-minute mark of the second term.

The pint-sized forward, who remains without a contract for 2020, soared improbably between two Cats, brought the ball to ground and hunted it down.

Elliott's subsequent handball found Brody Mihocek, who dished to Treloar, who gave the ball to Adams, whose superb start was capped by a second goal.

Much like last year's elimination final loss to Melbourne, Scott's side managed to make the end scoreline respectable.

In fact, Geelong looked a chance of an unlikely victory with three minutes to go and being only 12 points down, but that would have been unjust.

The Cats must now conquer reigning premier West Coast next week, at the MCG, just to keep their September assault alive – and it's because they buggered up the start again.

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