22-year losing streak just won’t die
History will show the hot favourite Geelong a 14-point winner over a St Kilda team effectively eliminated from finals contention by a loss at GMHBA Stadium.
What it won’t show is that the Cats had been 31 points down late in the first term and staring down the barrel of back-to-back home losses for the first time in 15 years.
The Saints had Max King looking like John Coleman up forward, a rampant combination of Jack Steele and Luke Dunstan in the middle and were rebounding as if their half-backline was a tightly sprung trampoline.
The resurrection wasn’t instant, but as soon as the Cats midfielders tightened up and King’s supply was cut off, the tide turn slowly but almost inevitably.
Admittedly the match remained in the balance until deep in the final term, but that seemed more a product of nerves than a reflection of possession as the Cats overcame a couple of key outs to momentarily, at least, return to the top of the table.
St Kilda, looking for their first win in Geelong this century, looked good things to keep their season alive early. The Cats seemingly had no answer for King, who threatened to blow the game apart until he left the ground late in the first term with his team up five goals to nothing.
In that time, he’d outmarked his direct opponent Jack Henry multiple times, Mark O’Connor and Zach Guthrie as the Cats looked rudderless in the back half without injured general Tom Stewart and his trusty lieutenant Zach Tuohy.
King had a direct hand in five of the first six Saints’ scores, including two goals of his own and another off the post.
Enter footy’s ultimate Inspector Gadget.
Mark Blicavs almost immediately crashed into King when he returned to the field and the big Saint was, from that point forward, a shell of the dominant figure he’d been.
A lot of that, naturally, stemmed from the steadily improving Geelong midfield, who’d been burnt early by Steele and Dunstan.
Unsung midfielder Sam Menegola was the key for the Cats, booting one and setting up several other majors as they regained momentum.
But it was Patrick Dangerfield who sealed the deal with his ferocious last quarter, taking four contested marks and finishing with 24 of his 31 possessions in contested fashion.
Both teams came together in solidarity with Indigenous Australians ahead of the first bounce. Pic: Michael KleinSource:News Corp Australia
Bunch of fives
It’s pretty rare that Geelong concedes runs of multiple goals at their hometown fortress.
Yet five-goal opposition salvos have become almost common place in the past two weeks at GMHBA Stadium.
St Kilda slammed on the first five majors against the Cats, becoming the first team since Fremantle in 2015 to achieve that feat at the Cattery.
And that’s hot on the heels of Greater Western Sydney twice enjoying streaks of five goals in their shock Round 21 win against Geelong last week.
Rest easy, Cats’ fans … Jeremy Cameron is just fine.
The former Giant caused the pulse of a few hoops lovers to spike a few points when he limped off with another hamstring injury against Essendon in Round 16.
But in his first game back, although it took a while for the ball to reach his territory, Cameron was clearly back to his athletic best against St Kilda.
His pace was up, as was his efficiency, but his ability to kick one of his four goals from the 50m arc was the best test for his recovered hammy.
Jeremy Cameron returned from injury to boot four goals for the Cats. Pic: Michael KleinSource:News Corp Australia
There were many puzzling umpiring decisions – both ways – at the Cattery, but there was one gold medal standout for which the men in yellow will be eternally grateful that the crowd was again absent.
Seb Ross had gathered the ball about 35m from his defensive goal, towards left half-back and took off laterally. By the time he was directly in front of goal, his options dried up and he realised a bounce was in order.
That bounce, however, went awry and by the time he regathered, Shaun Higgins had enveloped him and the look of bewilderment on the Cat veteran’s face when his appeal for holding the ball was denied summed up the thoughts of all who thought they had the “prior opportunity” rule sorted.
5.1 7.210.311.5 (71)
3: Menegola (Geel)
2: Dangerfield (Geel)
1: Steele (StK)
Geelong: Cameron (4), Hawkins (3), Smith, Dangerfield, Stanley, Menegola, Close, Simpson.
St Kilda: Membrey (3), King (2), Crouch (2), Sharman (2), Jones, Higgins.
Geelong: Menegola, Dangerfield, Blicavs, C.Guthrie, Higgins, Selwood.
St Kilda: Steele, Dunstan, Membrey, Crouch, Sinclair.
Geelong: Ratugolea (thigh).
St Kilda: Joyce (concussion).
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