Friday, August 28, 2015, 7.50pm AEST, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Fox Footy, Seven Network
Geelong Cats: ninth
Collingwood Magpies: 12th
Geelong Cats: 10-8-1
Collingwood Magpies: 11-9
Last five matches
Geelong Cats: WWWLD
Collingwood Magpies: LLWLL
It’s opponent Geelong’s season will be finished if it doesn’t win this match.
Hell, even if it does win the match against the Magpies ($2.90 with WilliamHill.com.au), the Cats ($1.42 with WilliamHill.com.au) won’t make the finals if the Adelaide Crows manage to knock over the West Coast Eagles on Sunday.
The Cats are six points behind the Crows – who smashed Brisbane – with two games to go, meaning if Adelaide wins one of the remaining two, they’re in and Geelong are done.
The last round is against the Cats, so if they do lose to West Coast and Geelong beat Collingwood, it sets up a mouth watering clash next week.
The Cats were below their best in an entertaining draw against St Kilda on Saturday night, 15.7 (97) to 14.13 (97).
They looked home when young buck Nakia Cockatoo slotted a running goal at the 25 minute mark of the final term, but a Shane Savage behind with only seconds left consigned the two sides to a share of the points.
The match wasn’t without controversy, with the Cats’ best player Steven Motlop, who gathered 33 disposals, penalised at the 10 minute mark of the final term for running to far after he had kicked a goal that would have given Geelong an eight point lead.
A furious Brad Scott said the decision was wrong, but did not blame it for the loss.
“It was just a mistake,” Scott said.
“The coaches made mistakes, the players made mistakes, the umpires made mistakes.
“It happens every week
“I don’t think there’s any more or less to it.
“In our view (the decision that Motlop ran too far) was a mistake.
“You can’t control that.
“The umpiring department will rate their umpires and the reality is they don’t make many mistakes.
“The players and coaches make more than they do, but in our view it was a mistake.
“(We’re) not going to make a big deal of it, it happens.”
Motlop did kick a goal and had eight tackles in a best afield performance, but he had help from Stevie Johnson, who bagged four goals and had 18 touches with nine marks.
Cam Guthrie continued his purple patch with 29 disposals and eight tackles, while Jimmy Bartel had 26 and seven marks, bettered by 26 and eight marks from Corey Enright. The tomahawk kicked three.
Scott said the Cats would approach the last two rounds against Collingwood and Adelaide as do or die.
“Adelaide winning by so much means that the percentage was always going to be very, very difficult if not impossible to catch,” Scott said.
“So the two points (for the draw) is important to us.
“The plan for us in the next fortnight really is exactly as it was for us pre-game: do everything we can to win those two games and hope everything falls our way.”
Meanwhile, Collingwood failed to turn up at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday, wiped out by top four hopeful Richmond by 91 points, 23.9 (147) to 7.14 (56).
So often the whipping boy of Richmond fans, Ty Vickery became a monster against the Pies, booting six goals in a match winning display.
Scott Pendlebury, as is so often the case, held his head highest for the Magpies with 33 disposals and a goal, while Steele Sidebottom had 32 with 11 marks and both Taylor Adams and Dane Swan had 28. Swanny was the only multiple goal scorer for the Pies, with two, while tackling machine Levi Greenwood collared 10 Tigers to go with his 24 disposals and held Trent Cotchin to just 13 touches.
But none of that was enough as the Pies had no answers to the Tigers, coach Nathan Buckley saying his club had “hit breaking point”.
“We went away from the way we wanted to play and then we turned into 22 individuals and not a team,” Buckley said.
“It’s just the players trying to make something happen because they don’t trust what we’ve gone in with, and I think that’s where the effort drops off.
“What we saw in that last 20 minutes was a culmination of the day where we weren’t rewarded for what we were doing.
“But the other thing is it’s a culmination of a season of effort unrewarded and there was a breaking point and to me that’s what that last 20 minutes was.
“It’s not us, it’s not acceptable. We need to be better and cleaner to take advantage of the opportunities that we create.”
Buckley urged his charges to “stay the course” despite the fact they can no longer make finals.
“We’ve got eight quarters of football left in our season and we’ll use it to try and improve, to play closer to our best footy and to maintain a really consistent effort around that,” Buckley said.
“We were disappointed not to see that at the end of the game today. We lowered our colours against our own standards, not necessarily against the opposition or against the competition.
“We want to be an unconditional footy team that plays its best football regardless of what’s (riding) on it or what’s not (riding) on it, whether it’s a NAB Cup game, an early home and away game, a late home and away game, a final.
“We’ve got to be an unconditional side and we’re still learning to do that.”
In round six, the Cats hammered the Pies by 41 points, courtesy of 11 goals to two before half time, 15.10 (100) to 8.11 (59).
They’ve won the past two, after Collingwood had taken the chocolates in the previous three.
Five Magpies won’t be available for this one as they’ve had their names crossed out for the season due to injury.
Vice captain Tyson Goldsack (knee), Nathan Freeman (hamstring), Tim Broomhead (shoulder), Jackson Ramsay (shin), and Brenden Abbott (shoulder) will all sit out the rest of 2015.
But young key forward Corey Gault, who has been struggling with groin and hip problems for the past two weeks, could be available at the selection table on Friday night.
On the Cats’ front, the biggest worry is breakout midfield powerhouse Josh Caddy, who will have a fitness test tonight in a bid to play against the Pies.
Caddy was subbed out of the draw against St Kilda after suffering a knee injury.
“Josh was jumping for a contest just before half-time and he felt a strain in his patella tendon,” Geelong physio Mark Young said.
“That’s a little inflamed, so we need to allow that to settle and we’ll assess him later this week.”
Mitch Duncan is struggling with a calf injury and Cameron Delaney has knee issues.
Match result: Geelong Cats win ($1.42 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Line: Geelong Cats -15.5 ($1.91 with WilliamHill.com.au)
These two teams have vastly different approaches to winning the contested footy. Collingwood is number one at the contest in the AFL. Geelong is ranked 15th. Therein lies the key to this game. If Collingwood wins the contested footy and uses it well, it has a chance here. The problem is, they have nothing to play for, while the Cats still have the faint carrot of finals footy hanging for them to reach for. In reality, the two teams feel pretty even, so it will probably come down to who wants it more. We don’t think the Pies will be blown away at the magnitude they were against the Tigers, but we still think Geelong has enough riding on the match to take home the four points and keep its ever so slight finals hopes alive.
First goal scorer predictions
Steve Johnson ($17 with sportsbet.com.au)
Age might be catching up with one of the most naturally gifted players in the game as he has been well below par this season, compared to the standards he has set in previous years. His pace and skills might be slowing down, but his smarts around goal certainly haven’t and if he is allowed an inch of space, will take it and maximise the opportunity for the Cats. Booted four goals last week – including one straight into the poor goal umpire’s face – to keep his boys in the game and you can bet he will be on his game for this one. It’s not often the gun utility misses finals and he won’t want that to change this year.
Tom Hawkins ($8 with sportsbet.com.au)
Big Tomahawk booted his customary three goals last week, just getting the job done. But we’d love to see a big bag from him against the black and white. We’re sure the Cats fans would agree with us. The Pies haven’t been able to stop teams from scoring on them and Hawkins, the monster, represents their biggest challenge. If he has a big day out, it will spell big trouble for the Magpies. If he doesn’t, we’ll just settle for the first goal of the game to keep our punters happy.
Jamie Elliot ($10 with sportsbet.com.au)
While he’s been a bit off the boiler of late, this kid likes the big stage… and although this certainly won’t be it, along with many Collingwood teammates, you would think he will feel like he has something to prove. As we mentioned, he’s been very quiet of late after a superb start to the season and, being that he is so skilled in every facet of the attacking game, we expect him to find space and be as good a chance as any to kick Collingwood’s first goal.
Travis Cloke ($9 with sportsbet.com.au)
The big busting spearhead was kept very quiet last week against arguably one of the best defenders in the game. Not too many players get the best of Richmond’s Alex Rance, so Clokey will be looking for a big bounce back game against the Cats. An early Cloke goal can often set the Pies’ night up and they will be looking to get the ball in his hands as early as possible. One of the best one on one players in the game, if one comes soaring in on top of his head, you have to feel sorry for the defender.
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