The warning signs had been there from the start, with Geelong players chipping the ball to each other at will in the early minutes of the game. The Saints tightened up in that area but were unable to curb the Cats’ class.
In the midfield, Sam Menegola ran amok while Mitch Duncan rode shotgun. Meanwhile, up forward Tom Hawkins monstered Jake Carlisle, and Gary Rohan played easily his best game for the season, causing chaos for the Saints’ defence. Patrick Dangerfield again spent much of the game forward, making typically telling contributions. Jack Steven was solid in his first match since being traded from St Kilda to Geelong but the Cats barely needed him.
Ryder-less and rudderless
Having already left out Zak Jones, the Saints made a late change, resting veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder off a four-day break and bringing in midfielder Ed Phillips in a most unlike for like change. It altered the complexion of the match on several fronts. Phillips kicked St Kilda’s only two goals of the first quarter, with a beauty on the run from 50 metres and a classy snap from the pocket moments later.
However, for all that Phillips did well, Ryder was missed. Without any ruck help, Rowan Marshall had to shoulder the load and was shaded by former Saint Rhys Stanley, who helped the Cats get bang for buck from their centre breaks. Perhaps even more profound was the impact of Marshall’s absence from the forward line, where he had been able to spend a heap of time when Ryder has been in the team.
Neither Max King nor Tim Membrey were especially potent, and without Marshall the Saints couldn’t consistently bring the ball to ground where their dangerous collection of small forwards – led by Dan Butler – have been a revelation this season. It also meant the Saints’ shots at goal were generally from harder spots, unable to get the easy ones out the back, which have been a hallmark of their play this year.
The issue was exacerbated by the failure of Saints skipper Jarryn Geary to nullify the Cats’ dual All-Australian defender Tom Stewart. Geary has done handy jobs this year, playing as a defensive forward on the likes of Jason Johannisen and Sam Docherty but Stewart was a bridge too far. The Cats backman intercepted at will and the experiment was abandoned by the second half, with Geary returning to defence and Ben Long shifted forward.
Hard as a Cat’s head
Hawkins was probably a touch unlucky not to win a free kick during the second term after a collision with Carlisle. Collingwood president Eddie McGuire – commentating on Fox Footy – suggested that Hawkins had taken a dive, and while the Cats forward perhaps put a bit of mayo on his fall, there was little doubt he had been taken high by Carlisle.
GEELONG 2.4 7.5 11.7 14.9 (93)
ST KILDA 2.1 4.6 4.8 4.10 (34)
Geelong: Hawkins 5, Rohan 4, Menegola 2, Tuohy, Duncan, Dangerfield.
St Kilda: Phillips 2, Billings, Battle.
Geelong: Menegola, Hawkins, Rohan, Stanley, O’Connor, Stewart, Dangerfield, Duncan.
St Kilda: Phillips, Steele, Bytel.
Stevic, Stephens, Gianfagna.
3903 at the Gabba.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter