Should he play forward against the Lions, Darcy Gardiner appears the man most likely to take him. In terms of height and weight, they match up well. Gardiner is 193 centimetres and 92 kilograms, Dangerfield 189cm and 92kg. However, Dangerfield is likely to spend more time in the midfield against the Lions.
Remember, it took Dangerfield’s injection into the midfield when the teams last met in round six for the Cats to find their groove, booting nine unanswered goals in a 27-point win at the SCG. That Joel Selwood and the hard-running Mitch Duncan were in superb form against the Magpies means the Cats’ midfield heads into this battle with confidence – regardless of where Dangerfield is placed.
What do the Lions need to do?
They need to win possession – and kick accurately. They may sound like the basics of the game but, against the Cats, it’s even more important. The Cats played a “keepings-off” style against Collingwood, shown in that they had an astonishing 134 marks – 120 of which were uncontested. The Magpies just couldn’t get the ball and, when they did, felt the pressure of having to attack.
The Lions are ranked 14th in contested possession differential since round six and may need to find a way of at least breaking even against the Cats if they are to advance into their first grand final since 2004. Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale, likely to be manned by Cam Guthrie, will be central to this. They prefer to kick than handball and enjoy attacking through the corridor. Just how they will react if the Cats force them wide will be critical.
The Lions are ranked 17th for shot-at-goal accuracy this season – and much has been made of their woes in this regard. But they have improved in recent weeks, and need this to continue to match an opponent that is ranked second for accuracy at goal.
Can the Cats handle Charlie Cameron?
If the Lions are to advance, they more than likely need their speedy small forward to have a major impact. That doesn’t necessarily mean with a high number of touches – rather it’s what he does with ball in hand.
Cameron was critical against the Tigers, for he adhered to a plan to drag opponent Dylan Grimes out of his comfort zone and up the ground. He booted three goals and was one of the Lions’ best.
While Cameron hasn’t been as much of a consistent threat as he was last year, he can light up the Gabba like no other Lion.
How much of a threat is Tom Hawkins?
The key forward responded to a goalless qualifying final in style, and will hope to replicate his accurate kicking for goal. The Cats need him to be a major presence, for it also adds to the Dangerfield factor. He was among the Cats’ best when the two teams last met in round six, booting 3.1, taking six marks and having 15 disposals. He also has a fine overall record against the Lions, averaging 3.1, but Harris Andrews will be a significant challenge. The Lions’ overall defence grew in confidence with strong performances in Andrews’ absence, but now comes the true test.
The Cats have won nine of the past 10 matches between these sides and have flourished at the Gabba this season, winning all four of their matches. There is something about the venue that reminds the Cats of home, and the results have been telling – their four wins have been by 33, 59, 66 and 68 points.
In saying that, the Lions’ last loss at the Gabba was 13 months ago, against Greater Western Sydney in a semi final. The Lions have gone on to win 10 in a row, including the qualifying final against Richmond.
This shapes as a line-ball contest. If Dangerfield can get going, the Cats should have enough to win.
Geelong by five points.
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Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.