Geelong Cats head coach Chris Scott runs from the field during the AFL first qualifying final match.
Geelong Cats head coach Chris Scott runs from the field during the AFL first qualifying final match.

The Tackle: Scott in the eye of AFL finals storm

Chris Scott has been under pressure and scrutiny before, but not like this.

He's staring at a straight-sets exit from the finals, and for Scott, that will be an unsavoury exit.

A loss would set his finals record at 3-11 since the 2011 premiership.

That's awful, not withstanding the fact the Cats have rebuilt this team and are still contenders.

For the best part of a decade Geelong's main rivals were Hawthorn and Sydney, and before that St Kilda.

The Swans and Hawks are rebuilding and not playing finals, yet still win plaudits for their rebuild. The Saints haven't played finals since 2011.

Geelong has missed one finals series since Scott took over amid a double rebuild.

Yet, it's Scott and the Cats who are failures.

 

All eyes are on Geelong coach Chris Scott this week.
All eyes are on Geelong coach Chris Scott this week.

 

It seems to be open season on the coach after he dropped ruckman Rhys Stanley for the Collingwood game, citing the weather forecast, before his team once again failed the mental test in opening minutes of a final.

Even the seemingly entitled Cats fans, who have a love-hate relationship with Scott, have all piled on to the hate side.

The Stanley discussion is worthwhile.

Scott's problem was he threw up the weather instead of throwing Stanley under the bus.

In hindsight, he probably should have said he had lost faith in Stanley, but show me a coach who will publicly put down a player like that.

His reasoning was sound.

Mark Blicavs is the Cats' best ruckman and their best defender. They probably thought that because Collingwood was playing Brodie Mihocek and a bunch of small and mid-sized forwards, they could do without another tall defender.

The Cats would argue it worked because Collingwood kicked only 9.7, and one of Geelong's problems was its forwards didn't score when the Cats had the ascendancy. Tom Hawkins kicked 0.4, Gary Rohan didn't touch the ball after quarter-time and Gary Ablett had no influence.

They'd argue they lost control early, got back into the game, had an arm wrestle for two quarters, then fluffed the final quarter.

Still, it all came back to the Stanley non-selection and the flow-on issues from there.

Colleague David King laid the blame for the loss squarely on Scott.

"I think Chris wants to be the reason they win,'' he said on SEN. "I think you've got to trust your players and set up the systems and endorse the program in totality and say you guys are going to be the reason we win. You don't have to win every game from the coaches box."

Paul Roos was also mystified.

Even Scott's former coach Leigh Matthews condemned the selection.

 

Mark Blicavs struggled in the ruck against Collingwood.
Mark Blicavs struggled in the ruck against Collingwood.

 

King's strong comments annoyed the Cats.

Have the debate about Stanley, but to accuse the coach of putting himself above what's best for the team was, they believe, a ridiculous personal attack.

The Cats argue every coach in every sport picks the best team to give it the best chance of winning. Then it's up to the players.

Mind you, name a coach who doesn't try to influence from the coaches box.

Rightly or wrongly, Scott is marked hard.

Perhaps people view him as smug, or condescending, or too cool for school.

Maybe some of them simply want him to fail.

Ask fans of Melbourne, Essendon, the Bulldogs, Hawks, North Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Adelaide and Carlton to compare their seasons to Geelong's.

Of course, it's a win-loss industry and the Cats lost on Friday night, but the Cats would argue that at least they got to September - and do it regularly.

 

 

This year, Scott and his coaching department devised a game style they hoped would, in part, eradicate poor starts and ultimately finals losses: play safe, play slow, redesign the forward group and play Esava Ratugolea, Quinton Narkle, Tom Atkins, Luke Dahlhaus, Gryan Miers and Rohan.

They finished on top of the ladder (who tipped Geelong to do that?), but that was never really going to be the real test, was it?

The test would always come in finals, and Geelong and Scott failed again.

That can't be denied after yet another poor start.

"My frustration with the Cats is that it's the same way. Always the same way,'' former player Jimmy Bartel told 3AW.

Stanley didn't play because Scott lost faith in him weeks ago.

He dropped him after the Round 18 loss to Hawthorn and brought him back into the team for the Round 23 clash against Carlton.

 

Will Rhys Stanley (left) return against the Eagles?
Will Rhys Stanley (left) return against the Eagles?

 

You'd think Stanley was Polly Farmer such was the fallout after he was dumped an hour before Friday night's game.

The ruck position has been issue at Geelong for several seasons, which makes this week's selection intriguing.

Is playing Stanley against Nic Nat on Friday night a concession they got it wrong against Collingwood, or is it horses for courses and Blicavs will be required down back against Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling and maybe Oscar Allen, meaning Stanley is named?

Whatever happens the focus will be on Scott.

Can he get it done with his game style? Can he re-energise his group? Can he cover for the injured Mitch Duncan?

He's in a lose-lose situation really, because if they win, the players will have done it. And if they lose, it will be Scott's fault.

No doubt, Jane Bunn would say a high pressure system will hit the MCG about 7.50pm on Friday.

 

WHAT I LIKE

 

1. Darcy Moore

He was called a head-case because he believed he had a hamstring injury in Round 23. Scans then cleared him of any injury. Maybe he was smarter than everyone else and it was tight and he didn't want to risk it by staying on the ground against Essendon. He gave his critics the middle finger on Friday night. Moore and Jeremy Howe combined for 13 intercept marks (Moore seven and Howe six) and 22 intercept possessions (Moore 12 and Howe 10). Six of Moore's intercept marks were contested - the equal-most contested intercept marks of any player this year.

 

Darcy Moore takes another intercept mark.
Darcy Moore takes another intercept mark.

 

2. Dion Prestia

Dustin Martin was the terminator and Shane Edwards the architect, and Prestia slips by with another 30-plus possession game. Prestia has become a critical player for the Tigers. His past seven games have delivered 32, 30, 39, 35, 31, 35 and 30 disposals. Prestia's role in the midfield has allowed Martin to play more forward. It will be interesting to see where Prestia finishes in the club best-and-fairest. Top three?

 

3. Rioli and Ryan

Nic Nat's influence was profound in the middle, but if the team doesn't score that advantage is lost. So, tip your hat to Willie Rioli and Liam Ryan, the modern-day Krakouer brothers. The first 35 minutes of last Thursday's game was dominated by these two players. They were clean with their hands, precise by foot and electric when near the ball. In those first 35 minutes Rioli had eight disposals, seven score involvements, one assist and one goal. Ryan had six disposals, three score involvements, one assist and one goal. Their match-ups against Geelong will be crucial. There's Jed Bews, Mark O'Connor, Jake Kolodjashnij or Zach Tuohy. It will play a major role in the result. And, yes, so will whoever plays against Nic Nat.

 

4. Moments

None were more uplifting and powerful than the two Collingwood smothers in the final quarter on Friday night. The smother is an underrated act and Collingwood won the smother count 14-7. That's 14 times the Cats weren't allowed to move the ball how they liked. Jamie Elliott's smother on Bews at the 18th minute was divine, Howe's full-length dive to smother Tim Kelly at the 14th minute was outrageous. Can someone put Titanic music to the slow-motion clip and post it on Twitter? Thanks.

 

Tim Taranto of the Giants barges through a Josh Dunkley tackle.
Tim Taranto of the Giants barges through a Josh Dunkley tackle.

 

5. Kids in the big city

Jacob Hopper is 22 and Tim Taranto is 21 and, outside teammate Matt de Boer, they were the most influential midfielders in Saturday's elimination final. De Boer nailed Marcus Bontempelli, but it was Hopper and Taranto who lifted their games to the required level. They both had a match-high seven clearances and 10 score involvements, Hopper 30 disposals and Taranto 28 disposals. Hopper is regarded as a good young player by many outside the Giants, but is rated far more important than that inside the club.

 

6. Respect

Woke to headlines on Friday morning that Adam Tomlinson, who was dropped for the first final, had cracked the sads and would definitely be at a new club next year. Yet there he was at the end in civvies chairing Brett Deledio from the ground alongside skipper Phil Davis. That's the sort of character of a person you want at your football club. With Deledio missing this week, the door's open for Tomlinson to make a return. You get the feeling it will be a popular inclusion.

 

 

WHAT I DISLIKE

 

1. Bombers

There will be questions asked of the coaching department and Essendon supporters were waiting for the club to be decisive either way, and they got it. They are frustrated after a decade of controversy and a lack of success, and perhaps John Worsfold is bearing the brunt of that. The Bombers in the 1970s - the decade before Kevin Sheedy arrived - were the absolute pits. In a 12-team competition, Essendon finished 11th, 11th, fifth, fourth, eighth, eighth, 10th, ninth, 10th and fifth. From 2010, in an 18-team competition, they have finished 13th, eighth, 11th, seventh, seventh, 15th, 18th, seventh, 11th and eighth. In the 1970s they had 93 wins and 128 losses. From 2010, they have 100 wins and 121 losses. This past decade has been forgettable for a lot of reasons. Something has to change.

 

Nic Naitanui runs down Essendon’s Adam Saad.
Nic Naitanui runs down Essendon’s Adam Saad.

 

2. Bad kicking is bad football

Brisbane lost by 58 point despite having five more shots at goal, but the quality of shots was the difference. The Tigers scored 14.1 and the Lions 4.2 from inside 30m and the Tigers scored 4.1 and the Lions 4.13 from outside 30m. There are positives for Lions coach Chris Fagan. Brisbane won contested possessions by 12, clearances by four and inside-50s by 11, but after quarter-time seemed overwhelmed by Richmond's swarming game style. Charlie Cameron couldn't get away from Dylan Grimes and Eric Hipwood couldn't do anything. He needs big game, the young key forward.

 

3. Oh boy, Doggies

The form team leading into the finals was physically dismantled by the Giants. The accusation of being a soft kill will either hang like a dark cloud over the Western Bulldogs all summer or be the motivation to improve their own physicality. Love to know how coach Luke Beveridge deals with it. Does he put an arm around the players and say he was proud of the season and these things happen? Or does he mark down Saturday as a day this club will never forget. It was poor from the Bulldogs, who were beaten in contested ball by 42, They brought a knife to a gun fight and were embarrassed.

 

4. Don't always blame the coach

Chris Scott is taking a standing 10 count from the media for dropping Rhys Stanley, but his players must also accept responsibility for their lack of punch. Gazza looked like he didn't want contact, Tom Hawkins kicked four behinds, Gary Rohan dropped his bundle, Joel Selwood couldn't influence things as much as he would have liked, and the players didn't or couldn't stop Collingwood marking the ball. The Pies took 123 to Geelong's 74. We always ask more of the champs and when it's Ablett's lowest-ranking game of the season, the scrutiny is deserved. Credit to Collingwood's Brayden Maynard. He is an old fashioned hard bugger, but Ablett has dealt with Maynard types for 15 years and flourished. The Cats need a big game from him on Friday night.

 

Brayden Maynard brings down Gary Ablett.
Brayden Maynard brings down Gary Ablett.

 

5. Brett Deledio

Lids is held in high esteem at both his football clubs - Richmond and the Giants - and the scenes at Giants Stadium on Saturday were of a heartbroken man who knew it was all over. He said during the week he'd had 30 soft tissue injuries in recent years and it was the 31st which abruptly ended his career. At his best, Deledio was a super player. He had balance and speed, was terrific below his knees and a ripper mark at pace on the lead.

 

6. Did they really see it?

No point naming names, but you have to wonder if the umpire really saw two incidents in the Richmond-Brisbane game. The umpire had to be blinded when Dustin Martin decided to throw the ball and the umpire surely saw Dylan Grimes on the ground and then decided to pay a free kick. He couldn't have been sucked in like he was, surely, if he had seen the incident fully. In the end, it was smart by Grimes, foolish by Eric Hipwood and nervous, over-the-top officiating from the umpire.

News Corp Australia


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