Making a stand: Cats tackle Bulldogs and critics

GEELONG 3.0 8.5 9.5 16.8 (104)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.3 4.3 10.8 12.9 (81)
GOALS - Geelong: Taylor 5, Dangerfield 4, Menzel 2, J Selwood, Blicavs, S Selwood, Hawkins, Tuohy.
Western Bulldogs: Smith 2, Redpath 2, Wallis 2, Boyd 2, Dickson 2, Webb, Cloke.
BEST - Geelong: Dangerfield, Tuohy, JSelwood, Taylor, Duncan, SSelwood, Stewart, Menegola, Mackie.
Western Bulldogs: Daniel, T Boyd, Wallis, Jong, Johannisen, Murphy, C Smith.
INJURIES - Geelong: Guthrie (ill) replaced in selected side by Murdoch, Cockatoo (hamstring).
UMPIRES Jeffery, McInerney, Williamson.
CROWD 30,275 at Simonds Stadium.

Let's just make it about tackling. Losing last week simplified things for Geelong. You could lose the game but you simply could not refuse to tackle.

Games can sometimes be measured by one thing other than the scoreboard. For Geelong, it was the tackle count.

Last week Geelong laid 13 tackles for the first half. It would have been a record low but they were similarly insipid against North Melbourne earlier in the year.

In the first half of the first quarter the Cats had clung to more tackles than in the entire first half last week. By half-time they had laid 71 tackles. It was believed to be a club record.

Since 2010 it was the third best of any team for a half, though the other two games were in the wet so they can claim it as some type of new yardstick for manic football.

Geelong were determined to prove that they might lose for many reasons but determination would not be one of them.

The tackle statistic can be misleading - it might suggest the other team has the ball and you are chasing - but this Friday night it was perfectly accurate.

For the first term the Cats came with furious intent but were similarly frantic in how they moved the ball. It made a counterpoint to the Bulldogs, who like a hunt and gather game and absorbed the Cats' body pressure yet still had poise when choosing what to do with the ball.

Caleb Daniel perhaps once ordered poorly off a menu, but it might be the only bad decision he has made. Mitch Wallis returned seamlessly in his first game after a broken leg in round 18 last year. Lin Jong was inventively used as a second ruck against Mark Bilcavs and the Dogs did not lack for it.

Geelong played with a will but without a way. Patrick Dangerfield was superb with three goals, all equally delightful. A set shot from long range, then a running goal on the left, then on the right.

In the second term Geelong closed the Bulldogs' run from behind the ball and pushed them wide to the line when they tried to move the ball.

Harry Taylor had kicked two goals in the first 32 quarters this year then kicked two in six minutes and a third soon after that. Geelong was finally playing the way they like to - hunting tackles and surging in numbers.

The Dogs didn't score for the term. When Geelong kicked the first of the third term they led by 32 points. It should have been match defining.

The problem of the first half was that if leading by five goals required a record number of tackles was it sustainable for a game?

The third term would suggest not. The Dogs kicked six unanswered goals - inexplicably the overwhelming majority of the scoring for the game was to one end - as they enjoyed a 40-point turnaround in the game.

With the game poised it was the Selwood brothers who steadied the Cats. Scott Selwood kicked his first goal for the club - and the Dogs found that as far as sustainable effort was concerned, the effort to recover the lead was harder to sustain than the Cats' tackling pressure.

The Bulldogs had not beaten Geelong since round 21, 2009 and that record was to be left unchallenged after Dan Menzel, almost unsighted for the night - emerged with two goals.

Nakia Cockatoo had been missing since the second term with a hamstring injury but the Cats managed to cover the loss of run with Zach Tuohy mounting an argument for best-on-ground honours - though it is always going to be an argument when Dangerfield and Joel Selwood play as they did. The high tackle count could also be attributable to the inclusion of another Selwood in the team.

This story Making a stand: Cats tackle Bulldogs and critics first appeared on Brisbane Times.