Geelong coach Chris Scott is optimistic about his side’s chances against The Western Bulldogs but is aware of the challenge ahead on Friday night.
It is another must-win game for both sides. The Cats are just outside the top four, their opposition’s eighth place on the ladder is decided by percentage.
It is perhaps surprising that two talented sides are in precarious positions near the halfway mark of the season. Scott said that the fixture plays an important role in seasons like this.
“When you have a really close competition like this, the quirks of the draw tend to play a really important part,” he said.
“It’s not just the fixture as it’s laid out, It’s also the timing of things in terms of form.
“I’ve said it a lot, it’s not who you play it’s when you play them…Where do we think we sit? It’s very hard to say.”
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Geelong has comfortably beaten the teams below them so far. However, they have struggled against other potential contenders such as St Kilda and Fremantle. The Cats are still finding consistent form but Scott is confident that their best is strong enough.
“If we play well, we’re going to be a handful of virtually every team,” he said.
“We have patches where we probably let ourselves down a little bit, where we’re very very open to being beaten. I think that’s driving us a little bit at the moment.
“I look at our last half of the year and see some good teams in our fixture.
“We’re still of the view that we are building.
“If we can get it to a really high level, our ambition is to get it to the point where we’re just playing such good footy that the quirks of the draw, or an injury here or two shouldn’t trouble us too much.”
‘Having a bit of a sighter against the Saints was helpful’
Geelong travels to Marvel Stadium to face The Bulldogs. It is a venue they have not graced often, but it will be the second visit in a month of matches this season.
That game ended in a loss to St Kilda. The Saints were more accustomed to the notoriously fast ground. Scott says that experience has helped prepare for this round.
“It’s naïve to say we just play the same way irrespective (of the ground),” he reflected
“GMHBA is different to the MCG, which is different to Marvel.
“Without even contemplating the non-Victorian venues, and you do need to adjust a little bit.
“Having a bit of a sighter against the saints was helpful.
“The game is played differently there, especially against the teams that play there a lot.
“It’s always clean, the ball moves really fast, you can back your skill and the bulldogs certainly have the talent to execute that game style.
“We thought that we played pretty well for the most part against a good team,” he said of the St Kildas loss.
“The 20 minutes that really let us down, cost us the game.
“We took some lessons out of that.”
‘It’s one of the romantic parts of our game’
That game saw Geelong’s recent Rising Star nominee Sam De Koning line up on Saints spearhead Max King. Scott said that it was likely he would get the job on Aaron Naughton this week.
The prospect of a duel between two exciting key position players is something Scott relishes.
“It’s one of the romantic parts of our game,” he said as a fan of the sport.
“I’m not going to say it’s unique, but it’s certainly rare it’s world sport that you get those one-on-one battles.
“I think that’s one of the things that laws of the game and that the AFL have tried to enshrine.
“The idea that we don’t have an offside rule, these guys are side by side with each other, the whole game.
“I don’t want to put any more pressure on Sam, we want him to go out and do his stuff.
“Naughton is already a star of the competition.
“If I was a Geelong supporter it’s one of the things, I’d be excited about.
“It’d be good sitting in your loungeroom on Friday night, but it’d be much better at the venue.
“I’d love our supporters to come and see what those guys can do if they haven’t had the chance to see them in the flesh for the last two or three years.”
‘We’re expecting to be busy’
Aaron Naughton is not the only threat to Geelong. The Bulldogs have a variety of attacking weapons. Luke Beveridge has midfielders that can rotate through the forward line. It is a tricky proposition for the Cats’ defence.
“We’re expecting to be busy,” said defender Jed Bews.
“If we go in expecting that, we can counter it as best we can.
“Playing at Marvel, it’s a quick deck. We’ve got to be on our toes.
“As a small defender I’m probably going to go through a few different guys, and they’re going to have resting mids.”
‘Therein lies the balance’
Jed Bews did not play against St Kilda. His pace was missed in a fast-paced encounter. Against The Bulldogs, he says it is important to not let the players rest when they go forward. Keeping the game on Geelong’s terms will be essential.
“I expect them to have the heat on the game, play quick and get the ball going forward,” Bews said
“So, for us, it’s probably not playing into their hands.
“Playing out style against them rather than that chaotic out the back which as a defender you can end up doing lots of running.
“It’s probably just trying to play it our way, not falling into the trap of playing their way.”
This was echoed by Scott.
“We’re very aware of their strengths, their talls, the midfield types,” the Geelong coach said.
“They have a very balanced forward line.
“I don’t think we’ll do anything to destabilize the way our backs play.
“Because they have so much talent through their midfield, my observation is they back that talent in and they try to use to the ball.
“They’re not a bang it on the boot team, they try and use their numbers and play with speed.
“To simplify, the game is always the same.
“You try to either turn the opposition over straight away or make them go slowly so you can get set up behind the ball.
“If Naughton gets really penetrating ball use…he’s going to be a handful for any team’s defence.
“But on the other side, we do think about trying to force them to defend with abit of speed on the ball.
“They’re pretty good at getting back. It’s one of those things where you watch on tv and you think, ‘you should move the ball quicker.’
“But we’re not we’re not going to move the ball really quickly to a position where we’re outnumbered two to three.
“Therein lies the balance and situational attack that we need to execute.”
Geelong faces the Western Bulldogs on Friday night at Marvel Stadium.
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