Amy McDonald attempts to fight her way through the grasp of two Bulldogs players. (Image: Geelong Cats)

Without Georgie Prespakis in the midfield, Geelong still applied the pressure it has become known for and forced its way to a nail biting one-point win over the Western Bulldogs.

Early on, it seemed as if the Bulldogs had an answer to the Cats’ intense style of football, skilfully moving the ball up the ground and creating a strong defensive wall to combat Geelong counter-attacks. However, the relentless nature of the game finally got to the Dogs. The Cats broke them down and lead by as much as 19 points before eventually holding on to narrow a 37-36 victory, after the Bulldogs kicked three quick goals in the dying stages.

Amy McDonald and Nina Morrison were the key cogs in the Cats midfield, with the latter spending much more time in the middle because of the loss of the aforementioned Prespakis due to suspension. McDonald sat slightly lower in the disposal column than she usually does, being held to just 15 possessions. However, she still made it difficult for the Dogs, laying nine tackles for the game. Meanwhile, Morrison was immense in her new role, finishing with 10 tackles and eight clearances.

Both players were an enormous handful for the Bulldogs midfield to deal with, and while the likes of Ellie Blackburn and Jess Fitzgerald were impressive for the Dogs, they spent the majority of the game on the back foot due to how strong the Cats’ pressure was.

Speaking exclusively with The Inner Sanctum after her debut, Melissa Bragg lauded the Cats’ ability to work together as a team and get the job done without Prespakis, who has starred all season.

“Obviously Georgie’s a massive player and is really important for our team but I think what’s really awesome to see is that it’s not just up to one or two players, it up to the 21 that are out there on game day to do a job. If everyone’s playing their role, then we don’t need to rely on one person,” she said.

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Two players in particular who definitely stood up and contested the ball brilliantly in attack, were forwards Shelley Scott and Chloe Scheer. Scott bagged two goals for the game, while Scheer scored one, but their influence was immense and a huge reason that the team were able to secure the win.

Bragg spoke of what those two players bring to the team, especially Scott who is only playing her first season at Geelong after six seasons at Melbourne.

“I haven’t had a whole lot of footy before coming to Geelong this year, so to have the experience that those girls have [is important]. Particularly Shelley, you stop and listen and you really are absorbed in what she’s saying,” she said.

“I think there are so many players on this list that have so much experience whether it’s at Geelong or at other clubs, and they make me feel right at home.”

The Bulldogs found their way back into the game with some late pressure of their own, however it ended up being too little too late, as the Cats held on for the victory.

It was a big win for Geelong, and Bragg in particular who made her debut as a late change in place of Kate Darby. She spoke of how it felt to be able to take the opportunity, and how playing with the AFLW girls in the VFLW program prepared her for her debut.

“It’s all happened really quickly. I’ve got some great mates from VFLW, one of them in particular, Mia Skinner went through VFLW with me and she’s been awesome to have on board, but also the likes of Chloe Scheer, Laura Gardiner, Georgie Rankin, Georgia Clarke; so many girls in the AFL listed program came back and played VFL and I think that’s strengthened the VFL program and really holds you in good stead for when opportunities like this do pop up,” she explained.

With finals looking more likely every week for the Cats, Bragg says the team are going to stick to their plan and take it week by week in the lead up.

“I think it’s just business as usual. Dan (Lowther) had a really important message for the group this week which was that you can’t compare one week to another. Every week you’re up against a different opposition…it’s [about] taking each week as it comes,” she said.

Geelong will travel to Warrnambool next week to take on Essendon, while the Western Bulldogs will seek to snap its two game losing streak when they go head-to-head with Melbourne for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup at Casey Fields.

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