Cats march into preliminary final - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cats march into preliminary final

By Guy Hand 05/09/2009 07:07:09 PM Comments (0)

Geelong provided emphatic proof that form is temporary, but class is permanent as they marched to within one win of a third successive AFL grand final.

The Cats earned a weekend off and a preliminary final berth with a 14-point qualifying final victory over the Western Bulldogs on Saturday at the MCG.

Written off by many after injuries to key players and some indifferent late-season form, Geelong's big-match players showed big-match temperament to spearhead the 14.12 (96) to 12.10 (82) win.

The Cats' most influential players Matthew Scarlett and Gary Ablett led the way, Brownlow Medallist Jimmy Bartel kicked three goals and experienced defender Corey Enright had 35 quality disposals plus a pivotal intercept and goal in the final term.

The competition's benchmark for the best part of three seasons showed plenty of glimpses of their irresistible 2007 and 2008 form.

It was never more evident then when they rocketed out of the blocks with a six-goal first term - smothering and shaking up the Bulldogs with their trademark September intensity.

Their 28-point quarter-time buffer withstood three separate Dogs fightbacks - each time the 2007 premiers having the right answer to their rivals' persistent questioning.

Geelong coach Mark Thompson admitted to some pre-match nerves over whether his side - with four defeats in their past nine home-and-away games including one to the Dogs - would stand up when it counted.

"We were pretty happy with our senior players ... you can just roll out name after name after name, they stood up under pressure," Thompson said.

"I left home and I was quite nervous driving to the ground and I was quite nervous before the game.

"Maybe it's a good feeling to have back in our bellies.

"The surety of making the preliminary final is always good to have."

Geelong are confident they can add further muscle to their already-imposing shape with a match-free fortnight going into the preliminary final.

That will buy several of their fitness queries - ruckman Brad Ottens, defender James Kelly and forward Paul Chapman - extra recovery time as well as open the door for a return for small forward Steve Johnson.

Thompson said he was confident Johnson, who recently underwent minor hip surgery, would be fit for the preliminary final.

The Bulldogs now face a sudden-death final next Friday night against either Brisbane or Carlton.

Coach Rodney Eade admitted his side had not played well enough to win, though they threatened the impossible in the final term as they whittled a 35-point three-quarter-time deficit down to 13.

Experienced forward Jason Akermanis booted three goals, while Adam Cooney worked tirelessly for his side with 28 touches.

"The difference in the end - apart from their start - was they used the ball a little bit better than we did," Eade said.

"Full credit to them, they deserved to win."

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