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VFL: Cats top Sandy

Daniel Menzel kicks a goal in the Cats win over Sandringham
Daniel Menzel kicks a goal in the Cats win over Sandringham
Geelong gave a rousing welcome to fan favourite Daniel Menzel in his return from injury with a thirty-two point victory over the fancied Sandringham Zebras at Simonds Stadium on Sunday, Geelong 15.21 (111) def Sandringham 12.7 (79).

The Bendigo Bank Cats fought hard to break even with Sandringham in the first half before shifting into overdrive late in the third term.  Joel Hamling stared in the Cats second half assault with five goals as the Cats managed to pile on ten goals to Sandringham’s five.

Sandringham had the best of it early on, as the Cats were let down by execution and handling skills resulting in turnovers. The Zebras looked a formidable unit as they used space effectively while shutting down the Cats run and carry with intense man on man pressure.
The Cats defence was bombarded again and again as the Zebras slotted five straight early goals, with Matthew Sully, Cam Eardley, Cam Guthrie and Josh Hunt preventing disaster for the Cats on any number of occasions.

With the play mostly Sandringham’s way, Menzel took some time to work into the game playing from the forward line. As the Cats steadied through the game and got their rhythm, Menzel began to pick up possessions (8 disposals, 3 hard ball gets, 1 goal) and test his body out. He chased hard, hit the packs and was rewarded with a fantastic snap goal late in the third quarter.  

“The plan was to give him the 60-70% game time and then take him off at three quarter time” coach Matthew Knights said after the game.

“The boys were pretty keen to reward him (for his efforts in rehab) and get the win”

The spark was lit late in the third quarter for the Cats after Piers Flanagan marked just outside 50m for the Cats and gave off to a streaming Josh Hunt, who unleashed his trademark cannon of a boot to slam home a massive goal for the Cats. With their tails up, the Cats began to dismantle Sandringham, hunting them down and outrunning their opponents.

The third quarter signalled a massive turnaround in momentum as the Cats turned a 20 point deficit into an 11 point lead at the final change.

The 1,300 strong crowd was up on their feet for Hamling however, as he flew again and again as the Cats began to bring the ball inside 50m on long kicks. Taking several spectacular grabs and converting them reliably into majors his 10 possessions, 7 marks, and 5 goals 1 behind proves he can stand up when needed.

“Last season he played in defence, this year we have given him a look at the forward line as part of his development” reflected Knights.

“He goes for a lot of marks and they haven’t been sticking, but it was good for him today to take those contested marks and got the result with 5 goals."

He brought the Cats marching home kicking three of their last five and will take a lot of confidence from the win.

Key ball winners for the Cats were Selwood (29), Horlin-Smith (29), Raidme (27), Eardley (25) and Corrigan (24). The Midfield trio of Selwood/Horlin-Smith/Raidme was devastating in the second half helping the Cats get on top of the clearances off the handiwork of Andrew Banjanin in the ruck.

Guthrie (5 tackles), Gleeson (5 tackles), Horlin-Smith (5 tackles) and Selwood (6 tackles) were relentless with their pressure on Sandringham’s ball carriers, and went a long way to shutting the Zebras down.  Guthrie in particular was a soldier out of defence and is pressing a convincing case for selection.

“Between Guthrie, Schroder and Horlin-Smith, they really helped to give us the ascendancy in the second half” said Knights.

Knights feels the fighting spirit shown by the young Cats is an important facet of their game.

“To grind it out the way we did was outstanding for the players, we did the same against Williamstown in round one. We feel like we have come into the season trying to improve and develop as a team and to not rest on what was achieved last season.”

Knights final words ought to send ominous signs to the rest of the competition.

“We feel like we have plenty of scope for improvement” he said.

Two quality opponents down, with room for improvement is a fantastic position for the club in anyone’s language.

The Cats now must prepare for the coming encounter with the Box Hill Hawks at Simonds Stadium on Saturday 20th of April.

Geelong VFL 15.21 111
Sandringham 12.7 79

Goals: Hamling 5, Horlin-Smith , Schroder 2, Thurlow, Raidme, Corrigan, J Hunt, Menzel, Gibbs.

Best: Sully, Schroder, Horlin-Smith, Gleeson, Brown, Hamling, Corrigan, Selwood

Injuries: Stringer (hamstring)

Crowd: 1311
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs