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VFL: Tough win for Cats

Chris Scott post-match (Rd14) Chris Scott speaks to the media following the Cats win over the Dockers
George Horlin-Smith of the Cats in action during the 2013 AFL round 08 match between the Collingwood Mapgies and the Geelong Cats at the MCG, Melbourne on May 18, 2013. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)
Back from injury, George Horlin-Smith delivered another terrific performance in Sunday's 20-point defeat against the Tigers.

The Bendigo Bank Cats fought hard for their twenty-point victory over Coburg at Mantello Oval on Saturday has put the Cats on a four game hot streak in a ripping start to the second half of the season.

The inclusion of AFL listed players Trent West, Nathan Vardy and George Horlin-Smith built upon the solid line up that thrashed Port Melbourne by 85 points the week prior.

Despite the Cats strong line up, it was Coburg who took charge of the game winning the second and third quarters to lead by ten points at the final break.

Containing the Cats for four quarters proved to be too much for the home side in the end, with the Cats finding form in the fourth booting five goals to two and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat; Geelong 16.19 (115) def Coburg: 14.11 (95).

"It took us a long time to get into our flow," Coach Matthew Knights reviewed after the game.

"Thankfully in the last quarter we were able to play footy a bit more on our terms and able to get deep entries into our forward line," Knights said.

"All in all it was good to grind out the win, but there is plenty to work on out of this game,"

It was a hard slog for the Cats up until the last quarter with the home side up and about early answering the Cats quick goals with their own.

The short and wide nature of Mantello Oval saw fast breaks through the middle of the ground reap rewards for both sides, on many occasions back to back goals coming within seconds of each other thanks to fast centre breaks.

The downfall for the Cats were the wide flanks at Coburg's home patch meaning it was easy to get lost out wide and lose forward momentum, where the Tigers could press a turnover and rebound through the short centre.

Knights considers this vital experience for players to adapt to playing good football at different grounds.

"We got caught wide a lot today and we weren't able to get the ball in deep, and a lot of times Coburg were able to turn us over on 50 then come straight back up through the corridor," he said.

The Tigers made better overall use of the ground to this effect, scoring 9.6 from turnovers to the Cats 4.12.

It was scoring from stoppages where the Cats made up the difference- booting 10.6. The combination of Corrigan and Horlin-Smith proved deadly effective at keeping supply up to the Geelong forwards when it mattered.

Horlin-Smiths return from injury was a welcome one, with the Grand Final hero racking up 18 touches, 9 hard ball gets, 6 tackles, 8 clearances and 3 inside 50's.

Last years Norm Goss medal winner was just pleased to be playing footy in the blue and white hoops.

"It was just nice to get out there and play again," Horlin-Smith said.

"There are a lot of components of my game that I want to keep improving. For me it is about contributing from week to week."

Big men Josh Walker and Nathan Vardy provided plenty of action for the highlights reel, with Walker booting five goals and Vardy taking a couple of massive grabs over the packs, one in particular at full stretch and with the tips of his fingers at maximum reach.

Walker's goal from well outside 50 in the third quarter was a massive effort and helped keep the Cats' momentum up when the Tigers were threatening to take the game away.

Walker's form over the last few weeks has improved with every game, and it will be hard for him to top his five goal haul that earned him runner up best on ground for the Cats.

Young gun Billie Smedts also provided another storming effort, stamping himself on the game in the final term to propel the Cats to victory.

Oozing speed and class, Smedts did his AFL selection prospects no harm with 16 disposals and 5 inside 50s and a presence in the final term that seemed to typify the Cats' fighting spirit.

Focal Points:

Going Forwards and Backwards:

The Cats continue their well documented love affair of rounding out players at opposite ends of the ground. This has worked well for Joel Hamling and Mitch Brown (even Shane Kersten briefly), and the next candidate appears to be Ryan 'Bubbles' Bathie. Traditionally holding down the fort at full back, Bathie has been unleashed on an unsuspecting VFL competition at full forward in recent weeks, and has used his size, speed and quick hands to devastating effect. Bubbles is like a freight train on the lead and can hold his own in the packs, using his basketball background to pluck the Sherrin from the air. Yet despite this skill in the air Bathie really impresses when the ball goes to ground. If he isn't winning it for his own scoreboard glory he is setting up teammates and creating opportunities. For the area effect he has on the ball in the Cats' forward fifty he is worth two or three goals alone before he hits the scoreboard himself.

At home on the range
Mitch Brown has slotted into defence the past few weeks after taking a trip up for some AFL games, where he was played up forward. The quality of Brown's game in defence with his ability to mark incoming opposition kicks, effect spoils and gather his own ball has really come to the fore. It seems this is where Browny feels most at home. Yes, he can go forward and has a lot of talent in that area, but you just get the feeling that in defence, running off half back is where he plays his best footy and these past few games has only served to highlight his ability across half back. Just incase you don't believe me, he has been named twice in a row best on ground on the back of these performances. His 18 disposals, eight marks and seven defensive rebounds against Coburg made a massive difference when the Tigers took it to the Cats.

The Winning Score
Again the Cats managed to find avenues to score, despite Coburg getting the better of play for good parts of the game. The Cats had a few easy misses throughout the game, none more telling than Vardy's set shot from 30m out after he was awarded a free kick from a brawl that would have seen the Cats kick two goals from one set play. Yet the lads were able to put more than 100 points on the board for the tenth time this year from twelve outings. Only Williamstown and Box Hill have managed to keep the Cats to under the ton, and of those games they were both victories for the Cats regardless. It doesn't matter where you look the Cats are able to find goalkickers from week to week. Players like Hollmer, Barham, Walker, Vardy, Schroder, Gleeson, Smedts, Corrigan, Kersten, Hamling and Bews routinely hit the scoreboard at least once a week, and if some are kept quiet, others step up. It must be a massive headache for opposition defenders to have to line up against such potent scoring potential each week, and it could well be the deciding factor for the Cats come finals time.

Geelong 16.19 (115) def Coburg: 14.11 (95).

Goals: Walker 5, Hollmer 3, Barham, Bathie, Vardy 2, Smedts, Thurlow.
Best: Brown, Walker, Corrigan, Herbison, Hollmer, Raidme.
Injuries: Thurlow (cheekbone), Bews (Hamstring)
Reports: Nil
@Coburg City Oval
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs