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VFL: A Golden performance

George Burbury finished with six goals in the Cats 201 point win over Bendigo.
George Burbury finished with six goals in the Cats 201 point win over Bendigo.
On a miserable night in Bendigo, the Bendigo Bank Cats ran out comprehensive victors against a young Bendigo Gold outfit, and setting a VFL/AFL record for the greatest ever winning margin in the process.

The Cats emerged victors with a score line of 35.17.227 to 3.8.26

The longer that the game went, the less fight the locals showed, excluding an eight minute period in the second quarter when they piled on three successive goals, and a period in the last quarter where they grabbed control in the clearances and appeared intent on preventing the Cats winning by a double century margin.

But the ladder leaders were not to be denied. Weathering the storm, and lead by the intensity and desperation set by VFL stalwart Dom Gleeson (28 disposals, 2 goals), the Cats kicked 8.2 to 0.1 in the last quarter – the two behinds being the last two scoring shots of the match, and ensuring the Cats hit the 200 point margin.

Post-game, coach Matthew Knights praised the cohesiveness of his team as VFL and AFL listed players, saying “they all feel the same. Whether AFL or VFL they know what we want to achieve and all work towards that.”

The game took some time to kick into gear. Both teams were making errors going forward, and neither could hit the scoreboard effectively early in the term.

The reigning premier started with four minor scores, until, after nine minutes, Shane Kersten broke the deadlock. With a kick in from full back, Josh Hunt launched a torpedo that reached the centre circle, when Trent West took an excellent contested mark. He dished it off to Gleeson, who hit up defender turned forward Ryan Bathie, who just floated the ball into the path of Kersten and he did the rest. Minutes later, Kersten kicked his second, and had the Cats first two majors.

The Cats proceeded to kick into gear, and piled on eighteen scoring shots to one in the first quarter. Jordan Schroder (33 possessions, 21 contested, 8 clearances) with the pick of the goals, after some great ruck work from West hit the moving Billie Smedts, who handballed to Schroder, and he finished neatly from 50.

The Cats went into the first break leading by a staggering 67 points – 10.8.68 to 0.1.1.

Geelong continued to pull away early in the second quarter with goals to Mitch Brown and Gleeson. It wasn’t until the six minute mark that Bendigo finally got there first goal of the contest through Billy McInnes. A Matthew Sully defensive fifty turnover, and some good front half pressure lead to the Gold kicking two more goals in quick succession.

But that was as much resistance that Bendigo could muster for the entire match. The Cats steadied themselves, and kicked the last four goals of the first half including another coast to coast goal, starting with Josh Hunt’s trusty left boot, and ending in the sure hands of George Burbury who kicked his second for the half.

Leading by 85 points at half time, and with finals a week away, the Cats could have been excused had the put the cue in the rack for the second half, but that’s not the way that the minor premiers play the game.

Things went from bad to worse quickly for the Bendigo Gold as the Geelong juggernaut rolled on, and added to the already impressive highlight reel for the match.

Adding 11.4 to three behinds, the Cats could do no wrong. Almost every time that the Gold surged forward there was a Geelong player there taking an intercept mark, or cleaning up the spillage and surging forward.

Shane Kersten took his tally to six goals for the match, booting four of the Cats eleven third quarter goals. George Burbury and Ryan Bathie took their respective tallies to four apiece as the Cats shared it around. Bathie’s fourth being an exquisite drop punt from the boundary line.

There was no greater show of unselfishness than Jesse Stringer (20 possessions, and a game high 8 tackles) who marked inside his attacking 50, in plenty of space, and instead of shooting for goal, hit up Jordan Murdoch (32 possessions, 3 goals) 20 metres from goal.
Joel Hamling took the margin to 150 points at the 29 minute mark, and the Cats hit the final change leading by 152 points, 27.15.177 to 3.7.25.

The Cats made great use of the wind in the first and third quarters, piling on 21 goals in those two quarters alone, to the Gold’s 3 in their two quarters of wind assistance.

George Burbury quickly took his tally to five, as he continued the rout. Trent West (24 possessions, 45 hit outs) went forward and took a sensational pack mark and converted, adding to the already huge Geelong lead.

Burbury put through his sixth at the 21 minute mark, stretching the Geelong lead to 194 points. All the fascination at this point was whether or not the Cats could hit the 200 point.

Bendigo held the clearance ascendency early in the quarter, but they soon dropped their intensity, and badly fell away, allowing for the experienced Geelong legs to trample over them late. Dom Gleeson just willed his body to every contest and won the praise of his coach.
“I thought he was outstanding. If he can see the game isn’t being played in the right manner, and there’s a hard ball there to be won, he’ll be the first to go and win it.”

Gleeson’s frenzied attack on the contest surged the game forward and brought his teammates back into the game. Mitch Brown, kicking three final quarter goals, stretched the lead to 199 points at the 27 minute mark.

A few minutes before that, Bendigo won a free kick, and looked sure to prevent the Cats from snaring the elusive 200 point margin. However, the kick fell short and was rushed through for a behind.

Ben Raidme, who was sensational all night, but had an indifferent night in front of goal, chalked up the 200 points with a behind late in the game. This brought tremendous cheers from the Geelong fans who made the trip up the Calder Freeway, and a generous smattering of applause from the Bendigo faithful.

Schroder, who had 15 possessions in the last quarter, had the last score of the match with a snap that sailed wide of the goal post for a behind. Schroder lead all comers with 33 possessions for the match.

The final siren couldn’t come quick for the Bendigo players and fans and when it sounded, they were finally put out of their agony. The Bendigo fans must be commended though, for staying until the final siren and beyond, especially after enduring such a tumultuous season.

Hopefully they can get the required number of members to remain in the competition as having rural teams like Bendigo is great for the game as a whole.

While Bendigo can finally put to bed a winless season, Geelong turn their attention to Friday Night, when they will play the Casey Scorpions at Simonds Stadium. It will be the first nigh VFL final since 2004 when Bendigo and Werribee clashed under lights.

When asked about what he hopes for support wise for the first Qualifying Final, coach Matthew Knights stated “I’d be ecstatic if there could be a massive crowd. To see as many Geelong fans there as possible, not just for the here and now, but to watch the future of the club.”
Knights also went on to add “there’s no question that there will be added enthusiasm around the club for the finals series.” He also commented on whether there was any pressure being on top of the ladder. “Wins and losses, and ladder positions are irrelevant now. It’s down to eight teams, and about how we play in the finals series.”

Knights praised the unselfishness of his players and the way they brought their teammates into the game; “the guys weren’t blazing away, but were happy to share inside forward 50 to get better shots.”

Geelong finished with 15 goal kickers for the night, and were dominant in every area of the game. Geelong finished with 419 disposals to Bendigo’s 256 on the way to 71 inside 50s to 27. Geelong’s defensive pressure was sensational and this was best encapsulated in scoring 18 goals directly from Bendigo turnovers. Even with the huge differential, the Cats had 27 more tackles – 77 to 50.

The Cats lost Josh Cowan early in the week after injuring his hamstring during training. Matthew Knights was disappointed for Cowan “as he was starting to play good footy, and we love having our young guys available to play rather than sitting and watching.” AFL emergencies Josh Walker and George Horlin-Smith, along with Taylor Hunt and VFL duo Jack Hollmer and Daniel Measures were also left out of the side.

The Geelong VFL Twitter account managed to trend Australia wide after the game, highlighting the significance of the win, and the achievement that was met with the margin being so big.

It’s business as usual this week for the Cats as they prepare to defend their title, and start a serious assault at back-to-back premierships. I urge all Cats fan to get behind the team, and be at Simonds Stadium Friday Night to cheer on this sensational team.

Bendigo Bank Cats 35-17-(227) def. Bendigo Gold 3-8-(26).

Goals: Kersten, Burbury 6, Bathie, Brown 4, Murdoch 3, Hamling, Gleeson 2, West, Schroder, Smedts, Hartman, Eardley, Stringer, Corrigan, Raidme.

Best: Schroder, Burbury, Hartman, Murdoch, Smedts, West, Brown, Corrigan.

Injuries: Nil.

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