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VFL: Cats fire to take down Tigers

Nathan Vardy returned for the Cats in the big win over Frankston
Nathan Vardy booted six goals in his second game back
For the second week in a row the Bendigo Bank Cats have turned a close contest into a demolition with fourth quarter scoring sprees, reducing the fancied Werribee Tigers to rubble to secure the K-Rock Cup at Simonds Stadium on Saturday.

The Tigers fought valiantly throughout the course of the game inspired by the engine of former Sydney Swan Jarred Moore (30 disposals, 12 clearances), but were unable to come to terms with the Cats swift ball movement through short kicks and succumed to an eight goal to two final quarter, Geelong: 21.14 (140) def Werribee: 12.13 (85).

Coach Matthew Knights was proud that his troops could finish games so strongly.

“On the back of last week's performance against Frankston- to have a significant win today against a good team and finish off the game the way we did was really pleasing” he said.

Leading the assault on the scoreboard were goalkicking powerhouses Nathan Vardy (6), George Burbury (6) and Shane Kersten (4). In just his second game back from injury, Vardy was at his exciting best opening the Cats goalkicking in the first minute of the first quarter. Kicking four in the third quarter Vardy was a conduit to the scoreboard and kept the Cats in front when the Tigers came hard at them.

Vardy’s progress in his first two return matches has widely impressed Geelong coaching staff.

“He will be a few weeks yet (from AFL level), there's no question about that” Knights said.

“Today we really saw him playing  football, and to see him jumping at the ball, changing direction with his leading patterns to see him tackling, all those things suggest to us that he is heading in the right direction.”

Despite the Nathan Vardy show unfolding in the forward line, the fans were mesmerised by the walking highlights reel that is George Burbury. ‘Burbs’ had been off the field since the 2012 VFL Grand Final with a minor stress fracture in his foot, making this a spectacular season debut appearing as though he had not missed a day of football. Burbury’s day was capped off with the coveted ‘Damian Drum’ Medal award for the Best on Ground during the K-Rock Cup which only underscores the intensity and commitment that he applies to his football.

Not only did Burbs find the scoreboard himself, he helped set up vital plays that found both Vardy and Kersten. Burbury and Kersten both found the space to push up the ground at times, with Kersten devastating when he found the ball on the wing as the Cats pushed into attack. The range on his boot can catch opposition defenders off guard as Kersten can regularly propel the sherrin 60-70 meters off one or two steps.

This avalanche of goals- six in the second quarter and eight in the fourth came about thanks in no small part of the Cats engine room in the middle. The disposals were evenly shared across the board with major contributions from Raidme (23), Thurlow (22), Eardley (22), Schroder (22) and Gleeson (17). Thurlow put the crowd on its feet when he took to the skies during the third quarter, taking a mark of the year contender leaping almost completely over his helpless opponent.

The ability of the Cats midfielders to make use of the ball stemmed from a heroic ruck effort from Dawson Simpson and Andrew Banjanin winning the hitouts 47-8, with Simpson accounting for 32 of those. It was Simpsons first big test back from injury as well.

“It is very positive to get all the players returning from injury through the game” Knights said.

Particularly the (return of) big man stocks was great for us, and also stretches the opposition a bit”.

In his first VFL appearance for the Cats Josh Caddy impressed with his ability to work his way into the match and impact with 18 disposals and 2 goals.

“Josh got a lot better as the game went on” said Knights.

“A lot of those guys he hadn't played with before. (Guys like) Tom Gribble and Dane MacFarlane came across Josh Caddy for the first time today, so there is that integration that takes part”.

“But as the game went on we saw Josh break through some lines and winning the contested ball”

Fittingly the Cats were skippered by former Werribee Captain and dual best and fairest winner Dom Gleeson in the absence of Captain Courageous himself, Troy Selwood, who was rested with ankle soreness.

Gleeson, at the club as playing assistant coach since 2011, displayed leadership and composure under pressure that helped ensure the Cats were able to hold off the fierce fighting Tigers to lead at both half and three quarter time and help set up the massive blitz in the last quarter.

Knights was impressed by the way the Tigers pushed the Cats during the game, and the Tigers cannot be discounted come the later half of the year.

“For periods of today they more than matched us” he said.

“Most of our games this year have been pretty dour struggles up to halfway through the third quarter. Its only really been our last quarter and a half in most games that has got us there so, as a coach I am happy that we run out games so strongly.”

The Bendigo Banks Cats have the week off to recover as the VFL goes into a bye week.

Bendigo Bank Cats: 21.14 (140) def Werribee Tigers: 12.13 (85)

Goals: Vardy, Burbury 6, Kersten 4, Caddy, MacFarlane 2, Schroder.
Best: Burbury, Schroder, Vardy, Thurlow, Flanagan, Gleeson, J.Hunt
Injuries: Nil
Reports: Hollmer (rough conduct)
Crowd: 880
@Simonds Stadium
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs