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VFL: Cats dominate Casey

Shane Kersten fired for the Cats
Shane Kersten fired for the Cats

The Bendigo Bank Cats have progressed through to the VFL Preliminary final after putting away the Casey Scorpions by 49 points in front of a roaring home crowd at Simonds Stadium on Friday night.

A second half downpour didn't dampen the spirits of the Cats, nor the six thousand vocal fans, as the Cats piled on seven goals to two in the third and fourth quarters to secure their Prelim berth, Geelong: 14.16 (100) def Casey: 8.3 (51). 

A tough opening half brought plenty of action and excitement with the Cats able to mount prolific inside 50's that were met with fanatic defence from the undermanned Casey side, sporting no more than seven AFL listed players. 

Casey's tackle pressure was able to force the Cats to rush their shots on goal and kick 3.6 in the opening term. The rebound play off turnovers from the tacking put the Cats defence under strain at times, allowing Casey scoring at a much higher efficiency with their 3.1. 

The intensity of the opening term was something that Coach Matthew Knights had come to expect from Casey.

"Casey's tackle pressure was enormous in the first 15-20 mins of the game and I thought that put us on our heels a little bit" Knights said post match. 

"I was a bit concerned with the intensity last week (against bottom side Bendigo) compared to this week, which was probably confirmed a little bit that the tackling pressure from the opposition was through the roof (in comparison)". 

"Tonight was just what we needed".

The Cats led 7.11 (53) to 6.2 (38) at half time, and with the heavens opening up during the break, possession was going to decide who found avenues to goal in the second half. 

Despite missing key players Jack Hollmer, Rob Condy, Taylor Hunt and Captain Troy Selwood, it was the Cats who found the most of it collecting forty-eight more disposals in the second half and converting that possession into sixteen more inside 50's. 

"I thought after half time our ability to find a bit of space in tough conditions started to prevail" assessed Knights. 

"In the first half we were letting them handball out the back and they were escaping out of the stoppages really well". 

"Once we tightened up around the stoppages our midfielders had a really good second half. We also organised ourselves a bit better behind the ball I thought, a couple of their goals in the first half came out  of stoppages and go the ball out the back of our defence". 

"I think in the second half we always had someone first back on that ball, and were then able to counter attack well". 

The Cats opened up the pressure situation on Casey as a result and dominated the tackles from the second quarter on-wards, almost doubling the Scorpions in the tackle count. By nights end the Cats scored an impressive 10.12 from turnovers, enough scoreboard influence to have beaten Casey on this scoring source alone.

Doing the damage on the scoreboard for the Cats was the in-form Shane Kersten who booted four, taking his tally for the year to 36 in eleven games.

Coach Knights is impressed with Kersten's development and acknowledges that "Kersto" will be a player of great importance in this finals campaign.

"When you think about Shane Kersten you would think he would prefer a dryer ground but he continues to play well in tough conditions, which is a really good sign" said Knights. 

"Obviously his kicking was a real feature in tonight's conditions when he gets them from 50-55 out, he tends to be able to caress them home from that far out - its a pretty good skill to have. 

"Not everyone is as blessed or has the skill to apply. He works well with other forwards, whether it is Walker, Bathie, Gleeson- he works really well".

Knights is also happy with how his forward structure is gelling at this stage of the season.

"I thought our three big forwards, Kersten, Bathie and Walker on a night like this might be deemed top heavy but I thought to get a combined eight goals from those guys plus their forward pressure was really significant" he said. 

Just as significant is the Cats ability in defence to restrict the hard hitting Scorpions to just the two second half goals- one early in the third, the other at the nineteen minute mark of the fourth.

For the Scorpions, ex-Cat Tom Gillies got off to a good start with two goals, but was well held throughout. Mitch Brown, Matthew Sully and Jackson Sheringham led the rebound 50's; while some hefty grunt work in the midfield from Jordan Murdoch, Ben Raidme, George Horlin-Smith and Mark Corrigan shut off Casey's forward opportunities before they began.

With Matthew Sully taking over as key defender this season from retired club stalwart Andrew McLean, Knights acknowledges this enables the Cats defence to be pro-active rather than reactive.

"Sully had a really good game tonight and has had a marvelous season" he said.

"Sully's ability to be the key defender enables Mitch Brown to float up the ground."  

"Mitch Brown some of his efforts in the air were very courageous, his ball use was excellent and he won a lot of one on ones". 
"I thought Brown, Sheringham and Josh Hunt were superb in the back half, just the way they organised themselves and started to use the ball". 

Geelong: 14-16-100 def Casey: 8-3-51

Goal Kickers: S. Kersten 4, R. Bathie 2, J. Walker 2, J. Barham 2, J. Stringer 2, G. Horlin-Smith, J. Hunt
Best Players: J. Sheringham, M. Brown, G. Horlin-Smith, M. Corrigan, J. Hunt, A. Banjanin  
@ Simonds Stadium.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs