We may be experiencing the strangest April we have ever known but the Cats aren’t foreign to strange Aprils themselves.
Cats Media has taken a look back at five of the most impressive performances in the blue and white in April during the AFL era and they aren’t without their own strange circumstances.
1990: Billy’s back to back
There are not many arguments around the greatest forward to ever play for the Cats. Gary Ablett Snr may have challengers in Polly Farmer and his son, Gary Jnr, for the greatest ever Cats player, but when it comes to forwards it is Senior and then a fair way back to Doug Wade, Tom Hawkins and a couple of great mates in Steve Johnson and Billy Brownless.
But for two weeks in 1990, it was Billy who was Mr April and unbelievably polled six Brownlow votes despite his forward line partner, Ablett, booting 17 more goals in the two weeks than he did.
The Cats had started off the 1990 season in unspectacular fashion losing the grand final re-match to Hawthorn in round one by 115 points, despite only trailing by 17 at half time. They followed that up in round two with a 37-point loss to Melbourne.
Round three saw the Cats take on Fitzroy at Kardinia Park and the Cats looked much more like the side that had only narrowly lost the grand final the year before. A six goal to zero first quarter set the Cats up and they didn’t relent, running out 73 point winners.
The performance was very even across the board for the Cats, but it was Gary Ablett Snr’s 20 disposals and 10 goals that was by far the stand-out performance of the day. Brownless on the other hand was the Cats’ equal-leading possession winner for the game with 24 to go along with 12 marks. Billy failed to kick a goal despite the side booting 22 for the game.
When it came to the Brownlow Medal count later in the year though, Brownless was awarded the three votes for the game whilst Ablett registered just the one vote. But perhaps looking at the stats for the game it could be clearer why Ablett didn’t get the three votes for the game. Ablett gave away seven free kicks for the game and was known as someone who would feel free to express his displeasure at the umpire’s call at the best of times. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Ablett’s performances had some additional qualifiers.
The next week the Cats headed to the MCG to take on the Kangaroos. This time the game wasn’t such a cakewalk for Geelong, and they fought hard for a 20.23 143 to 15.22 112 victory. Again, Ablett Snr was the Cats main target finishing with seven goals. Ablett even tidied up the free kicks to not register one against him for the game. Brownless was again dominant in his half forward role finishing 27 disposals and seven marks. His teammate, Paul Couch, was outstanding for Geelong, contributing 34 disposals and three goals. However, on Brownlow Medal count night it was a familiar story with Brownless getting the three votes to Couch’s two.
Billy must have been doing something right those two weeks to outshine his superstar teammates’ performances in the eyes of the umpires.
1992: He Scott robbed!
Now, we don’t want this piece to be just about the umpires seeing things differently but two years later there was another Cat left scratching his head on Brownlow Medal night.
In 1992, the Cats had again started the season disappointingly. Again, as in 1990, the Cats had fallen to Hawthorn and Melbourne in the first two rounds. Round three saw the Cats return to Kardinia Park and this time take on Richmond.
Inaccurate kicking in the first quarter saw the Cats take a 11-point lead into quarter time. From then on it was all one way as the Cats kicked 26 goals in the final three quarters to run out 126-point winners, 29. 24 198 to 11.6 72.
There were some great individual performances for the Cats including sometimes forward, sometimes back pair of Tim Darcy and Paul Brown who booted 11 goals between them and Steven Handley’s three goals playing in the ruck.
By far the most impressive performance for the day was nuggety forward/wing Robert Scott who amassed 31 disposals, five marks, four tackles and 7.2. They were Ablett Snr like numbers from Scott.
However, get to Brownlow night again and the names Scott, Darcy or Brown didn’t not register votes. Instead, Trevor Poole (22 disposals and six marks) got the three votes, Darren Forssman (25 disposals and a goal) the two and Ken Hinkley (28 disposals and four marks) one vote.
Surely Scott’s effort would go down as one of the best games of all time to not poll a Brownlow vote in.
1997: Ricco goes bang
Talk to any Cats fan from the nineties about the West Coast Eagles and more than likely you won’t get a pleasant reply. The heartbreak of 1992 and 1994 is something that will burn for a long time.
By 1997, the Eagles were still a strong side that contained names such as Sumich, Kemp, Mainwaring, Matera and Lewis. The Cats would host the Eagles in round two at Kardinia Park after losing to the Tigers in round one.
On a blustery April day, the Cats inaccuracy was their enemy as they trailed at all the breaks leading up to the last quarter.
But one player who had stood tall all day was wingman, Peter Riccardi.
Riccardi had played in the two losing grand finals to the Eagles but on this day was still only 24 years old.
Showing poise and class, Riccardi had the ball on a string all day to finish with 23 disposals, six marks and 6.2.
Riccardi’s six goals accounted for over half the side’s 11 goals and only one Cat had more possessions than him, Leigh Colbert with 25.
The Cats despite trailing all day would rally in the last quarter kicking four goals to three to win by a goal.
Rightly on Brownlow Medal night, “P Riccardi 3 votes” was read aloud.
2006: Arise King Kent?
At the end of round two, 2006 you could have been forgiven for thinking two things.
Firstly, that after backing up the heartbreak of the semi-final loss the year before by winning the pre-season nab Cup and then thrashing Brisbane and North Melbourne in the first two weeks, that the Cats would be shoe-ins for the premiership.
Secondly, you’d be thinking the Cats forward star they’d be searching so long for had arrived in Kent Kingsley.
Of course, Kent Kingsley wasn’t unfamiliar for the Cats. He had won the leading goalkicker award in each of the previous four seasons. Until this game Kingsley had played 114 games for 227 goals.
In week one of the pre-season, Kingsley kicked nine goals straight for the Cats which is the most ever kicked by a Cats player in a pre-season game. Unfortunately, Kingsley’s next outing against his former side, North Melbourne, saw him injure his hamstring ruling him out of the grand final win two weeks later and the Cats round one clash with Brisbane.
Returning for round two, Kingsley resumed where he left off booting three first quarter goals. Two more in the second quarter and another three in the third and Kingsley was sitting with eight at three quarter time. Would he be the first Cat since Gary Ablett Snr to kick 10 goals in a game?
Kingsley didn’t add any further goals in the last quarter and finished the day with 13 disposals, 10 marks and 8.1, as the Cats ran away with a 69-point win.
Back to our two earlier thoughts at the time, both would prove to be false hope.
The Cats would only win a further eight games for the year and miss out on finals.
Kingsley would only go on to play another eight games for Geelong and kick just two more goals.
But on this day, it was King Kent.
2009: Catch him if you can
Nineteen years on from when his dad was dominating games in April, it was Gary Ablett Jnr’s turn to play superhero.
In his 150th game against the Crows in Adelaide, Ablett was incredible. His final stats line read as 46 disposals, seven marks, four clearances and 3.1. Perhaps Ablett felt a bit younger on the day with the cheer squad using a caricature of a younger version including flowing locks on the banner.
The Cats ability to exit Adelaide with a 48-point win against a top eight Crows side was in no small part due to Ablett’s brilliance.
The newspapers were in awe of Ablett’s effort and questions were being asked as to what opposition coaches could do to curb his influence.
Ablett would have been forgiven for having a drop in performance the following week, but it wasn’t to be. Heading back to Geelong the following week to take on the Lions, Ablett continued where he left off.
This time he tallied 42 disposals, six tackles, six inside 50s and 2.0.
Again, the Cats made a statement, thrashing a top 8 side.
Again, the media was abuzz with just what could be done to slow down Ablett.
But it would not matter as Ablett would go on to win his first Brownlow Medal and the Cats would go on to win their second premiership in three years.