By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
Gary Ablett was great in Geelong's preliminary final win and will look to end his career with a premiership. Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt
Greatest Cat of all pounces Geelong home
If there was anyone that was going to stand up with the Cats so close to a grand final, it had to be the little master, Gary Ablett. Kicking a clever snap deep in the pocket of the Gabba to silence the Lions roar, he followed it up with a goal on the run from 55-metres out sending daggers into the hearts of Brisbane fans.
It was vintage Gary Ablett. The two vital goals mirrored highlights we’d become so accustomed to seeing in the earlier part of Ablett’s career with the Cats as a stay at home half-forward flanker. Whenever he has been at his best this year Geelong’s forward line has looked the best in the competition. If he’s not kicking goals he’s putting it on a plate for his teammates, making the Cats incredibly hard to stop.
It is only fitting that one of the greatest the game has ever seen will play his 357th and final game in a grand final, as he searches for his third premiership with the Cats.
Port beaten at their own game
It’s hard to lose a final in any sport. It can be easier to accept it when you feel as if you stuck to your guns and game plan but were beaten by a better side on the night. For Port Adelaide, they have to accept the fact that they were beaten at their own game and the style of play that had helped them to a minor premiership.
The Power’s game all year had been focused on clearances, dominating the contested ball, getting it forward quickly and pressing up to be able to put forward pressure on. It didn’t happen on Friday night. Port lost the clearances by 12, centre clearances by seven and stoppage clearances by five. They were able to win contested possession but only by six.
The positives? They had every chance to win the game. Winning the inside 50 count by 15 would usually mean a victory, but the Power’s 20 percent efficiency inside 50 didn’t allow it. So, it’s an opportunity missed, but one that should instil confidence that they are around the mark and should be playing at the pointy end in 2021.
Toby Nankervis played a great last quarter to help Richmond across the line against Port Adelaide. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Richmond’s role players instrumental
I harp on it and harp on it, but role players win you premierships. The stars will more often than not play to their high end capabilities, but it’s the battle of the bottom six on each team that makes the difference. On Friday night, that’s the battle that Richmond won.
Nathan Broad, Noah Balta, Liam Baker and Toby Nankervis didn’t dominate the stats sheet, but they were vital in the win. Balta was able to nullify Charlie Dixon’s influence, Baker didn’t miss a ground ball despite the wet conditions and Nankervis was best on ground in the fourth quarter.
The ruckman had five disposals, a tackle, four intercept possessions, three intercept marks (one contested), nine hit outs (five to advantage) and 19 pressure acts in the final term. Lots will be made of Dustin Martin’s game, which is fair enough. However, it’s players like Nankervis that will be vital to Richmond’s premiership hopes against Geelong on Saturday night.
Brisbane’s opportunity to win a flag in their backyard ends in a disappointing fade-out
The script was set up perfectly for Brisbane. A top-four finish, a win in the first week of the finals, a home preliminary final, and had the Lions won the game they would have booked themselves an extremely rare home grand final at the Gabba.
However, the Cats slashed the Lions script and ended the dream. Geelong smashed Brisbane in the middle of the ground from the opening bounce winning the clearances 15-4 in the first quarter. That dominance continued throughout the game as the Cats bullied the Lions.
The Cats led by five-points at halftime with the game well and truly in the balance, however it seemed as though Geelong had dominated the contest regardless of the score-line. Following halftime Brisbane faded terribly, as the Cats kicked 7.8 to Brisbane’s 2.3. If Geelong were more efficient in front of goal the 40-point margin may have blown out even further.
The loss will haunt the Lions all summer, especially knowing they had a once in a lifetime opportunity to win a flag in their own backyard.
Cover Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images