Fans salute Ablett as Cats storm home

ONLY a magical goal from the maestro Gary Ablett interrupted a flood of nine goals from the Geelong Cats which ensured its night of celebrations ended with the appropriate result.

Nathan Vardy kicked four goals for the Cats.

For three quarters Ablett’s Suns put their hosts under unexpected pressure but, crueled by injuries and with their younger bodies,  the Suns tired dramatically in the last as the Cats ran away to win 18.15 (123) to 10.11 (71).

As they so often do, it was the Cats old guard led by Jimmy Bartel (19k, 11hb) which rose to the challenge presented by the Suns which had levelled the scores at the last break.

Ablett’s last-quarter snapped goal from the boundary line was acknowledged with a standing ovation from some of the Cats’ faithful. But it was a rare Suns’ highlight in a last quarter dominated by the Cats which stormed home in front of a capacity crowd celebrating the club’s first game under lights and the unveiling of the new Players Stand.

Cats fans will also be delighted by the four-goal return of an impressive Nathan Vardy in his first game back in the seniors, and only his 12th in his career, after a series of hip surgeries.

Ablett, who has won two club-champion awards at both Geelong and the Suns, was his usual brilliant self with a game-high 34 disposals and two goals in his first game at Simonds Stadium since quitting the Cats in 2010. The 2009 Brownlow Medallist drew half-hearted boos from the parochial Cats’ fans in the first half, but the crowd warmed to their former hero as the game went on.

Gary Ablett and Corey Enright fight for the ball.

Gold Coast had gone on a remarkable goal-scoring spree of five in a row to lead by 12 points at the 17-minute mark of the third term. Geelong hit back with two goals and scores were level at three-quarter time on 9.10 (64) apiece.

Geelong Coach Chris Scott said he’d had a stressful time. “At three-quarter time the game was really on. It was a really big occasion for us on a night when we thought it was important to play well and we hadn’t to that point,” Scott said. “The reason I’m in a good mood now was our last quarter was fantastic.”

Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna said he couldn’t fault his side’s effort against one of the league’s power teams. “Geelong went to another level. It’s a great learning curve for the fellas,” McKenna said. “The skipper was superb again.”

Geelong had started slowly before establishing a 10-point advantage at halftime.

The game opened in wet and slippery conditions with both sides scoring 3.2 (20) in the first term.

Ablett kicked a goal on the run late in the first quarter to put the Suns six points ahead. But a brilliant one-grab overhead mark by Geelong’s Steven Motlop and a goal after the siren levelled the scores. Goals to Bartel and Vardy in the second term helped the Cats take control of a tight contest against the Suns who have a  4-5 record in 2013. Brandon Matera (18 touches) was dominant in the first half for the Suns while Bartel was having plenty of influence across half-back for Geelong.

Matera hobbled off late in the second term with a possible left-ankle injury, but the Suns continued to fight hard as Michael Rischitelli kicked a goal to cut Geelong’s lead to four points. However Tom Hawkins answered immediately for the Cats with their third goal of the term as Geelong extended the margin back to 10 points.

Geelong are away to bottom side Greater Western Sydney next Saturday.

GEELONG                 3.2  6.6  9.10  18.15 (123)
GOLD COAST SUNS  3.2  4.8  9.10  10.11 (71)

Goals: Geelong: N Vardy 4 J Bartel 3 C Guthrie 2 S Motlop 2 T Hawkins 2 G Burbury J Hunt M Blicavs M Duncan T West. Gold Coast Suns: C Brown 3 G Ablett 2 J Harbrow J O’Meara L Russell M Rischitelli T Lynch.
Best: Geelong: J Bartel M Blicavs J Corey N Vardy M Duncan H Taylor M Stokes. Gold Coast Suns: G Ablett D Prestia R Thompson J O’Meara T McKenzie B Matera C Brown.
Injuries: Geelong: Nil. Gold Coast Suns: B Matera (ankle).
Reports: Nil.
Umpires: Shane McInerney, Heath Ryan, Gary Fila.
Venue: Skilled Stadium.

QUARTER BY QUARTER

Geelong v Gold Coast – 1/4 time
Cats 3.2 (20)
Suns 3.2 (20)
Gary Ablett Jnr’s Suns are doing their best to spoil the Cats’ night, matching the Cats for possession and intensity and holding the Cats up on transition. In slippery conditions Nathan Vardy kicked an athletic goal in his first senior game of the year. Ablett kicked a late goal to give the Suns the lead but the Cats drew level after the siren thanks to Steven Motlop.
Geelong v Gold Coast –  1/2 time
Cats 6.6 (42)
Suns 4.8 (32)
The Suns hurt the Cats everywhere bar on the scoreboard, having more disposals (185-172), clearances (24-17), inside 50s (25-24) and contested possessions (81-73) but kicked six behinds in a row before Michael Rischitelli broke the run for the Suns only goal of the quarter. For long periods, the Cats struggled to clear the ball out of their defensive half. Brandon Matera had 18 impressive touches.
Geelong v Gold Coast – 3/4 time
Cats 9.10 (64)
Suns 9.10 (64)

Five unanswered goals take the Suns from 18-points down to 12 points up and the pressure mounts on the Cats. Geelong’s old hands try to lift and Selwood, Bartel, Corey and Stokes combine to set up an important Motlop  goal which stops the Suns run. Ablett (24 touches) lifted despite some scrimmages with Steve Johnson.  Injuries to Matera, Brown, Wilkinson and Stanley may yet cruel Suns.
Geelong v Gold Coast – Full time
Cats 18.15 (123)
Suns 10.11 (71)

The Cats regained control quickly with four goals in the first 10 minutes to snuff out the tiring Suns’ challenge. Ablett kicks a remarkable goal from the boundary line but the Cats’ onslaught continues as Vardy kicks a goal, his fourth, from 50m and the flood gates open.

Source: Geelong Advertiser