The Cats prepare to take on Pies at the MCG tonight and there is plenty of discussion about not only the Cats form, but the speed that has been added to their team.
The Cats certainly appear to have added significant leg speed over the last 2 or 3 yrs. However on closer inspection, is it pure leg speed or speed of ball movement? I would certainly argue the later. If you look through the Cats line-up you would not consider them individually a quick team, with the exception of Steven Motlop. There is no doubt when Motlop gets the ball he has the ability to cover ground quickly and he makes them a significantly better team when he is up and going.
Last year we saw the impact that Lewis Jetta had on the Sydney Swans and it certainly gave the Swans something that they had been lacking. I feel that Motlop has now become to Geelong, what Jetta was to the Swans. The Geelong speed, I believe is generated because of the trust they have in each other to move the ball. It was never more evident than last week against the Bombers. Whilst their decision making is generally first class, I can’t remember a team that is so flamboyant when moving the ball up the field. Stevie J had 5 or 6 over the should no-look hand passes and Jimmy Bartel kicked two wild torpedoes up the corridor out of defence.
In isolation, these possessions would seem reckless. However, this Geelong team over many, many years has established a style of game that every player is willing to adhere to. There is an incredible commitment to each other and to the coaching staff which extends to a great belief when they take the field. When Stevie J hits a handball over his shoulder he trusts that someone will be there. When Jimmy Bartel kicks a torp up the corridor, even if it slews off the side of his boot, a team mate will be there to clean it up. This is why the Cats appear to be so quick.
Geelong has grabbed 109 intercept marks so far this season and have a kicking efficiency of 68%, the best of any side. They read the ball extremely well from the opposition and transfer it incredibly quickly from end-to-end. Unlike other top-sides entering their forward 50, they can be very unpredictable. The Cats have averaged 10 goal kickers per match this season, the most of any side in the competition. So the ultimate challenge is not the leg speed of the Cats, but how to slow down the Cats clinical, daring ball movement. This is a major concern, given last week the Pies struggles to contain the Dockers during periods of the game. One immediate concern for the Pies however, will be the match up on Motlop. Last week, they made a big mistake in playing McCaffer on Walters, who is a similar type to the Geelong small forward. That problem is exacerbated by the suspension of Heath Shaw, as I believe Shaw was the best match up for Walters and would be for Motlop.
However, if the Pies cannot remedy their problems with their team defence, match ups will become irrelevant. The Pies players must mentally start to switch on when the opposition has the ball, as they have become far too easy to score against. It will be a fascinating game to watch at the MCG tonight. The best, most aggressive and fasted ball movement team in the competition, against the team that is struggling to defend. At the moment the Cats are a magical team to watch, as the hand is quicker than the eye.