Posted by: Edward Harcourt | 10/05/2010

Lay off Tommy

Cats fans are spoiled. On a weekly basis Tom Hawkins gets bashed for his performances, and unfairly so. We seem to have an obsession with bagging our forwards. Mooney has been a target, but before that there were many.

Kent Kinglsey, Brett Spinks, David Mensch, Mitchell White. All copped it at various points in their careers, some more deserving than others. Perhaps it was the vacuum created by G. Ablett Snr, or perhaps its just that big forwards are an easy target when a side isn’t performing.

I’m not exactly sure what the question mark on Tommy is, but  I get the feeling it’s goalkicking, disposal and marking.

His goalkicking hasn’t been superb thus far in ’10 at 7.8, but it’s not terrible. Surely he earned himself some cred when he nailed the pressure shot in the final term of the GF, some 50m out with a howling cross breeze, to bring his team back into the game?

His disposal can be errant sometimes, but it will improve given enough time and experience under pressure.

He has dropped a few easy marks, but so has Jimmy Bartel, so has Cam Mooney. 40 marks, 8 contested puts him at the upper end of the Cats list, and his stats are ok when compared to the other forwards. Pods 41/17, Mooney 38/12, Stevie J 41/7. Nothing glaring here.

Tommahawk isn’t setting the world on fire – he’s no J. Brown or Pavlich, but at the same time, he’s not playing that bad.

The Pods – Mooney – Tommahawk triumvirate has worked pretty well since the Freo game (team scores of 118, 159, 68, 161, 126) with the exception of the Carlton debacle, which can hardly be pinned on the forwards. I’m happy with how he’s going in 2010, and goals shouldn’t be all he’s judged on.

Here’s a few thoughts on why he deserves his role in the side.

i.)He takes a tall defender.
If you want Hawkins out, then who replaces him? Stokes is due back, and Rooke can play forward when he returns, but every top-4 contender has defenders who can cover small-forwards two and three at a time, but as Bomber pointed out after the demolition of Port, there aren’t too many sides who can thwart 3 tall power forwards. PMT will cause many opposition coaches headaches in match committee meetings, and I think that is where half the battle is fought and won. Pods & Mooney have shown over the past month that they are both capable of 5 goal hauls, but credit has to go to Hawkins who takes some of the (finite) defensive pressure opposition sides can apply.
ii.)His explosive pace.
Tommahawk can accelerate well, which for a big body his no small achievement. He might not yet have mastered the overhead marking to the level of Moons and Pods, but he leads well. Even if Gaz, Selwood and co aren’t going for Tom every time he presents, his leading is still a very handy tool. I often notice he heads out to the flanks, sometimes a touch earlier than he should were he presenting for the i50 from the midfield. However I suspect that this may sometimes be a ploy. Hawkins takes his man to the flanks, leaving space at the top of the 50 for the other two talls. Add to that there’s potential for the smaller crumbing players to run into space at the top of the square. I think this type of strategy is part of the Geelong game-plan from time to time, as it would be any other team with more than one power forward
iii.) He’s 21.
I heard a basketball quote the other day that went something like
“You give a short player 3 minutes to show you he can play, and a tall player 3 years to show you he can’t play.”
Big players usually take years to develop, both physically and mentally. Sure there are exceptions, but Tom isn’t one of them. He has shown continual progress in his 50 games, and I haven’t seen anything that leads me to believe he has serious flaws in his game.
iv.)His ruckwork.
He can ruck, and considering Otto’s inury curse, that is a huge plus. Teams don’t get too far in finals without a few good ruckman.
v.)His offensive pressure and work rate.
He won the Army award last year for his double tackling effort. There’s no doubt he has made offensive pressure a big focus as a means to get himself into games. It also takes a fair bit of character to keep at it when you or your side is down. He is at it for four quarters, smothering, sheparding, presenting for kicks, tackling. This is a quality that should be nurtured in a young player, because it’s the sort of stuff that can win your team finals.
vi.)Injuries
The Pods story is a great one, and we all love it when Moons is up and about kicking goals. But the fact remains that they are both older players with short careers ahead of them, AND potentially frailer bodies. It’s all well and good to bag Tommahawk and call for him to be dropped when the side is up and about, relatively injury free, but what happens if Pods’ hammy goes in round 21? Mooney gets rubbed out in a prelim? Tommahawk is Geelong’s September insurance policy, much like Duncan & Hogan. The difference being that bigger players usually find it harder to find their rhythm. It’s no good having the big fella twidling his thumbs in the ressies waiting for an injury, whereas it’s easier to slot Hoags, Duncan and Vegas Gamble in and out. That might not be a pleasant reality for those other, smaller players, but like it or not, Tommy’s not going to do much come September if he doesn’t have much senior game time leading up to the finals.

Joel Corey, Matthew Stokes, Brad Ottens and Maxy Rooke are all, at their peak, in the best 22. Players will need to make room for these guys, and Hawkins might find himself without a spot. That is testament to Geelong’s incredible  depth, not a failing of Tom Hawkins.

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Posted by: Edward Harcourt | 10/05/2010

John Smith

John Smith plays for Geelong. His disposal this season has been first class, his versatily around the grounds is respected by his peers, and his use of the ball in and around the packs is unusually very classy to watch. Over the past few seasons I’ve been a fan of his game, but in 2010 he’s gone a up another notch.

When the dominant reign of The Geelong Football Club draws to an end, John Smith probably won’t be mentioned by that croaky sounding voiceover guy in rhetoric-laden highlight reels produced by TV stations for finals series. You won’t hear

“Ablett, Bartel, Chapman, Smith.”

He might never win a B&F, Brownlow, Norm Smith. He may never achieve anything that will nicely define his career. An adjective, a medal or a single act of brilliance.

Cam Mooney, the Big Hairy Cat,

“Rising Star Winner Joel Selwood,”

Harry Taylor’s mark in the dying seconds of the ’09 Grand Final,

Joel Corey’s smother in the ’07 Prelim to spark the rest of the team.

Matty Scarlett’s toepoke,

Chappy’s mark in ’07,

Gaz.

If his career were to end today, I’ll remember him as the forgotten champion, forgotten by the fans, and forgotten by the media (from what I understand, he is held in very high esteem by his coach and teammates). I’ll remember that in the 2007 Grand Final, when the game had yet to become an exhibition, he was possibly the most effective player.

His rebound in the final decisive term of the GF last year was crucial to the Geelong Premiership, but he never really got a significant nod outside the club.

His curse is to be non-descript, unassuming and efficient.

Who do I refer to?

Joel Corey? Is Smithy the John Smith I refer to?

No. I believe Joel Corey is recognised by the media as “underrated,” and his moniker is to be the guy that “flies under the radar,” because he plays in a midfield of absolute superstars. Being underrated is part of his public identity.

I’m talking about the player who is yet to be recognised for being unrecognised.

James Kelly.

In yesterdays game against Sydney, on more than one occasion I found myself remarking how good a season he is having. I think having Hunt back in the side has really allowed him to run through the midfield more. At one point, he dived headfirst into a pack, did some sort of blind turn commando roll out of the pack with the footy, dished it off and Geelong were quickly having a shot.

He had 22 touches, 11 contested, playing mostly off half-back. Certainly not record breaking by any means, especially when you consider Gaz had 18 CP, but Kelly doesn’t play on ball. And comparing stats of  Cats can sometimes be a pointless exercise.

Often I encounter footy media analyst types heading straight to the stats sheets for evidence that a particular player is “underrated” or offers some intangible quality to the game. When it comes to the Cats though, this might not get you very far. The boys from Skilled Stadium can, at times, dominate the game to such a degree, that stats are rendered meaningless.

The nature of John Smith’s contested ball winning is what I liked yesterday, and it’s something I’ve always admired about him.  He does it with a touch of class.

His performances this year, and his efforts last year in J. Hunt’s absence have been fantastic, but the pundits haven’t, and probably never will, give the champ the credit he deserves. The same could be said of the fans. He has certainly been maligned over the years by many of my fellow Cat-Attackers, and not without good reason. But his nightmare season in 2006 when he was dropped to the reserves should now be a very distant memory.

My prediction: You’ll be reading a feature article in the Hun pretty soon on the man who nearly went to the Pies. If he keeps up this form for a couple of weeks, others will catch on.

Geelong has its fair share of underrated players, which is no surprise for a team with names like Ablett, Bartel, Chapman, Selwood etc. Boris Enright, Joel “Smithy” Corey are two that spring to mind, and that anonimity has paradoxically become part of their public identity. But for mine, the man who goes about his job, whatever it may be, and never really gets more than a cursory mention in the bests, is the man in the number 9 guernsey.

Posted by: Edward Harcourt | 10/05/2010

Go Cats!

G’day all!

Attacking Cat here. In the tradition of John Harms’ Footy Almanac, and many other DIY sporting bloggers out there, Cat Attack Geelong is my take on all things related to the Geelong Football Club.

Hope to see you round here often!

The Attacking Cat

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