Geelong made the Swans play “left-handed” in their 81-point grand final win with a brilliant game plan to silence Sydney early, according to Fox Footy’s Nick Riewoldt.
The Cats were on from the opening bounce, and piled on a six-goal to one opening quarter at the MCG, helping to set up the premiership victory.
Riewoldt says Cats coach Chris Scott had clearly gone to work on Sydney’s game style – given the Swans liked to start fast in 2022 and then hold the opposition off.
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The Cats decision to play kick-mark also stopped Sydney’s biggest strength – their pressure game, as they couldn’t get the ball to a contest.
“(Scott’s) always made the opposition play left handed – he just takes away the opposition’s strength. Sydney didn’t have the answers,” Riewoldt praised On the Couch.
“Geelong were really clever with their ball use. When you’re an intercept player like Paddy McCartin, you need pressure on the ball carrier to force them into dump kicks, into hurried kicks. But Geelong, they didn’t fall into that sort of game early. They maintained possession.”
Statistics showed the Cats had 26 kicks and just four handballs in the opening 10 minutes of the game as they maintained possession to deny the Swans.
“It wasn’t Geelong kicking the ball backwards like they did in the past – they took ground with their kicking,” Riewoldt said.
“It’s actually impossible to put kick pressure on when you’re playing kick-mark footy.
“They didn’t get hemmed in – they still took ground which was the really important distinction to Geelong teams we’ve seen in the past.”
On the Couch host Garry Lyon said the Cats knew the Swans’ pressure was going to come, and instead denied the Swans the chance.
“(They said) let’s kick the ball, let’s not muck around and give them a chance to get heat on,” he said.
And it was Sydney’s inability to go to school on Geelong’s forward play that cost them dearly early.
Tom Hawkins, renowned for his presence in the ruck as a forward, managed the first two goals of the match from near identical throw ins.
“Everyone knows he does that!” Lyon lamented.
“In Round 2 (when the two teams last met), Tom McCartin was there, he was almost sweating Tom Hawkins. (He’s) not worried about being hit to or getting to another opponent – he was there specifically for if Tom Hawkins grabbed it out of the ruck.
“The first one, you go: ‘Oh Tommy!’ He was just ball watching. Fool me once. But the second time, his head’s not in the game.
“Tom Hawkins has done it to everyone – he’s done it to the best ruck in the competition because he’s a big, strong, physical freak in that contest.”
Lyon said the Swans should have been aware of what Hawkins planned to do.
“When Tom Hawkins has got the ball, Tom McCartin – and we’re not just putting it on Tom because the rest of the Sydney Swans have got to be aware of it as well – Tommy standing and the rest of them looking; this is not the complicated part of the game where you’re going to get done. Everyone knows (it’s coming),” he said.
Jonathan Brown saved particular praise for Patrick Dangerfield, who finished second in the Norm Smith Medal voting.
“I thought I was watching Michael Voss again – when Voss used to impose his will, will himself into the contest – Danger had that look about him. He was like a big bull, just raging,” Brown said.