Geelong won the battle of nerves in the Grand Final replay when they hung on to win against a fast finishing Hawthorn unit by 8 points at the MCG tonight. The Cats appeared to be the better side for the majority of the night but that didn’t stop the motivated Hawks from picking away at the many scars that this club has caused Geelong over many years.

The first half was almost a replica of the Grand Final – the Cats were on top but didn’t put the Hawks away as Geelong added 4.8 in each of the first two quarters. Once again it was the usual suspects in front of goal for the Cats with Cameron Mooney and Brad Ottens struggling to find the opening between the big sticks. Mark Thompson appeared to have solved the Luke Hodge question by placing a ring of forwards around the Hawk gun and with Ottens doing well in ruck and the Cat midfield on top the Cats should have sprinted away.

During the first half Thompson put gun tagger Cameron Ling on to Brad Sewell and Sam Mitchell responded by being the dominant player of the second term. Mitchell kick started the Hawks and Hawthorn briefly held the lead in the second before a couple of Cat goals steadied the ship for Geelong. At the conclusion of the first and second quarters some ordinary ruck work from Mark Blake enabled the Hawks forwards to snaffle late goals which kept Hawthorn in the hunt.

The third quarter saw Geelong get right on top because they finally kicked straight and Geelong bolted away to a comfortable lead by Lemon Time. Mark Thompson then opted to rest Scarlett for the opening stages of the final term, perhaps influenced by what happened to Ben Cousins the night before. The key Hawthorn forwards in Roughead and Franklin suddenly sprung into action and booted 5 goals between them in the last term to boot the Hawks back into the match and on to the verge of stealing an unlikely victory.

The Hawks might be tempted to take a moral victory here as they went in with three first gamers and the Hawk youngsters didn’t acquit themselves as well as their Carlton counterparts the night before. The big difference in this match and last year’s Grand Final is that players such as Chapman and Stokes were fit and the inclusion of Wojinski and Gamble provided dividends. The Cats appeared to be more prepared to take a shot at goal in this game but the bad news for the rest of the competition is that when Scarlot was taken off the field Roughead and Franklin were played back into form by an aging Darren Milburn and Harry Taylor who appeared to lose his feet far too often.

The Cats had the last laugh tonight as they had more experienced troops to call on and Gary Ablett once again proved unstoppable in another best on ground performance. Joel Corey was influential once he came into the middle and Max Rooke and James Kelly also did well for the Cats. For the Hawks Mitchell was thier best and he was aided by the efforts of Brad Sewell, Chance Batemen and Travis Tuck. The Cats had the edge in ruck and that gave the league’s best midfield enough ball to provide the erratic Cats forwardline with enough opportunites to kick a winning score.

This was a pretty tight affair and both sides have improvement in them which must be a sobering thought for the rest of the league. I thought the scoreboard flattered the Hawks in the end but they have a few to come back and Geelong needs to work on it’s conversion in front of the sticks. Perhaps the biggest negative was some of the extremely soft reports handed out in this match. Luke Hodge, Max Rooke and Andrew Mackie probably don’t have anything to worry about but perhaps Hawk ruckman Simon Taylor does even though he wasn’t reported on the spot after dropping his knee into Joel Selwood.

Hawthorn 3.2 8.4 10.6 16.7 (103)
Geelong 4.8 8.16 14.19 15.21 (111)

Mooney, Rooke, Gamble, Johnson 2; Enright, Ablett, Blake, Chapman, Lonergan, Varcoe.
Hawthorn: Franklin 5; Roughead 4; Osborne, Dew 2; Bateman, Rioli, Stokes.

Geelong: Ablett, Corey, Ottens, Kelly, Rooke, Chapman, Johnson
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Sewell, Bateman, Tuck, Dew

Osborne (Hawthorn), looked like a pretty bad Hammy in the second quarter. He was on crutches at the end of the game. Looks like a three weeker.
Scarlett (Geelong), copped a knock and was rested as a precaution in the last which almost cost Geelong the match as the big Hawk forwards hauled Hawthorn back into the game. Will play next week.

Mackie (Geelong): Love tap to Renouf. One week tops.
Rooke (Geelong): Ran through an unsuspecting Mitchell who crumpled to the ground like Dermott Brereton in the 89 Granny to get the free kick. Should walk.
Hodge (Hawthorn): Incidental head high tackle on Lonergan that was a free kick only.

Not reported but might go:
Tayor (Hawthorn): The Hawk ruckman appeared to dig the knee into Joel Selwood when he was on the ground. It could be a nervous week for Taylor who had an ordinary night.