No minor premier has been bundled out in straight sets of the VFL/AFL Finals since 1983. Will the Cats claim that unwanted record on Friday night?

Things can turn around quickly in footy. Just a week ago, Geelong were preparing for a final series after finishing atop the 2019 ladder, ready for an assault at the flag. Premiership favourites for much of the year, the Cats slipped ever-so-slightly at the back-end of the season in the flag market, particularly as Richmond came home with a wet sail. But still, they went into Friday night’s game against Collingwood as $4.33 second-favourites for the AFL premiership.

Yet by 10:30pm on Friday evening, things had drastically changed. The preceding two and a half hours saw the Cats dismantled by the Pies (despite the 10-point margin). And the result has had big repercussions on Palmerbet’s flag market. The loss saw Chris Scott’s side now out to $9.50 and staring down the barrel of a straight-sets exit from this year’s AFL Finals Series. And the stats make for fairly grim reading…

Slow footy savaged

Geelong’s conservative style of footy banked them 16 wins this year, but there were always questions of whether it would stand up to the rigours of finals footy. And against the Pies, it was exposed in the starkest of ways. Club legend Jimmy Bartel said the approach now must be questioned. “What we’ve seen from the Cats, particularly post-bye, is wanting to play slower to protect themselves in the game,” he said on Access All Areas. “But the thing is, they get spread so much on the field.” The Cats are now $1.72 to exit the AFL finals in straight sets. Adding to the criticism, Wayne Carey said Scott must address the issues immediately, or face a straight sets exit like in 2014. “The Cats are playing the most boring football in the competition right now, stop-start, kicking over the man on the mark, not playing on.”

The Eagle challenge

The key worry about Geelong’s slow ball movement is against sides who, conversely, move it quick and in a damaging fashion. West Coast have shown they can do this. Their win against Essendon on Thursday night and an electric first quarter against Richmond in round 22 was testament to this. Essendon great Matthew Lloyd said Scott’s side have no choice but to alter their playing style this week. “They have to take it on this week. They’re playing the West Coast Eagles – another quick side, and another dominant ruckman (in Naitanui). So they can’t play as safe as they did on the weekend…they’ve got to be more aggressive forward of centre this week, or they’ll go out in straight sets.” West Coast start the clash as $1.80 favourites, with Geelong – despite their home advantage – currently $2.

All hope not lost

The good news (if there was any) for the Cats against Collingwood was the way they finished the clash. Scott’s side kept the Pies to just four scoring shots in 60 minutes of football. And they know they’ll need these defensive efforts in their locker against the dynamic Eagles. In fact, Geelong also won the contested ball count against Collingwood – the first time they had done so this AFL season and lost. Further, in their only meeting this season, Geelong dispatched the Eagles to the tune of 58 points. Confidence, they tell us down at the Cattery, remains high.