Hawks circle over Cats’ finals hopes

YOUNG GUN: Tim Kelly has had an outstanding debut season. (Rebecca Hosking) 183566

By Justin Flynn

It doesn’t get much bigger than Geelong versus Hawthorn on the AFL calendar.

What makes this round 21 clash even more absorbing is that both sides need to win – desperately.

The Hawks earned a gritty four-point win against Essendon last week to propel them into fifth place on the ladder.

Geelong lost a nail-biter against Richmond by three points, which now sees it outside the eight.

At first glance, however, the ladder is a bit misleading.

Only percentage separates fourth from eighth and then Geelong and North Melbourne are a game behind. Even Essendon and Adelaide are still in contention at 10th and 11th. And GWS, in fourth spot, is only half a game ahead of the pack.

It’s so even.

The winner of tomorrow’s blockbuster likely plays finals footy.

The Cats have two games to finish the home and away season at GMHBA Stadium against Fremantle and Gold Coast. Let’s not dance around this. Both games will be big wins. Win all three, and Geelong suddenly jumps into top four contention.

Hawthorn should comfortably account for St Kilda in the penultimate round of the season and then faces a huge match against Sydney to finish. With a very healthy percentage, the Hawks are primed to either finish in the top four or earn a home final by finishing fifth or sixth.

Geelong’s percentage is handy, too. Even if it loses tomorrow, two more wins will see it finish in the lower reaches of the eight.

The Cats will be buoyed by their final-quarter performance against Richmond last Friday night.

Gary Ablett had a chance to snatch the lead in the dying minutes, but missed.

The form of Tim Kelly, Joel Selwood and Todd Menegola was eye catching, but it is Geelong’s defence that has taken on all comers this year.

Even without Tom Stewart last week, the Cats restricted the Tigers to 85 from a plethora of forward 50 entries.

Mature-age first-year player Kelly has been outstanding and his numbers are impressive.

For the 13th time this season Kelly had at least 15 touches and kicked a goal. The last player to do that in his debut year was Nathan Buckley in 1993.

“I thought he was clearly the player that stood above the others in and around the contest,” coach Chris Scott said.

Hawthorn is ranked first in the league for effective disposals this season.

Despite playing only five games this season, Barwon Heads boy Teia Miles is operating at 84.6% efficiency. The versatile small has looked comfortable in defence.

These two sides have a massive rivalry.

Geelong-Hawthorn is one of the biggest tickets in town. Saturday arvo, three weeks before the finals.

We reckon the Cats can get it done by eight points in another thriller.

Tomorrow’s game is at the MCG at 1.45pm.

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