By Luke Voogt
Geelong Cats hope to create “havoc” up forward after Melbourne defenders Jake Lever and Steven May “made us look like fools” in the sides’ previous clash, according to Isaac Smith.
The hard-running winger made the admission in a press conference on Monday as he prepared for the clash of two of the best midfields in the AFL.
“They have got an unbelievable midfield, with Maxy [Gawn], ‘Trac’ [Christian Petracca], [Jack] Viney and Clayton Oliver, so it’s going to be won and lost in the contest, like most games of football,” the 32-year-old said.
“But they also set up the ground so well defensively, and Lever and May certainly made us look like fools in round 23.”
Geelong’s midfielders needed to improve their delivery and not “kick it straight to Lever like we did in round 23”, Smith said.
But Geelong’s semi-final win against GWS Giants showed the Cats forwards, tall and small, could increase their pressure too, he said.
“Jeremy Cameron and Gary Rohan are as quick as any smalls on the deck.
“I think we saw, especially Gary, have two or three run-down tackles, and put a fair bit of pressure on GWS.”
“In that sense, they are pretty tall but we also thought we had the defensive ability down forward to cause a bit of havoc.”
Esava Ratugolea could also help stretch the Demon’s defence as an extra target while pinch-hitting for in-form ruckman Rhys Stanley against All-Australian opponent Gawn.
Stanley took seven marks, and recorded 35 hit outs, 19 disposals and three inside 50s in an impressive outing against Shane Mumford, with Ratugolea occasionally taking the ruck.
And Ratugolea’s athleticism allowed him to spoil and mark on several occasions across the ground, even when he was initially out of position in the contest.
“I think he showed on the weekend that he can bust the packs open and he took a pretty nice mark 40 metres out, so he just adds another dimension to our team,” Smith said.
“We’ve got two or three other big fellas down forward as well, so hopefully they’ll be a fair bit to handle on Friday night.”
Capitalising on scoring shots was one area Geelong could improve on from last Friday night’s win, Smith said.
“I think we played really well, especially around the contest in our defensive half.
“We certainly had the inside 50s and shots on goal. But if we could just finish them off, then it’s probably a 10- to 12-goal win.”
Certainly, that could prove the difference on Friday night, after Geelong squandered several good chances to seal the game in round 23 when they gave up a 44-point lead to the Demons.
“I think both teams had their moments in that game,” Smith said.
Smith described losing “underrated” midfielder Brand Parfitt to a season-ending hamstring injury last Friday as a “massive loss” for the Cats.
“He’s so good at bringing the opposition down and [has] quick feet around the stoppages,” he said.
“But we’ve also got a few blokes in the wings that have been chomping at the bit. We’re pretty lucky with the depth we’ve got going through the midfield.”