Cats pressure plan perfected in Perth

AFTER a low-scoring nail-biter against the Tigers in Round 1, Geelong was able to secure a more comfortable 26-point win in the West, holding Fremantle to the lowest ever AFL Women’s score. In a performance that impressed Cats coach Dan Lowther, Geelong kept the potentially potent Dockers to an all-time low of one behind, while having 12 scoring shots themselves to run out 3.9 (27) to 0.1 (1).

For three quarters the match, there was just one goal kicked as the weather conditions, along with both sides’ pressure, not allowing too much free-flowing football. Stepping up in the final term, the Cats doubled their three quarter time score with two final term goals via Julia Crockett-Grills and Georgia Clarke to ensure the Cats came away with the victory. The win marked a historic occasion for the Cats which Lowther made not of in his post-match press conference.

“It was the first win we’ve had in WA as a club in the AFLW which we’re super proud of,” he said. “We came over here with a real plan to put pressure on Freo and build our baseline off that and it worked today which was really pleasing.”

The week before Lowther lamented his side’s inability to produce meaningful inside 50s, which was a key focus for the group during the week. They not only gave their forwards more looks in Round 2, but restricted the Dockers to just 20 up the other end.

“Our midfield are a big part of our team, but we had the same inside 50s as last week, I think we had 31,” Lowther said. “We just didn’t get any momentum from our inside 50s last weekend against the Tiges. “I was just pleased that we got deeper entries, but also a bit more speed to dangerous positions which gave us a chance to score, which we had 13 scoring shots. “Would have been nice to kick straight, but still you’ll take it.”

Though the finishing is an area that Cats will take a look at ahead of Round 3, Lowther said the work rate of both the midfield and the defence to nullify the Fremantle star onballers and get the footy to dangerous spots inside 50 was key in winning the game.

“Our midfield worked so hard. The good thing about what we’ve been able to achieve over the past two or three years is keep our mids together. Our core group of midfield has grown really well together and have got that really good synergy which is really important as we’re all aware,” Lowther said. “But you can’t knock back our defence today, our defence were well set behind the ball and when it did come down into Freo’s front half, they battled really hard and they were set to repel it, so hats off to our midfield and defence.”

Leading from the front onball was Amy McDonald, who picked up a game-high 29 disposals, five clearances, four inside 50s, three rebound 50s, laid five tackles and had 295 metres gained. Backing up her outstanding Round 1 performance, Lowther described her as “brilliant” on and off the field.

“She’s worked so hard, but the other thing too she’s done is work with our other young midfield group to be in line and understand the way we want to play and she’s driven those standards which are really important. We talk about values and standards but she’s certainly on the front foot,” he said.

Another standout was former number one pick Nina Morrison, who kicked the opening goal of the game and looked comfortable through the midfield as she continues to gain consistent form back from a couple of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.

“There’s so many words (to describe Morrison),” Lowther said. “Courageous and tough are the words that come into my mind. “There were moments today where she was tackled multiple times and stood up. “She’s a fiery competitor and because she’s missed so much footy, she’s made up for lost time.”

Coming up against a younger opponent in Mim Strom, Cats ruck Olivia Fuller did well around the ground to win 13 disposals, two marks, five tackles, three clearances, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s to go with her 14 hitouts. Lowther said she was building confidence after being disappointed with her own performances last season. The Geelong coach said Fuller had the ability to be a really important player for the club so “couldn’t be happier for her”.

Next week the Cats take on Collingwood in a massive Round 3 clash, which Lowther said will be tough given the overall balance of the squad, but said the team now had a “baseline” of what they could produce from the win in the West.

“We’ve got a baseline that they’re well aware of, they did that today really well,” Lowther said. “Our conditioning team have trained really well where they can run our four quarters really well. “We identified last year it wasn’t sustainable to run out four quarters each week just by scrapping a ball from contest to contest.

“We’ve got to find the way to play a game with a bit more flow, so I think today even in trying conditions we got the ball to the outside which is important. I expect next week to be another challenge and a great challenge with Collingwood’s midfields, forwards, strong defence. “It will be a really big test to see how much they’ve grown.”

Lowther described the first month of Season 7 as like a “mini finals series” such was the importance of getting wins on the board. After the Pies comes another contender in North Melbourne, with all games providing a good test for the Cats to try and calculate where they sit in the pecking order.

“We’ve got a tough game next week against Collingwood and then North Melbourne. Two really strong teams historically,” Lowther said. ‘”I think the tests, I mean to come over here is a big test and win, number one ticked that off. Richmond, much improved team already as well. “Next week is just going to be another challenge for us followed by North Melbourne.

“We already said the first four weeks was going to be like a mini finals series. “To get two games early and know that we’ve got some tougher games to come, that’s the challenge that we’ve got to accept.”

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