DEFENSIVE pressure is North Ballarat Roosters’ trademark and it had heavyweights Geelong rattled.
Missed chances to capitalising on each and every forward entry had the Selkirk Roosters fall 25 points short – a margin exaggerated by three goals deep in fourth quarter junk time yesterday in Victorian Football League action at Simonds Stadium.
This game was close.
The Roosters tackling intensity and ferociousness at the ball made the usually silky-smooth Geelong look panicked at the Cattery – something rarely seen in Cat territory.
Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald said his team had improved on areas they identified as shortfalls in their opening three matches.
Little lapses added up – early chances on goal, a short drop in intensity, late chances to steal the game.
“As a coach you look for things like effort – that’s an enormous pre-requisite for players to bring with them – and I was really pleased with the boys having a really good go at it,” FitzGerald said.
“Even our trademark effort was not there for the whole third quarter.
“We tried helping players out structurally like putting a spare player behind the ball in Michael Searl, so we are reading the cues and adjusting when things are not going our way. That at least allowed us to stay in the game through the third quarter.”
Geelong’s ego had been a little bruised a week earlier in a grand final rematch with the reigning premier and while the Cats tried to come out firing, they struggled to adjust to the Roosters’ style of play all game.
Even Stevie Motlop was tripping over his own feet running into goal.
Up 10 points at half-time and one-straight kick down at the 26-minute mark of the final term, the Roosters had the Cats and their passionate supporter base very uneasy. Three Cats’ goals after the 28-minute mark of the fourth- two to Jackson Hollmer, one to former North Ballarat Rebel Matt Sully (a full back moved forward) – delivered the Cats victory.
The Roosters fought out the game with a limited bench – key defender Oli Tate was benched with a hamstring injury from early in the third quarter and forward Matt Austin injured his shoulder in the second. Neither returned to the ground.
Max Warren was taken from the ground midway in the fourth after a heavy knock to the head in the goal square and was cleared late back into play. North Melbourne captain Andrew Swallow made his much-anticipated return from Achilles surgery via North Ballarat Roosters with 23 disposals in the opening three quarters before he was pulled, as planned.
Fellow Kangaroosters Liam Anthony and Ben Jacobs got plenty of the ball with 33 disposals each.
Roosters Nick Peters (24 disposals) and Nick Rippon (23) were both relentless on the ball.
FitzGerald said signs were good – the Roosters had 386 touches to the Cats’ 311, the most telling difference perhaps was how they used it, going inside-50 metres 50 times to the Cats’ 54.