Geelong Cats new premiership says Leigh Montagna, template to beat Melbourne Demons


Dual All-Australian Leigh Montagna believes Geelong is the new AFL premiership favourite, declaring Chris Scott’s side has “now got Melbourne’s measure” thanks to a bold style tweak.

The Cats made a significant statement at GMHBA Stadium on Thursday night, defeating the Demons by 28 points to leapfrog Simon Goodwin’s side into the top spot on the AFL ladder. The margin arguably flattered Melbourne, which had 13 less scoring shots and was thumped at clearance (-18) and inside 50s (-20).

Speaking on Fox Footy’s First Crack on Sunday night, Montagna said the Cats must now be considered the top seep in the race for the flag.

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“I know a lot of people will look at it different ways, but Geelong, if you just take the two teams playing almost full strength, absolutely outplay them,” he told First Crack. “And if the game was to play again this weekend at the MCG, I think I’d be tipping Geelong … off the back of how they beat them last week.”

Montagna pointed to several examples from Thursday night’s game that suggested the Cats “have now got Melbourne’s measure”.

Tyson Stengle is in All-Australian contention. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

The Saints champion said Geelong’s midfield – led by Patrick Dangerfield, Cam Guthrie and recent-addition Tom Atkins – could match Melbourne’s brutal on-ball brigade physically.

But the Cats’ willingness to be more direct yet still disciplined with their ball movement was just as important because it didn’t play into Melbourne’s favour, with the Demons’ strong intercept trio in Steven May, Jake Lever and Max Gawn having little influence.

“We’ve spoken a lot about their adjustment to their game plan this year and how they were preparing for their very best,” Montagna said.

“They’re not just blasting away and kicking longer and going through the corridor, they are still short kicking like they had in previous years. But what they are doing is they are changing lanes and they are still going forward. They are taking teams on going forward, so they’re going to live and die by: ‘We’re not going to go lateral and go around teams, we’re going to go through them.’

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“The short kicking and then the overlap run, it leaves May and Lever and Gawn rendered useless. They get caught in no man’s land because they are so used to being able to slow teams up, force them to kick long down the line and their interceptors get to work. But Geelong weren’t going to kick long down the line, they weren’t going to play into Melbourne’s hands. They kept changing angles and keeping these boys out of position.”

Montagna pointed out the Cats went through the corridor out of their defensive 50 more than any other team across Round 17, adding: “I think they’ve worked out that they have been training this way and playing this way all year for this moment. ”

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Scott told reporters post-match he was keen for his team to show off its new 2022 style against the best on Thursday night.

“In principle, we are trying to challenge the opposition a little bit more – and I think it’s a no-brainer when it comes to playing Melbourne,” he said. “If you’re, in effect, saying to Lever or May ‘you guys get set and when you’re ready we’ll go forward’, it’s probably going to be a hard night for you offensively.

“We wanted to have a swing at it. And if we failed, we wanted to say ‘at least we had a crack at what we’re trying to execute’ as opposed to playing safe – and that’s a part of our coaching group were pleased about.

“We had a crack early at some of those plays where the Demons looked pretty set and we really challenged them. Then when we came late, the easy thing would’ve been to try to hang on and play really safe footy and I didn’t think we did that, which was pleasing.”

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Dual premiership Kangaroo David King said the Cats’ determination to keep the ball away from Gawn was crucial.

“Gawn’s the one for me – and this is a template that all teams are looking at the pointy end of the season in September,” he told First Crack.

“Gawn had one intercept possession, he didn’t have an intercept mark for the day. If you can go around or go over the top of Max Gawn, you can score. So I think he’s the most important member of this team in any facet.”

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