Mark Blicavs role, tags Christian Petracca after ruck against Max Gawn, Geelong Cats defeat Melbourne Demons

At one stoppage on Thursday night, Mark Blicavs would ruck against one of Max Gawn or Luke Jackson. At another, the Geelong utility would switch roles and become a ‘cooler’, following either Christian Petracca or Clayton Oliver to try and curtail the Demons stars’ influence.

Seriously, which other AFL player has the capabilities to pull that off — and have the confidence to do it — in a game?

“It’s often misused in AFL, but he’s unique,” Cats coach Chris Scott told reporters after his side’s win over Melbourne.

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“There’s no one else like him.”

Blicavs again played a crucial, invaluable role in his side’s 28-point win over the Demons. He attended 19 center bounces – the second-most of any Cat – to finish with 14 disposals – of which 84 per cent were won in the forward half – seven score engagements and five tackles, while three of his 16 hit-outs went to a teammate’s advantage.

At 198cm and 101kg, Blicavs is playing a role for Geelong that no other player in the league plays for any other club.

Max Gawn of the Demons and Mark Blicavs of the Cats compete for the ball. Picture: Dylan BurnsSource: Getty Images

“I’m a bit more versatile this year than any other year almost,” Blicavs told post-game.

“Tonight my role was just to be around the ball. That allows me to help the mids out and trying to curb Petracca and Oliver’s influence as much as I can, or if I need to ruck I’d get down the line and just make a contest wherever I am.

“I’m really enjoying being a bit further up the ground and being around the ball rather than just playing at full-back this year. Sam De Koning having a great year is allowing me to do that.

“I feel like I’ve had a consistent year in terms of my role, which has been around the ball, transition-type player. I think that’ll continue in whatever that might be. If it’s ruck, mid or wing, I’ll be trying to run similar patterns anyway.”

Mark Blicavs of the Cats and Luke Jackson of the Demons. Picture: Dylan BurnsSource: Getty Images

Petracca booted three goals, but on a night where Melbourne only kicked nine for the entire game. He also finished with 21 disposals and two clearances – the equal second-lowest tallies of his season so far.

“He’s powerful, isn’t he?” Blicavs said of playing on Petracca.

“He’s got good vision and he knows when he can go forward and influence. He kicked a couple from that. You give him half a meter and he’s just gone.

“There’s things to work on obviously, but it’s a good one to be thrown the challenge.”

Scott lauded Blicavs’ game against the Dees and his continual influence on the Geelong set-up.

“Whenever we’ve played well, he’s been a feature, whether it’s been sort of obvious with the amount of ball he’s got or not, he’s always been important to the way we set up,” he said.

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Mark is just a pro. He just came in with an insatiable appetite to learn a game, to be frank, he didn’t know much about – but he’s an expert now.”

Blicavs was part of an on-ball brigade that helped disarm Melbourne’s star midfield group, with the Cats winning the clearance count by +18.

Patrick Dangerfield was back to his best with 31 disposals and nine clearances, while Cameron Guthrie, Tom Atkins and Joel Selwood were also crucial at the coalface.

“It was hotly contested.” They’re a great midfield, so we knew it was just going to be a battle with a lot of tackles, which forced the turnovers,” Blicavs said.

“It was a high-pressure game and it sort of felt like that finals-type game. I felt both teams were really up for it and we just kept trying to plug away, keep doing what we wanted to do.

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“Their midfield is amazing and they spread really well from that, so we had to do our best on the inside to halve it, get it going our way and then spread away from that. And if they win it, we’ve got to help our defenders out. It’s a strength of theirs and we just tried to match them in there.”

The Cats’ win saw them leapfrog the Demons on the ladder, meaning they’ll almost certainly finish Round 17 on top of the AFL ladder – barring a mammoth Brisbane win over Essendon.

Asked how much confidence Geelong would take from a significant win over the reigning premiers, Blicavs said: “It’s fantastic … The plan is to do that in a final, but we’re just going to keep building and keep working.”


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