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Oppo Watch: Round 17

A battle of athleticism looms in the ruck between Rowan Marshall and Rhys Stanley. - St Kilda,St Kilda Saints,Geelong Cats
A battle of athleticism looms in the ruck between Rowan Marshall and Rhys Stanley.

There’s little doubt that this season, Geelong is the team to beat.

The high-intensity Western Bulldogs ousted the top-of-the-table Cats last week, and now, the Saints will be set on replicating the result.

Labelling the game as ‘a tough challenge’ is a huge understatement, with Geelong’s average games experience from last week outweighing St Kilda’s 128-65.

Alan Richardson’s young brigade will need to match Geelong’s presence around the ball and take full advantage of their opportunities on Saturday night, with the Cats among the best in the league for restricting their opponents.

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Geelong place in the top-four competition-wide for limiting their opposition’s disposals, rebounds and inside 50s, seeing them register the least amount of points scored against (995).

The Bulldogs, Giants and Power were all able to beat the Cats in the former two statistics to attribute to their three losses for the season.

Much like last week at Blundstone Arena, the Saints will be entering enemy territory which, in recent years, has rarely been breached. 

GAME DAY INFORMATION: All you need to know for Geelong v St Kilda 

Since 2016, Geelong has dropped just four games at the Cattery – three of which have come at the hands of Sydney.

The Cats’ star-studded line-up features some of the game’s greats, who have seldom dropped out of form this season.

Despite the prowess of several emerging Cats, the trinity of Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett Jr. remains its most glittering attribute.


Patrick Dangerfield is an unstoppable force through Geelong's midfield.

The trio boasts a mind-blowing list of accolades, complete with a combined 20 All Australian selections, seven Carji Greeves Medals and three Brownlows.

Dangerfield’s sheer strength in the clearances (69) and contested possession (191) – and unflappable poise while doing so – sees him among the best afield most weeks, while the courage and grit of Selwood is undeniable.

The Little Master in Ablett, meanwhile, has wound back the clock to return to his damaging best at 35 years of age, slotting 26 goals to go alongside his indomitable midfield bursts.

While the trio has often served as the Cats’ backbone, a slight reshuffling in roles this season has opened the door for Geelong’s next contingent to shine.

Selwood’s shift to an outside role has given rise to Tim Kelly, whose outstanding form has him firming for a Brownlow Medal in just his second year of senior football.

The West Australian product leads the Cats by a country mile for clearances (102), while also serving as his side’s primary ball-winner (390).

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Kelly’s blistering pace, pressure acts and explosive bursts from the stoppages will be a primary focus for the Saints to rein in.

But Geelong have been equally damaging on the outside.

Much like his opposition counterpart in Jack BillingsMitch Duncan has been in superb form along the wing, serving as his side’s connective tissue and providing his side with plenty of run and uncontested footy (275).

Pressure machines Brandan Parfitt and Luke Dahlhaus have contributed to Geelong’s dominance, with a combined 152 tackles and 554 pressure acts, while former Saint Rhys Stanley has showcased his athleticism several times this season.

Stanley's athleticism, goalkicking ability and strong clearance work mirrors that of Rowan Marshall, with the duel between the two ruckmen shaping as another enticing encounter for supporters.

VFL: Lonie makes solid return

And the Cats have been just as potent up both ends of the ground.

A big-bodied frame will be required to combat Tom Hawkins, who will hope to bridge the gap between himself and Coleman leader, Jeremy Cameron.

The powerhouse forward tops Geelong for goals (39) and marks inside 50 (43) – 25 of which have been taken while on the lead – leaving a great deal of work for Jake Carlisle, who grappled the equally ominous Ben Brown last week.

Add Gary Rohan (22 goals), Gryan Miers (18) and the returning Esava Ratugolea to the mix, and the Saints’ defence will have more than enough to tackle, especially considering Geelong are the highest-scoring team this season. 

The absence of Josh Battle will be a major blow, but the return of Nathan Brown will add some experience and muscle against such a formidable attack. 


Nathan Brown and Tom Hawkins lock horns.

Geelong’s defence has been just as solid as its offence, with defensive trio Tom Stewart, Mark Blicavs and Harry Taylor forming part of the all-star backline. 

The three have been Geelong’s intercept kings, notching up a combined 270 intercept possessions to thwart many opposition assaults forward. 

And along with Zach Tuohy finding his feet and reharnessing his elite rebounding in recent weeks, that backline will be that much harder to crack. 

SAINTER OF THE ROUND: Brucey's bag of six earns him the nod

The Saints will be turning to Josh Bruce as the main man in attack, whose career-best six goals last week provided a positive in an overly disappointing day.

Jack Lonie will hope to add some spark and his elite ground-level pressure to the Saints' forward line after being out through injury since Round 6. 

A trip down the highway presents itself as an opportunity for St Kilda to get back on the winners’ list. 

Putting up a fight is certainly on the cards – otherwise, it will be a long trip back to Melbourne.