The stats don’t lie: Geelong’s record in quarters won over the past four seasons, and in 2013.Brisbane’s miraculous comeback against Geelong on Sunday was one of the shocks of the season not only because of how it happened, but whom it happened against. The Cats have lost close ones before, but hardly ever after having been in a position of such dominance.
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It had nearly happened against Hawthorn last year, Geelong headed after racking up a lead of 51 points at one stage, the difference being that was only just after quarter-time, and that Tom Hawkins’ memorable post-siren match-winner erased the concerns of the fade-out.

But you need to go back to the Cats’ disastrous 2006 season, before one of the game’s most successful dynasties began, to find a carbon copy, the afternoon at Simonds Stadium Geelong blew a 54-point lead midway through the third quarter against eventual premier West Coast.

The Cats couldn’t buy a trick at the time, the shattering loss at home its seventh from eight games and pretty much ending its finals hopes. Seven years, three flags and several hundred games more experienced across its line-up, the Geelong of today masks its vulnerabilities much more effectively.

Geelong has won 47 of 60 games under the coaching of Chris Scott, most of them handsomely, only eight of those victories by single-figure margins. Of its 13 losses over that period, only two have been by any more than 17 points, the Cats consistently competitive.

On a weekly basis, anyway. It’s consistency within games that is becoming a bigger issue, and exactly to what coach Chris Scott has been alluding when he has repeatedly insisted this season that his side wasn’t playing that well, to the general disdain of the football world, which prior to last Sunday could see only the bottom line of a 10-1 win-loss record.

Indeed, Scott was roundly pilloried when after Geelong beat Greater Western Sydney in its last game before the bye, he claimed: “I’d even be happier if we had have dropped a couple of extra games but were playing better.”

But the Brisbane disaster was the ultimate example of the Cats’ strength also having the potential to expose its own weakness. Geelong’s helter-skelter style can cause such scoreboard devastation so quickly that it has been able to mentally cruise through large periods of games and still emerge with a win.

And those periods of domination have become progressively shorter, particularly this season.

Indeed, the Cats sit only equal sixth in 2013 for quarters won. But their record in third quarters (11 won, only one conceded) is the best of any team for any single term of football this season. Against the Lions, it was a 4.3 to 2.4 result. They’re more than handy in second terms as well, having won eight and lost just three (against Brisbane it was 4.4 to 2.2).

But their starts have been ordinary, only four first quarters won and seven lost, and they’ve only been able to break even in last quarters, with a 6-6 record. They haven’t won all four quarters in any game this year. And that stop-start football caught up with them big-time at the Gabba when Brisbane slammed on 8.5 in the last term to 1.4.

While Geelong has actually won more quarters this season than to the same stage last year, its capacity to dominate for long periods has declined over the past four seasons. The Cats were first for quarters won at the same stage of the season in both 2010 and 2011, in 2010 seven more than any other team.

The Cats’ record in winning the close ones is strong, but far more often coming from a position of playing catch-up than, as like last Sunday, attempting to hang on to a hard-won lead.

Perhaps that explains in part why the brakes never really seemed to be applied as Brisbane made its charge at the Gabba. Why skipper Joel Selwood, having marked with the Cats up by a point and just 37 seconds left on the clock, chose not to take his time, but chip a pass to ruckman Dawson Simpson.

And why when the still-raw Simpson marked that kick with only 31 seconds left, capable of almost running down the clock to siren time, he instinctively shot off a handball to a player running past as experienced as Joel Corey, who inexplicably called for the ball.

Brisbane hero Ash McGrath’s post-siren winner might end up proving the wake-up call Geelong needed.

“We know that we haven’t been playing that well. We’ve been playing patchy footy all year,” Selwood conceded on the Cats’ arrival back in Melbourne.

“It is a concern and we’re working on it at training. We’ll make sure that we continue to work on it.”

And after paying the ultimate price last Sunday, Geelong knows that homework now requires more urgency than the Cats have been showing for 120-odd minutes come game time each weekend.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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