Before they win the pennant they have to beat Geelong
GEELONG faces the 1953 season with the same lively attack and the same fast-moving and aggressive defence that won it the 1952 flag. Behind this formidable line-up is a force of reserve players that would delight the heart of any coach. Most of the recruits now being polished up as understudies to key men would do well in any League side.
Some officials of League clubs have been apt to depreciate the ability of this great Geelong side, with its 34 victories in its last 40 games, and no defeats in the last 14 weeks of the 1952 season. They claim that if three or four of the Geelong stars can be effectively frustrated, the team's system may crack up.
Now the opportunity is ahead of proving or disproving those claims.
The hard fact remains that all rival coaches face the two years old problem of stifling Geelong's dazzling pace, and trying to get on top by shoulder to shoulder "big man" football. Geelong secretary Mr. Ivo Gibson says: "This year we will be 20 per cent, stronger all round than in 1952. Geelong is the team to be beaten for the 1953 flag. We have the best group of recruits I have seen for many years."
Coach Reg Hickey, who has moulded this sternly disciplined and streamlined side, says with his characteristic caution: "Our prospects are very bright. I hope we can develop the same pace as last year."
Geelong président, Mr. Jack Jennings, says: "Nobody can ever accuse Geelong of complacency. It does not exist, either among the players or club officials. We say no match is a foregone conclusion. It is a game that has to be won. We don't rest on our laurels down here. Our opponents cannot count on overconfidence sapping Geelong's game. Our players have trained as hard as ever they have done. We will be a fit side."
On the form Geelong players have shown at training' and in the practice games, only the wastage of a long string of injuries can rob the club of a place in the 1953 final four. That closely co-ordinated defence which triumphed last year against the heaviest battering will be even stronger as the season opens. Superb back pocket defender and 1951 Brownlow Medallist, Bernie Smith, who missed nine games through injury last year, will be there to work with that fine understanding he has developed with full-back Bruce Morrison.
Bernie has shown splendid form at training, and he will be a factor in the defence with which nine League clubs did not have to cope last year. Bruce Morrison, the least "showy" full back in the League, is 29. With skipper Fred Flanagan and follower Russ Renfrey, he is one of three Geelong players who are reaching "veteran" vintage. Morrison last year had fewer goals kicked against him than any other full back.
Behind Morrison is a most able understudy in Harry Herbert, a lad who has been nursed by the club for two years. On the few occasions Herbert has had to show his quality he defended in a way that would satisfy the most critical coach.
Geelong once, again will have that fine half-back line of Russ Middlemiss, John Hyde, and Geoff Williams — all masters of the offensive-defensive. This line, with its pace, not only defends, but originates dangerous attacking thrusts through the centre. There may be a change in the centre line. Les Borrack, the club's star recruit, a centre player from Redan, has revealed a smooth brilliance that has delighted club officials. Borrack looks a certainty lo make the side this season. He is bigger than Doug Palmer, who might be moved from centre to a relief roving job.
Up forward Geelong again will field that half-forward trio that can become devastating — Bob Davis (left), Fred Flanagan, and Leo Turner. On the track Davis has not shown better form since 1951, and Flanagan and Turner are playing with their usual snap and precision.
Geelong is happy in the fact that its attack does not rest solely on full forward George Goninon. Stopping Goninon does not mean stopping Geelong, because the club has a three-pronged onslaught through Davis and Turner, as well as through Flanagan to Goninon. Last year Geelong kicked roughly 250 goals. Goninon got only 59 of them, yet this many-sided attack piled up for Geelong 511 more points than opponents kicked against the club.
No rucks have been more criticised by the experts than those of Geelong. They have been too light, too "genteel," and incapable of "roughing up" opponents, they have said. Yet only South Melbourne's first pair and Collingwood's first ruck have been as mobile as the Geelong followers. With Tom Morrow retired, and Jim Norman out for a while through a knee injury, Geelong will use the brilliant Bill McMaster and Russell Renfrey, and Norman Sharp with George Swarbrick. Geelong officials predict that Sharp, the biggest follower in the side but not yet 19, will climb to championship class.
Summed up, it looks like the 1952 Geelong side-plus. The team that wins the 1953 premiership must beat Geelong first.
Title: Before they win the pennant they have to beat Geelong
Author: Hugh Buggy
Publisher: Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957)
Date: Saturday 11 April 1953, page 13
This article does not contain any comments.
Login to leave a comment.