Geelong star Jimmy Bartel says smarter kicking can ease the Cats’ attacking woes as they strive to keep their AFL premiership hopes alive against Port Adelaide on Friday night.
Geelong kicked their lowest score this season, 9.18 (72), in last Saturday’s upset qualifying final loss to Fremantle.
The absence of spearhead Tom Hawkins, who has struggled for months with a back injury, was sorely felt, with 10-gamer Josh Walker contributing little in his place.
Hawkins was named to return for Friday night’s cut-throat MCG semi-final against the buoyant Power.
The Cats’ inexperienced ruck pairing of Mark Blicavs and Nathan Vardy also copped a hiding from Fremantle’s Aaron Sandilands and Zac Clarke, enabling the Dockers to dominate the clearances.
But Geelong football manager Neil Balme backed the pair on Thursday.
Bartel said it was Geelong’s ball use that most needed addressing.
“It wasn’t our forwards’ fault that we kept dumping it on their heads,” he told AAP.
“Probably if our ball use was a bit better, it might have made the game a bit different.”
He said it was unfair to blame Walker, who was dropped for Friday’s clash.
“He gave us everything he could. The problem is we kept kicking it on top of his head,” Bartel said.
He added the Cats had lost the hit-out and clearance counts regularly this season, but it hadn’t generally mattered.
“We’ve been beaten all year there and we managed to get to second on the ladder,” he said.
“But there’s no disgrace in getting beaten by the tallest man to ever play the game.
“It’s always going to make it hard.
“We’ll just saddle up Friday and hopefully get a better result out of that.”
Adding to the Cats’ problems, they’ve lost two-time best and fairest Corey Enright to a knee injury.
Josh Caddy (ankle) is also out, with Taylor and Josh Hunt returning.
They’ll take on a Power side that is unchanged and buzzing after last Saturday night’s upset of Collingwood.
“They’re a young side that’s fit and Kenny Hinkley’s got them playing some daring and brave football,” Bartel said.
“They play exciting, they’re good to watch, they take the ball up through the middle and they’re never out of the game.”
In the Cats’ favour, they’ve won their past nine meetings with the Power and it’s been six years since any side with the double chance has exited the finals in straight sets.
Geelong still believe they can fight back and win the flag.
“We’re disappointed but we’re not defeated yet,” Bartel said.
“The equation’s still the same. We’ve got to win three games to get there in the end.
“Freo certainly outplayed us but we’ll work on it.
“We’ve got a great opportunity on Friday night against a side in pretty good touch.”