K rock Football

Narkle back, big men concussed

Geelong players celebrate a goal in the 14-point win over the Northern Blues at IKON Park. (Geelong Cats Image/Marcel Berens)

QUINTON Narkle made a successful return from injury as Geelong gave its VFL finals hopes another boost with a gritty 14-point win over Northern Blues on Saturday.

However, it wasn’t all good news for the Cats, who lost big men Ryan Abbott and Nathan Kreuger to concussion during a hard-fought contest played in atrocious conditions.

It left Geelong effectively three men short by three-quarter time, with Narkle under strict instructions to play limited minutes after six weeks out with a hamstring injury.

But goals to Scott Selwood and Luke Smith broke the game open early in the final term, and the Cats prevailed, 10.12 (72) to 8.10 (58), as heavy rain made life difficult for both sides.

Geelong coach Shane O’Bree praised his players’ persistence and work rate in the face of adversity and was pleased to see those traits come to the fore again.

They were also evident in a similarly hard-fought win over Footscray earlier this month.

“That’s two games where conditions have been shocking, but the boys have come with the right attitude,” O’Bree said.

“Both have been away games in challenging circumstances, but even against the wind today, the boys found a way to scrap and find a goal.

“In the third quarter the Blues had a lot of momentum, and they got a goal up, but we found a way to get a couple of quick goals and get the momentum back. That was really pleasing.

“(The concussion issues) threw a spanner in the works, but you can’t control that, and Narks was on controlled game time.

“There was a few boys that were cramping and a bit tight, too, so full credit to the boys for the way they fought it out.”

VFLW: CONSECUTIVE WINS FOR CATS

Narkle started in the centre square and slotted back into his midfield role seamlessly, gathering 19 disposals in three quarters.

The 21-year-old speedster will look to build on his form fitness in the coming weeks as he attempts to break back into the senior side.

“He was really good and real zippy,” O’Bree said.

“We spoke about his ability to win the contest, take it on, find his gaps and use the ball well, and that was Narks today.

“He played a really good game off a six-week rehab program.”

Small forward Smith kicked three goals as namesake Zac Smith and Kreuger chipped in with two each.

Experienced defender Lachie Henderson was rock solid despite being in some doubt to play during the build-up after hurting a shoulder last week in his first game back from an extended stint on the sidelines with a foot injury.

VFL co-captain Aaron Black and AFL-listed trio James Parsons, Scott Selwood and Wylie Buzza all played important roles as Geelong registered a fifth win from its past six matches.

Buzza missed his two shots at goal but stepped up to give Zac Smith a chop-out in the ruck after Abbott went off.

The Cats now sit seventh, one spot above Box Hill, who they meet next week at Box Hill City Oval.

Twitter: @shayne_hope

GEELONG  4.1, 6.6, 8.9, 10.12 (72)

NORTHERN BLUES  2.5, 4.7, 7.10, 8.10 (58)

Goals; Geelong:  L. Smith 2, N. Kreuger 2, Z. Smith 2, B. Reid, P. Dowling, S. Selwood, B. Schlensog

Northern Blues: J. Garlett 3, A. Fasolo, M. Owies, P. Kerr, A. Phillips, F. O”Dwyer

Best;  Geelong: S. Selwood, L. Henderson, J. Parsons, S. Simpson, L. Smith, B. Jarvis

Northern Blues: D. Lang, H. Goddard, S. Fisher, J. O”Rourke, A. Fasolo, J. Deluca