Former Geelong captain Cameron Ling believes an iron-clad culture of belief and trust among Cats defenders could be the telling difference in their bid to overcome Richmond in Friday night’s qualifying final at the MCG.
Ling said that an unwavering bond of loyalty throughout the Geelong defence had been their trademark since former champion full-back Matthew Scarlett became entrenched as a pivotal part of the Geelong line-up.
“We have a great history of a culture within a culture in our back line at Geelong and on Friday night the likes of Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie, two blokes that are leaving the club, are capable of absorbing so much early pressure,” Ling said.
“With a crowd of over 90,000, players like these and Harry Taylor and a few others have successfully managed to hold up games over time, absorb the pressure and then revert to the side’s usual game plan.”
Ling is like so many former Geelong players who marvel at the line of recent Geelong defenders – the likes of Scarlett, Taylor, Lonergan, Mackie, Corey Enright, Darren Milburn, Tom Harley, Matthew Egan and so many others – who have built such an understanding when the club go into big games.
“It’s amazing to play at a club that the likes of Mackie and Lonergan are such terrific servants and workers for the one end,” he said. “They were taught from the time they played their first game down back that it would be a hard school of learning and listening by the likes of Scarlett and Milburn, who made it very clear that the bar was set at a high level and you had to make it.
“You were there to win games for Geelong and you would play your heart out and all you wanted was the praise, recognition, and encouragement from your teammates and that spirit went on year in and year out. We were paid a good wage but it wasn’t the money, it was the deep relationships that we all built up that made it so worth it.
“These defenders had loud and strong voices on the ground, whether it was praising a teammate or getting under the skin of an opponent. It didn’t matter, they were there for each other.
“That feeling is still there. If Richmond jump quickly on Friday night the old heads, I’m sure, will prevail and drag the game back to a tempo that Geelong will be suited by.
“They are special people. Mackie played so well for so long for us, and Lonergan, with just one kidney, became a Geelong great.
“After he (Lonergan) came back to training when the medical people gave him the all-clear, we all said he won’t play again but he’ll get some terrific rehab down here and he’s such a good bloke it’ll be terrific to have him around.
“A year later he’s playing in the VFL grand final and another year on he’s in an AFL grand final just through sheer hard work.
“While they were both great players, they were super guys to have around. Being in a footy club you spend endless hours together.
“You come back from a long, hard run or a tough, body-on-body game or you’re just lying on the floor of the rooms with ice on an ankle. They have the ability to lighten the moment and their friendship was a special part of being at the Geelong Football Club.”