Thursday 22 February 2018 / 03:57 AM


Coming off a 51-point belting by Richmond, the Geelong Cats will do battle with the Sydney Swans on Friday night to determine who will progress to a preliminary final. Being the host team again after finishing second on the ladder, the Cats have been forced by the AFL to play their ‘home’ game against an interstate side at the MCG – 77 kilometres away from their Simonds Stadium base.

Geelong fans voiced their displeasure about being outnumbered last Friday night when playing Richmond, with their side regularly booed. The feeling was that it was more of an away game despite having hosting rights.
It is understandable why Geelong would have to play Richmond at the MCG, given it’s a big rivalry game between two big Victorian sides on a Friday night – and the fact that the AFL take all gate proceedings from finals matches. The Cats were prepared for the AFL to capitalise on an extra 60,000 fans after the recent Round 21 meeting between the clubs at Simonds Stadium and were duly rewarded with a crowd of over 95,000.

But having to host the Sydney Swans? Especially considering there will only be a crowd around the 55,000-60,000 mark, it is outrageous. The Cats play all regular season home games against interstate sides in Geelong – including a game against Sydney in Round 20. In essence, they are not a Melbourne club.

While Sydney have no right in being able to decide where they get to play after week one after finishing sixth, it’s clear to see why playing at the MCG benefits the Swans more – given the Swans have never lost to the Cats at the venue. Add in the fact the Swans have played at the MCG four times this season and it is easy to see why they would be pleased.

The last time Geelong were able to host a team at its home venue for a final was in 2013 against Fremantle. This was before the Simonds Stadium upgrades were completed, and they ended up getting a crowd of 32,458.
The Cats have every right to feel aggrieved given they have invested millions of dollars to upgrade its venue capacity to fit up to 36,000 fans, along with upgraded club facilities to use on match day. They aren’t a traditional Melbourne side, based in a regional city with its own set-up. Their situation is similar to Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast, who are located away from the city centres of Sydney and Brisbane respectively.

Last season, GWS had no problems in hosting the Western Bulldogs in a preliminary final at Spotless Stadium (capacity 24,000), with the game not even a sell-out despite its significance. Meanwhile, the Cats hosted Sydney at the MCG in the other preliminary final – drawing a crowd of just over 70,000. Semi-finals are traditionally known to be less attended, as fans would rather save up for preliminary finals tickets that are double the price of the first two weeks.

The Swans have a 3-1 record at the MCG this season, while the Cats have a 3-3 record after last Friday. At Simonds Stadium, Geelong have a 6-1 record, including five wins that were by 23 points or less. It is clear that playing at a traditional home venue gives them a unique advantage against sides travelling down to ‘The Cattery’. It is as resounding a home-ground advantage as the South Australian and West Australian teams enjoy.

While Geelong have plenty of other factors to worry about on Friday night to take down Sydney, being forced to give up an advantage they worked hard for will do them no favours.

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Brett Sinclair

Sport has always been a big passion in Brett's life and he aims to share his vision with Commentary Box Sports' readers. Based in Melbourne, Brett covers AFL, NRL, cricket and football for CBS.

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