Geelong will go toe-to-toe with Richmond in a preliminary final match-up at the MCG on Friday night. It will be the first time the teams have met this deep into the season since Liam Pickering’s Cats belted the Tigers to win their way through to the 1995 Grand Final.
Not a lot went wrong for Geelong when it crushed Richmond to the tune of 89 points in the 1995 preliminary final at Waverley Park.
For Cats midfielder Liam Pickering it was one of those days where “everything the team touched turned to gold”.
Or goals, as the case may be.
The Cats slammed home 20 majors in wet and greasy conditions to book their spot in the 1995 Grand Final against Carlton, ultimately going dow.
Pickering gathered 28 disposals and took 10 marks to be among Geelong’s best, but as he recalls he did not have the most ideal preparation for the game.
Wanting to get his players in the right mindset from the get-go coach Gary Ayres decided that they would all meet out on the ground 90 minutes before the game to familiarise themselves with the conditions at hand.
The problem was that not all the players made it to the meeting and it just so happens the two who were late were the only ones that were not commuting from Geelong.
“I was carpooling with (teammate) Leigh Tudor and the traffic on the way out was a bloody disaster,” Pickering explained to AFLPlayers.com.au.
Trying to avoid the traffic snarl on the Monash Freeway, the logical route to take to drive out to Waverley Park, Pickering decided to try an alternative way to get to the ground down the Eastern Freeway and Springvale Road.
Pickering and Tudor missed the meeting and copped a light-hearted ribbing from teammates as a result.
“The boys were off the ground and in the rooms by the time we got there and I just remember Brad Sholl sitting there and saying, ‘Jesus, you blokes,’ shaking his head and giving us a wink,” Pickering said.
“The coach said to ‘Lurker’ (Tudor) and I, ‘It’s all good boys, that’s traffic but you better get a kick today.’
“In other words, I’ll cop it for now before the game but if we had have got beaten I’m sure that would have been brought up.
“The worst part about it was that all the other blokes were there on time and they lived in Geelong!”
Richmond kicked the opening goal of the game, but Geelong was able to answer back to kick the next five goals of the contest to seize control of the game.
By half-time, the Cats – buoyed by their 82-point drubbing of Footscray in the qualifying final – had 13 goals on the board to Richmond’s three.
“Once we steadied and got on top we really put the foot on their throat,” Pickering said.
“By half-time we had broken their spirit.
“You could feel it on the ground, you could feel it amongst their playing group.
“Nothing was getting past our half-back line and we were well on top in the midfield. It was one of those days where everything really clicked.”
Gary Ablett and Billy Brownless combined for eight goals, John Barnes was sensational in the ruck and the defence of Tim McGrath, Ben Graham and Steven Handley stood resolute.
“Our blokes took kicks that if Richmond tried it they probably wouldn’t have come off. When we were playing with that much confidence we were a damn hard team to catch,” Pickering said.
With the contest dead and buried in the final term with Geelong 13 goals up and running rampant, the strong Richmond contingent in the crowd continued to try to lift the spirits of their team in the most unusual fashion, according to Pickering.
“I just remember hearing the Richmond chant and it was quite eerie listening to it,” Pickering said.
“The Richmond fans were obviously delirious with their team’s year, they’d made the preliminary final in what I would say were unlikely circumstances after a big win over Essendon but the passion from their fans, despite the result, was amazing.”
Fast forward to Friday night’s game between the two combatants and Pickering is expecting Richmond’s fans to again be in full voice at the MCG.
Pickering and his former Geelong teammates have a group text going that gets a bit of a work out whenever the Cats are in action and they still manage to catch-up regularly, usually at Brownless’ pub in Geelong.
“It keeps it quite humorous during the game wherever we’re watching from and it’s great to keep in touch that way,” Pickering said.
“I can see why Richmond are favourites but I think the Cats will show a lot more fight than everyone thinks they might. I don’t think it’ll be a walk in the park for the Tigers.”