Underdog tag? The Cats wear it well, says star midfielder

Jimmy Bartel
Jimmy Bartel
Jimmy Bartel

Jimmy Bartel

Jimmy Bartel suited up the Brownlow Medal count. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Jimmy Bartel suited up the Brownlow Medal count. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

As the mind games begin, Geelong champion Jimmy Bartel says Hawthorn will head into Friday night's preliminary final as favourite and has urged his teammates to be brave with their ball use.

Geelong may have prevailed in its past 11 games against the Hawks, with five decided by less than a goal, but Bartel maintains the Hawks have been the best team in the competition for quite some time.

''Quite naturally, we do,'' Bartel said, when asked if the Cats thought they were underdogs.

''You can't do anything about previous results. Hawthorn finished on top of the ladder, they won quite convincingly in their first final … they have a full list to pick from. I think they quite deservedly are favourites.

''What happened in previous games doesn't matter. If you go all the way back to 2008, I think only about half of each side is still remaining. I don't think 2008 plays any sort of factor.''

This year the Cats emerged seven-point victors in round one and 10-point winners in round 15, the latter when Jordan Murdoch emerged as an unlikely hero with three final-quarter goals.

It seems when the contest is close, the Cats find a way to score and get the job done. Bartel, though, insists it's not a specific desire to topple the Hawks, rather it's a confidence knowing they can handle the top teams.

''Obviously, this year it's been Hawthorn, Fremantle, Sydney - they have been the best sides. We have been able to beat each one of those at some stage during the year. I think that's the confidence we get out of it.

''I don't think it's purely a Hawthorn thing. If we can play, as they say, the Geelong way, and we play it for four quarters, we are more than a chance to get the result.''

That Geelong way, as Bartel says, is ''being brave with your ball use''.

''It's really taking the game on, it's playing a pretty defensive game, yet still be creative and attack,'' he said.

A key player in enforcing this style has been Paul Chapman, but he will be missing this week through suspension.

Chapman also famously said after the 2008 grand final loss to Hawthorn the Cats would do whatever it took to never lose to the Hawks again.

When questioned about Chapman's comments, Bartel said with a smile: ''I think there has been a bit of mayonnaise put on that over the years. Chappy is a fiercely competitive bloke. Everyone probably echoes those thoughts but probably not to the extent Chappy goes to it. You don't want to lose to anybody.''

Bartel also praised forward Tom Hawkins for his ability to handle a back injury and play an important role in the semi-final win over Port Adelaide.

''He is right to go. He was so important for us, especially in that second half [against the Power],'' he said.

''I think it's been a little bit undersold how important that first goal he kicked after half-time was.

''He got the whole thing going. He took a nice mark and threaded it from the pocket, everyone got up and about.''

It was business of another kind for Bartel on Tuesday when he was fitted with the Shoreditch suit he will don at the Brownlow Medal count.

While he was willing to pose for the cameras, it was clear where his mind really lay. The man who has played more finals than any Cat in history wants a fourth flag.

''We have been pretty fortunate, pretty lucky … it has to do with the culture and the program we have down at Geelong,'' Bartel said.

''No matter who you bring in, they slot into the system. That's more got to do with the personnel off the field and the teaching of young players.''

This story Underdog tag? The Cats wear it well, says star midfielder first appeared on WA Today.