Geelong’s Harry Taylor experiment has paid an AFL dividend they would not have hoped for in their wildest dreams.
On Saturday, Taylor won his crucial duel with star Richmond defender Alex Rance and was best afield with 4.2 as the Cats scored an upset 14-point win at Simonds Stadium.
It is the biggest success by far for Taylor since the Cats’ pre-season decision to experiment with him as a key forward.
Most key forwards, let alone a swingman, never have the better of Rance.
The Tigers’ star will surely earn All-Australian selection for the fourth season in a row.
Taylor has had his struggles in attack. It was only the second time this season he had played the entire game as a key forward.
It was forced on the Cats because of No.1 key forward Tom Hawkins’ two-game suspension.
The Cats’ forwards isolated Taylor and Rance whenever possible and the tactic worked superbly.
“Harry was probably the difference today – Rancey had a disappointing day; he’s been up for a long time,” Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.
“Sometimes, these things happen.
“Harry had a good day and sometimes champions have a bad day … (Rance) will bounce back.”
Rance even went into attack during the frantic last quarter as the Tigers tried to buy a goal or two.
Showing his defender’s instincts, Taylor was unsure whether he should follow Rance up the other end of the ground.
Taylor said his focus was trying to limit Rance’s peerless ability to take intercept marks.
It also helped that Taylor took two early marks against Rance.
“I have been on that a number of times when opponents kick goals on you early, but he is a fantastic player, he backs himself and just does so many amazing things to help his team,” Taylor said.
“So to be able to contribute on the scoreboard and help our team was pretty pleasing.”
Cats coach Chris Scott did not want to talk about the tactical nuances of Taylor’s win over Rance, mindful the teams could well clash again in the finals.
“He might be close to the best defender of a generation,” Scott said of Rance.
“When the opposition try something different against you, those champions find a way to get past that.
“I suspect, with some trepidation, that will happen in this case as well.”