Ayres rocked as Cats get real hiding
THE hangover persisted yesterday for last year's thrashed Australian Football League Grand finalists Geelong when home side Adelaide dished out a 10-goal hiding in the pre-season Ansett Cup.
Since the Grand Final belting, the Cats have lost coach Malcolm Blight - replaced by former Hawthorn hard-man, Garry Ayres - captain Mark Bairstow to retirement and top-drawer full-back Stephen O'Reilly to new club Fremantle.
Adding to their woes, the club have learned that top-notch half-back Barry Stoneham needs more surgery to a broken right leg and could miss most of this season.
Absent from last season's finals, Stoneham has an operation this week when he will have several screws removed and a new plate inserted in his lower leg.
Until the latest break-down, Stoneham was favourite to be named club captain. The position will almost certainly be given to classy ruck-rover Garry Hocking, who was also absent from yesterday's clash, nursing a nagging leg injury.
After an even first term, the Crows overran Geelong and eventually won 23.16 (154) to 13.15 (93).
In a performance that prompted Ayres to urge his team to lift their skills level, the Cats could find no answer to a fit and direct Crows outfit.
Tony Hall kicked five goals for Adelaide, while Crows' fans were delighted with a strong showing from injury-plagued ruckman Matthew Robran.
Ayres, making his official AFL coaching debut, said there would be a number of teething problems as his players learned to adapt to his style.
'The skill level has got to get up and we have to work a bit harder,' he said. 'We made fundamental skill errors.
'Perhaps we are feeling our way too, because we have had a few changes in personnel.' For the Crows, the emphatic win augurs well for a successful season under new coach Robert Shaw, and sets up a blockbuster Ansett Cup quarter-final against reigning AFL premiers West Coast Eagles next Sunday.