Ayres rocked as Cats get real hiding
From BERNIE SLATTERY in Melbourne
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.