Back-to-back six-goal blitzes in the game’s opening two quarters paced Geelong to a 66-point win over Essendon at the Gabba on Sunday afternoon – in a match where the Cats comprehensively asserted their dominance from start to finish.
In what appeared to be a training run ahead of the Cats’ top-of-the-ladder blockbuster against Richmond on Friday night, the 17.6 (108) to 5.12 (42) win served a message that Geelong may be reaching its best form with several players hitting top form.
Runaway Coleman Medal leader Tom Hawkins took his advantage in the race to ten goals with four majors for the match, in leading a group of six multiple goalkickers for the Cats, while Sam Menegola paced the Cats with a best-on-ground performance with 30 disposals, eight clearances and six marks to go with his two goals.
Effectively, the even spread of contributions from players turned out to be the hallmark from the Cats in this match, and not just standout performances from Hawkins and Menegola.
“We kicked well for goal, as we took our chances, and we were pretty good around the ball and we looked really potent inside 50 as well,” said Cats coach Chris Scott after the game.
Scott also praised several of his team’s players – even without calling the likes of Hawkins, Menegola, Mark Bliclavs, Patrick Dangerfield and others giving strong performances by name – for combining in a comprehensive shellacking of the Bombers that was effectively decided well before halftime.
“We had a couple of players who when they get around the ball, and get one-on-one, they are very hard to stop. They mark the ball, and convert it, which is hard for the opposition to stop,” said Scott.
“It is such an important challenge, so important to get the game on your terms by converting your chances,” he added.
Nine days after surrendering a six-goals-to-none opening-term spanking at the hands of the Western Bulldogs, Geelong went for the Bombers’ jugular in the opening quarter – and responded with a season-best first-quarter output of 6.2, good for a five-goal lead.
Hawkins led the charge with two goals within three minutes, with Bliclavs, Gary Rohan, Luke Dahlhaus and Dangerfield also providing accurate set shots, while Essendon’s James Stewart reduced his team’s arrears three minutes before quarter-time.
But Essendon – whose bus didn’t arrive to the Gabba from its remote Queensland hub location until an hour before the opening bounce – could have been trailing by a bit less.
James Stewart’s goal came moment after missing a set shot out on the full, a mix-up between Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Irving Mosquito in the game’s opening moments squandered what would have been a sure goal chance, and Cale Hooker also missed a set shot from a good position.
Alas, Essendon would have no excuses or answers against a rampant Cats side committed to an all-out assault on the scoreboard.
In the second term, Menegola kicked the quarter’s opening goal, Hawkins assured himself of at least a hat-trick, Gryan Miers kicked two goals of his own, and defender Jed Bews kicked not just one but two rare goals of his own – the second being on a medium-range dribble kick after Geelong won a holding the ball free kick – to give the Cats a 59-point halftime lead after Jake Stringer kicked a consolation goal for the Bombers after the siren.
Moreover, the Cats owned statistical advantages in all of the important areas from the opening half. As if scoring their 12 goals from a total of 26 inside-50’s and leading 104-64 in uncontested possessions wasn’t enough, a 52-disposal advantage was made even more evident by a 60-25 slaughtering in marks, and added to a 78.7 percent disposal efficiency, it was easy to see why Geelong’s scoring looked so easy.
And if Cats fans were looking five days ahead in reflecting on the team’s Round 6, 2007 157-point rout of Richmond as a comparison to the ease of this dominance over an opposition unit, the only difference here could be expressed how easily they prevented Essendon from scoring. The Cats also owned halftime advantages in defensive statistics – to wit, edges in contested possessions (62-47), contested marks (11-2), and the freedom to lay tackles to a 31-20 count.
The Cats only kicked only two goals in the third term as Essendon came out with an improved approach to play, but after Miers and Dylan Shiel traded goals in the opening stages of the quarter, Menegola booted his second on the siren to emphasise Geelong’s deadly and clinical execution.
Now leading by 62 points entering the final term, Geelong could afford to hit the button for cruise control, but instead maintained their tempo and intensity at opening-term levels.
During the final term, Hawkins kicked the last of his four goals and Bliclavs joined the group of multiple goalkickers, goals which were levelled out for the term by Essendon’s Mason Redmond and Jacob Townsend.
Those goals gave the Bombers a dose of pride after losing Mosquito earlier to a suspected left ACL injury before Dangerfield put an exclamation point on the Cats’ huge win with his second goal.
Even after the eleven-goal win, Geelong’s true yardstick on where they stand with their 2020 premiership hopes gets measured against an in-form Richmond side that they have lost to in four of the teams’ last five meetings, including last year’s preliminary final, Scott welcomes the challenge.
“We have a lot of belief that we are a good team, but they’ve been the best team in the competition for a long time. They are hitting their stride at the moment, so it’ll be a good contest,” said Scott.
“We have a very robust system, and they have some very good players. It’s going to be very good to be a part of a game like that,” he added.