Led by Tom Hawkins’ six goals, Patrick Dangerfield’s playmaking all around the clearances and inside-50’s, and a stingy defensive effort, Geelong beat Port Adelaide by 60 points at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast on Friday night – thereby serving notice to the rest of the AFL that they might be the best all-around club in the league.
Playing their fifth game in 19 days and winning their fourth of those games in this span, the Cats’ rhythm from playing games in rapid succession was clear to see, and their 14.7 (91) to 4.7 (31) outcome from this top-of-the-ladder blockbuster now represents the apex of their form to date.
But even amid a well-rounded team performance for four quarters, all of the talk was about Hawkins’ half-dozen goals on the night, giving him eleven for the Cats’ two games in the last five days.
“Pretty simple gameplan, isn’t it – get it upfield to ‘Hawk’?” quipped Dangerfield, a main protagonist for Hawkins’ success in this win.
“He is in some special form at the moment. This was definitely Tom’s night,” added Dangerfield, who finished with 24 possessions and five clearances for what was arguably his best game of the season so far.
“I have a bias towards the present,” said long-standing Geelong coach Chris Scott on Hawkins, “but I cannot remember him playing much better, ever.”
Hawkins, on the other hand, paid tribute to return serve to Dangerfield, and their teammates as well.
“Fantastic effort by us. I always do say that you are a product of what happens up the field, so that helps me in the way I play,” said Hawkins, whose six-goal haul gave him sole leadership in the Coleman Medal race by that margin over West Coast’s Josh Kennedy.
Both teams generally excel when pushing forward and playing on quickly – and within the first four minutes, Dangerfield embodied that, around the centre clearances and amassing four of his seven first-term possessions during that time, including a perfect clearance over Hawkins’ right shoulder for the in-form forward to mark, play on, and kick the game’s opening goal.
Hawkins made it two-for-two as Port Adelaide were still searching for its first point, as Jake Kolodjashnij benefitted from Rhys Stanley’s superior tapwork in the ruck, and bombed it long for Hawkins, who marked one-out and converted truly from the ensuing set shot.
Even more impressive was Geelong’s defensive pressure to keep Port Adelaide off the scoreboard, bar Zach Tuohy’s rushed behind in the final minute of the first term that ended with the Cats 14 points in front. The Cats’ defensive pressure, complementing their possession and run-and-carry game, denied the Power from being able to play a wide-open game with similar qualities.
And Geelong’s on-brand style of footy produced its third goal two minutes into the second term, with Hawkins turning provider, finding Tom Atkins in a better position in front, and Atkins had no problems converting.
Port Adelaide got their first goal at the 12-minute mark of the second term, with Mitch Duncan giving away a 50-metre penalty when Scott Lycett made an intercept mark, and Lycett converted easily from 35 yards out.
But less than two minutes later, Duncan made amends for his miscue, setting up Hawkins for his third goal of the night.
At this stage, as Geelong was far ahead in winning any contest it entered, one might have had the feeling that every time the ball hit the hands of Hawkins, some magic was bound to happen. In fact, the Cats were unlucky not to have gone into the change rooms at halftime up by a couple more majors than just their 15-point advantage, courtesy of Hawkins’ unselfish work setting up teammates around attacking 50.
Moreover, whenever Port Adelaide were able to get a rare rush forward, key forward Charlie Dixon couldn’t get a sniff – literally as well as figuratively, after having his nose plugged by quarter-time after receiving some stray fingers from Tom Stewart – as both Stewart and Lachie Henderson did very well to keep him without as much as a mark for the first 40-plus minutes.
Cam Guthrie, Sam Menegola, and Stewart – with 15, 14 and 11 disposals respectively to halftime – were also vital in their efforts down back, as Geelong were transitioning play from defence to attack. And that would not be lost on the likes of Dangerfield and Hawkins, clearly the most dominant pair in clearances and attack.
“They are a really good contested ball side, and they have a habit of out-numbering the opposition. We knew we had to be pretty sharp in that area of our game,” Dangerfield said, about his teammates’ commitment to dictate the contests around the ground.
As the third term started and evolved, Dixon finally got his first mark, albeit up the ground and in Port Adelaide’s back half – but Geelong maintained scoreboard pressure, even if it was only a point at a time.
That is, until Hawkins struck again for his fourth goal nine minutes into the term, extending the Cats’ lead to 24 points.
Port Adelaide’s luck to attempt to stay in the game came calling within a couple of minutes, as the Power struck for its second goal to cut the arrears to 17 points, when Boyd Woodcock won a free kick inside 50 and curled his set shot accurately.
Then Geelong crafted a four-man move that looked clumsy but effective. Captain Joel Selwood found Lachie Fogarty, who fumbled forward before finding Gryan Miers, who layed on for Guthrie to finish emphatically to push the lead back to 24 points.
Hawkins then secured his second consecutive game with at least five goals, marking high a minute later from Miers’ service and playing on to convert easily.
Mitch Georgiades, another Port Adelaide key forward whose struggles under the Cats’ defensive dominance were well noticed, took his first mark and converted in the term’s final minute to reduce the Cats’ margin to four straight kicks.
While the Power finished with a slight shift in momentum, it was bound to be a mirage. Moreover, a masterclass from the Cats on how to run a game out properly was about to take place, scoring seven goals to Port Adelaide’s one.
As all the talk was around Hawkins’ goalkicking and unselfish play otherwise, and Dangerfield’s playmaking skills around the clearances and into open space, and rightfully so, Gary Rohan also made his mark with three goals in the term.
Hawkins also locked up his sixth goal of the night, with Fogarty, Menegola and Henderson also getting in on the goals column as the Cats finished off their ten-goal win with class.