Geelong’s roller-coaster season took a victorious turn on Wednesday evening in a roller-coaster match that left coach Chris Scott perplexed at times in his final analysis, although the Cats would beat North Melbourne by 33 points on Wednesday evening at the Gabba.
Four goals from Gryan Miers, three others from Tom Hawkins, and a well-balanced attacking effort led the way to what would ordinarily suggest a comprehensive four points for the Cats.
But Scott saw the final margin to be a bit misleading, with the teams generally swapping goals and momentum shifts, before the Cats survived some off-color kicking at goal in the second term and ultimately kicked the last three goals of the match to see off the Kangaroos’ brave challenge.
Scott thought that the final margin could have been a lot greater.
“It was a bit disappointing – we had a lot of Geelong fans here, and we could have put on a more exciting spectacle,” Scott said.
“Gryan [Miers] settled things down a bit with his goals, but everyone needs to be a bit more clinical with their finishing.
“If we converted better, I’d be happier with how we played,” Scott added.
The ebb and flow of the match started early.
After surrendering an early goal to North Melbourne’s Jack Mahony inside the game’s first 20 seconds, Geelong then got on the attack, and translated their early edge in possession from inside-50’s into goals.
Hawkins was quick to reply to Mahony’s opener within a couple of minutes, with an inside-out dribble-kick maiden goal to Zach Guthrie and Miers’ first two goals either side of North’s Lachlan Hosie kicking his first AFL goal to stake the Cats to a 14-point lead.
However, the Cats’ nerves in defense were exposed in the final minute ahead of the first break. Jack Henry brought Hosie down with a high swipe, and North’s first-gamer promptly converted for his second goal of the term to take the quarter-time margin down to a mere seven points.
Hosie’s goals were useful to the Kangaroos, whose key forward Ben Brown missed most of the opening term with a twisted left knee in a tangle with the Cats’ Mark Bliclavs, thus ruling the mercurial Brown out for the remainder of the match.
Geelong maintained their dominance in possession with handballs equally up the corridor and down the flanks throughout the term, ensuring that North’s attempts to attack during the second term would be quite limited, especially without Brown’s influence and lacking the personnel suited to collect balls at ground level inside 50.
Miers would proceed to rip the opening goal of the second term, and thereby adding to his “assassin” reputation with his third goal of the match, this one from a set shot for the Cats to reclaim their double-digit advantage.
Hawkins, oftentimes too unselfish for his and the Cats’ own good, squandered a host of shots at goal for himself only to lay off to teammates who would then miss left or right. Hawkins would also have a shot after the siren for himself, only to spray the attempt wide left, to leave the Cats with a 1.6 form for the second term to a mere behind for North.
Even with all the profligate misses, the Cats went into the main break with a three-goal cushion, with all signs that their dominance was bound to continue.
With Rhys Stanley – playing for the first time since Round 3 due to recovery from a medial ligament strain – enjoying a near-even share of hit-outs in the ruck against Todd Goldstein and North making its ground-level game a bit of an adventure, Geelong took advantage with their attacking play. Miers opened the term with his fourth and final goal without a miss, with Sam Simpson and Hawkins followed suit with goals to continue the Cats’ onslaught.
As the Cats enjoyed a 37-point superiority at this point, North adapted its game to employ a more direct high-marking approach. Josh Walker and Jy Simpkin would be the goal-kicking beneficiaries, to cut the margin to 25 points, until Geelong edged themselves to a 27-point advantage at three-quarter time.
The final term would be a wild ride, with the teams swapping goals.
North continued their momentum swing with more running and direct play as Bailey Scott kicked the opening goal of the final term. But Hawkins – with his fourth set shot from the right-hand forward pocket on the evening – restored the Cats’ margin from the previous break with a curling effort through the big sticks with 12 minutes to play.
However, North wouldn’t quit, and Daw replied to Hawkins’ goal from a set shot two minutes later. The back-and-forth show of goal-kicking continued when Geelong’s Zach Guthrie got his second major of the evening, patiently converting from a set shot, and then North’s Aaron Hall slotting a goal from the half-forward pocket to narrow the gap to 22 points.
Jared Polec bucked the quarter’s trend by kicking North’s second in a row – and suddenly, with five minutes to play, Geelong’s advantage had dwindled to 15 points.
However, three rapid Geelong goals in a row put the result beyond doubt – a piece of Patrick Dangerfield magic got a quick clearance inside attacking 50 with Mitch Duncan bending a right-footed kick for the first goal, then Sam Menegola converted from a set-shot strike.
Quickly after Menegola’s goal, Stanley fired the exclamation point for the night, converting from a long Dangerfield kick to go with his 19 hit-outs in winning his ruck battles against Goldstein.
And likely quelled Scott’s nerves in the process, before the Cats’ next match in a blockbuster against St Kilda on Monday.