Finally, a fast finals start as Cats prey on Eagles
LEADERSHIP comes in many forms. At Geelong it usually comes in one way in particular … his name is Joel Selwood.
The Cats skipper has been there and done this before, led his team to an impressive victory, but rarely have the stakes been this high.
His club had been under siege after another finals flop, his own worth had been widely questioned and they were playing the reigning premiers in a do-or-die final.
Selwood had heard the whispers.
His body had finally hit the wall after 293 games and he was no longer the main man in his own team let alone still one of the best midfielders in the competition.
Selwood gave the football world the middle finger.
He was simply brilliant from the opening minute of the semi-final and proceeded to carry his team on his back into another preliminary final.
As usual he finished the game with blood seeping from a cut eye and a bandage around his head.
Geelong's ultimate warrior finished with 26 possession which included 11 marks, four tackles, three clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal.
There were a couple of other senior players who followed Selwood's leadership blueprint.
Patrick Dangerfield has had bigger nights on the stats sheet but his marking at crucial moments in the last quarter was simply inspiring.
The other was Tom Hawkins who faces an anxious wait after an incident in the third quarter where his swinging arm decked Eagles defender Will Schofield behind play.
He stood up when his team needed him. No goals for the past three weeks, Hawkins kicked four for the night including two in an absorbing final term.
After leading by as much as 31 points early in the game, Geelong found themselves four points down at the start of the final quarter.
The Cats defence is called the misfits and they take pride in being rated No.1 in the competition.
When the game was on the line, they completely shut-out the Eagles keeping them to just one point in the last 30 minutes of the game.
Tom Stewart took little notice of West Coast's tagging attempt from Mark Hutchings, collecting 24 possessions and 11 marks.
Irishman Zach Tuohy had the ball 27 times - the second most of any Cat - while his countryman Mark O'Connor put Jamie Cripps, who was best-on-ground last week, to the sword.
Harry Taylor kept Josh Kennedy to one goal while Jed Bews had an intriguing battle with Liam Ryan before wandering forward in the last quarter to kick a crucial goal.
MOVING MARK AGAIN
Mark Blicavs was at the centre of a tsunami of criticism levelled at Chris Scott last week.
The move of the regular fullback into the ruck to replace Rhys Stanley who was a late withdrawal sent Cats fans into a meltdown.
Well, Scott is certainly a stubborn coach because he again tinkered with Blicavs, this time starting him on a wing.
The move was inspired early with the athletic big man torching Chris Masten and having a profound influence all over the ground.
But there's a reason why Adam Simpson is a premiership coach, he switched Andrew Gaff to Blicavs in the second term.
At halftime he was the Eagles leading possession getter and then he sparked them in the third quarter with two goals in as many minutes.
Gaff finished with 30 touches but Blicavs had some crucial moments late in the game which more than balanced the ledger.
The start of this game was always going to be all about the Cats.
After last week's debacle continued the theme of poor starts in finals, they needed to respond which they did with interest.
Hawkins' goal drought ended inside the opening two minutes.
The Cats kicked the first three goals and then the last two of the term through Esava Ratugolea, another who was unsighted last week.
A 25-point lead at quarter time was impressive, particularly given seven days earlier they didn't kick their fifth goal until midway through the third quarter.
GEELONG 5.2 7.3 9.9 13.10 (88)
WEST COAST 1.1 5.5 10.7 10.8 (68)
Cats: Hawkins 4, Ratugolea 3, Kelly 2, Atkins, Selwood, Bews, Dahlhaus
Eagles: Darling 3, Gaff 2, Petruccelle, Ryan, Hickey, Masten, Kennedy
SCOTT GULLAN'S BEST
Cats: Selwood, Guthrie, Dangerfield, Stewart, Hawkins, Tuohy, Atkins
Eagles: Gaff, Hurn, Yeo, Shuey, Darling, Naitanui
SCOTT GULLAN'S VOTES
3 - Joel Selwood (Geelong)
Look up leadership in the dictionary and there is a picture of the Cats skipper. 26 touches, one goal and lots of blood spilt
2 - Cameron Guthrie (Geelong)
Missed last week and showed why that was a bigger loss than people thought. Led Geelong with 33 possessions, 12 of those contested with five tackles and eight clearances.
1 - Andrew Gaff (West Coast)
Owned the third quarter with two goals in as many minutes sparking the Eagles. Led his team with 30 disposals and was clearly his team's most consistent performer.
Umpires: Stephens, Nicholls, Meredith
Official crowd: 51,813 at the MCG