The scoreboard showed displayed a 52-point win for Geelong over the Gold Coast Suns, but those at the match can attest that the Cats’ victory was anything but the cakewalk that the margin suggests.
Scores were level at quarter and three-quarter time, and mid-way through the third quarter the Suns enjoyed a 12-point lead.
The Cats were again well beaten around the clearances, which ended 45 to 33 in Gold Coast’s favour. The Suns were left to rue their inaccurate kicking in the second quarter, during which they had a number of chances to open a big lead but only managed 1.6.
Brandon Matera was the chief culprit, missing a couple of easy shots on the run, although he made up for it by gathering 18 touches in the first half. However, Matera had to be subbed out of the contest early in the third quarter after failing to recover from an ankle injury that he suffered shortly before half-time.
In his first game at Simonds Stadium in a Gold Coast jumper, Gary Ablett was booed a few times early on by his former home crowd and also had a couple of run-ins with former teammate Steve Johnson. But the Suns’ skipper produced many moments of magic, none better than the extraordinary goal he booted from 45m out, up against the boundary line in the right pocket, midway through the last quarter. The goal was so good that it triggered a standing ovation from a large portion of the Geelong faithful. The Suns captain finished with 34 touches, six tackles and two goals.
Suns’ tough man led his side’s scoring with three goals, while Dion Prestia (29 disposals, 12 tackles) and youngster Jaeger O’Meara (23 possessions, 8 clearances) continue to build on impressive seasons.
The Rory Thompson-Tom Hawkins battle was one of intrigue with the young Suns’ defender arguably taking the points, keeping Hawkins to just two goals, four marks and nine possessions.
Highly-touted big man Nathan Vardy enjoyed an outstanding return to elite footy, booting four goals in his first AFL game since last year’s elimination final loss to Fremantle.
Ruckman Mark Blicavs was among Geelong’s other key contributors while Mitch Duncan, Steve Johnson and James Kelly. James Bartel in greasy conditions gathered 30 possessions and three goals in an arguably three-Brownlow-vote performance.
Coach Guy McKenna coached the team two years ago when it lost to Geelong at Simonds Stadium by 150 points. He said there were two main areas the fledgling outfit had improved since that whacking. ‘Execution and ability to stay stronger over the football’, said McKenna said. ‘The boys are growing up. They’re maturing before our eyes.’
McKenna said the team spoke about what went wrong in the last quarter when Gold Coast conceded nine goals. ‘Geelong went to another level’, he said. ‘They proved to us again where we need to get to. Again, a great learning curve. I could not fault their effort. They were super – moved the ball really well and, to be honest, even at half-time and three-quarter time we probably should have had our noses in front.
‘We missed some gettable goals that the boys have kicked before, but, again, you can’t fault their effort.’
Gold Coast will be aiming to get back on the winners’ list when it hosts North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium next Saturday night.
GEELONG 3.2 6.6 9.10 18.15. (123)
GOLD COAST SUNS 3.2 4.8 9.10 10.11. (71)
GCS GOALS: Brown 3, Ablett 2, Rischitelli, Lynch, O’Meara, Russell, Harbrow,
GCS BEST: O’Meara, Ablett, Thompson, Prestia, McKenzie