Geelong coach Mark Thompson says his AFL side will forever believe anything is possible after their extraordinary comeback win over Hawthorn at the MCG on Saturday.
The Cats stormed back from 28 points down early in the last quarter and won by one point after Jimmy Bartel kicked a behind after the final siren to break the deadlock and Hawthorn hearts.
Bartel marked with a few seconds remaining 30 metres out, on a tight angle, and did enough for Geelong to win 15.9 (99) to 14.14 (98) before a stunned crowd of 64,803.
The defeat dealt Hawthorn’s finals aspirations a shattering blow, as the reigning premiers are still 10th with a tough run over the last five rounds.
But Thompson said the miracle could have lasting effects, by shaking off any pre-finals funk and proving no hurdle is insurmountable.
“I gave them a bit of a compliment, a big tick,” Thompson said.
“We were down and out at half time and I asked for a fair bit.
“I said to them (after the game) ‘When a coach sits there and says anything can happen in a game of footy, I think now you’ll believe it.’
“To be 22 points down (at three-quarter time) and have two of your key defenders out, to get up and win is an extraordinary effort.
“They’ll know exactly what that means for the rest of their lives.”
If avenging defeat in last year’s grand final wasn’t sweet enough, Geelong did so with key defenders Matthew Scarlett and Harry Taylor both gone after half-time through groin injuries.
They had both spent time on Hawk forward Lance Franklin, who had four of his five goals by half-time.
But Geelong’s Andrew Mackie did a good job on Franklin after half-time, Tom Lonergan kept Jarryd Roughead quiet, and Cats midfielders Joel Selwood (42 disposals), Gary Ablett (33) and Joel Corey (27) led the late charge.
Corey kicked a goal in the last quarter, set up two others and got the quick kick to Bartel from the last throw-in.
That all came after Brent Guerra put Hawthorn 28 points up in the third minute of the last quarter.
But the Hawks managed just four more behinds to Geelong’s 5.3.
Thompson said Geelong’s win had the potential to provide a kick-a-long after a flat few weeks.
“There were patches of the second quarter I thought we just played disgusting,” he said.
“That’s what makes it a little bit special, to know that if it’s not your best day to … still believe you can win says a lot about the group.
“It might just get us really excited about the rest of this year.”
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson tried to look at the positives, but rued missed opportunities to put the result beyond doubt.
“Playing a good side they’re always going to come at you, but we didn’t take our chances in the last quarter as much as we could have and (did not) move the ball as quickly as we did in the first three quarters,” he said.
“We were really pleased with the way we played through the course of the day and let it slip in the last 10 minutes of the game.”
Clarkson would not speculate on Hawthorn’s finals chances, other than focus on a next Sunday’s must-win clash against Port Adelaide.
Campbell Brown, Franklin and Sam Mitchell were Hawthorn’s best, but they lacked Luke Hodge’s spark, as he was kept to 11 touches by Geelong tagger Cameron Ling.