For a moment there in the draft, I looked at Geelong’s haul of young talent and almost reconsidered my guess that Geelong will struggle this year.
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Gary Ablett wound back the clock on Saturday at the AFL venue where he regularly produced command performances earlier in his career, inspiring Geelong to a 37-point victory over North Melbourne.
The Cats and the Kangaroos entered the round-12 encounter at GMHBA Stadium with identical 7-4 win-loss records but it was Chris Scott’s outfit who looked a class above for much of the day.
Tom Hawkins was the dominant forward on the ground, with 23 disposals, 11 marks and three goals in the 14.12 (96) to 8.11 (59) victory.
But the biggest roar of the day was reserved for Ablett, who iced the game with a fine running goal in the final quarter.
Ablett had battled injury and form issues in the opening couple of months of his second stint at Geelong after a seven-year sabbatical on the Gold Coast.
The 34-year-old turned that around with a best-on-ground performance last weekend away to the Suns and backed it up on Saturday with another excellent display, finishing with a match-high 34 possessions, eight tackles and a goal.
“He’s not an all-or-nothing player around the ball,” said Scott.
“Because he is inside and is quite strong, especially with his centre of gravity over the ball, his ability to dispossess the opposition is pretty good.
“… I think he still has got improvement in him now, from where he is at the moment.
“I’m not suggesting he can play his best footy because there might not be many who have played better footy than him in his prime
“But I think it is just a logical progression given where he has been with his body and his preparation and adjusting to life with new teammates.”
With Coleman Medal pacesetter Ben Brown held scoreless by Mark Blicavs and fellow key forward Jarrad Waite missing a second-straight match with a calf strain, the Kangaroos clearly lacked a cutting edge in attack.
The visitors could only manage one goal in each of the first two quarters to trail by 25 points at the long break.
Gun midfielder Ben Cunnington stepped up after a quiet first half as the Kangaroos came back into the contest in the third quarter, cutting the margin to 18 points.
Midway through the third term, Geelong lost makeshift defender Aaron Black to a knee injury.
Ruckman Todd Goldstein’s goal to open the final term got the Kangaroos within 10 points but that was the signal for the Cats to up the ante, kicking the next five majors to seal victory.
Their next challenge is an even bigger one – trying to snap reigning premiers Richmond’s unbeaten 15-match MCG winning streak on Sunday week.
“I read that it is impossible to beat Richmond at the MCG so we are going to have our work cut out,” said Scott half-jokingly.
“I’m not sure, we will see.
“We will be going in giving ourselves a chance.
“They have been formidable there – people aren’t just making that up.”
The Kangaroos have the bye in round 13.