Reports of Geelong’s decline may have been greatly exaggerated.
The Cats defeated Collingwood by 41 points at the MCG on Friday night, the highlight of what had been an unconvincing start to the AFL season.
Last month’s tame losses to Hawthorn, Fremantle and North Melbourne suggested the natural downswing, which Geelong have avoided since winning the 2007 grand final, had finally arrived.
The Cats’ bid for a ninth straight finals berth may yet come unstuck, especially given Collingwood reduced a 60-point buffer to 23 points in a tale of two halves.
But their best should trouble plenty of sides based on the 15.10 (100) to 8.11 (59) triumph.
The visitors blitzed Collingwood in the first half, playing on at almost every opportunity and cranking up the pressure when they didn’t have the ball.
They moved the Sherrin promptly with pinpoint passes, while their conversion in front of the posts was an impressive 11.4 at halftime.
At times it resembled a training drill.
The tone was set in the opening ten minutes, when Geelong poured on five goals and Collingwood managed a rushed behind.
Power forward Tom Hawkins, the man who turned the 2011 grand final between the two sides, was at the forefront of it.
Hawkins had a hand in the first four goals of the game – manhandling opponent Jack Frost and palming off would-be tacklers with ease.
Steve Johnson, ineffectual for much of Geelong’s sloppy start to the year, was also lively early.
Nathan Brown did well to curb Hawkins’ influence when he was switched on to the 26-year-old, who finished with one goal.
Mitch Duncan, Mark Blicavs and Josh Caddy were impressive in the middle for Geelong, while Corey Enright laid a game-high 11 tackles.
The Magpies showed more fight after halftime.
The hosts booted five consecutive goals, but their hopes of a miraculous victory ended when Nakia Cockatoo snapped truly in the final term for his first ever AFL goal.
Collingwood’s confidence, sky high after banking three wins on the trot and grabbing second spot on the ladder, was sapped in the opening half.
Skipper Scott Pendlebury was one of a handful of Magpies to look sure in the opening stanza and fittingly it was his goal that started their comeback.
Cats defenders Harry Taylor and Jared Rivers benefited from slapdash kicks into their territory early, while 150-gamer Tom Lonergan restricted Collingwood spearhead Travis Cloke to two goals.
Aside from the second-half fadeout, the only concern for the Cats was a hamstring injury to Josh Cowan.
Cowan, returning after 1384 days on the sidelines due to a series of serious injuries, was substituted off in the first term due to a hamstring issue.