Sport AFL AFL: Cats back their coach and get flag hopes back on track
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AFL: Cats back their coach and get flag hopes back on track

That preliminary final feeling: Geelong players celebrate their win over the Eagles. Photo: Getty
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Geelong has won through to a preliminary final after a 20-point win over the West Coast Eagles, but key forward Tom Hawkins has a nervous wait to find out if he’ll be playing.

Hawkins, who helped set up Geelong’s win with four goals, was involved in an off-the-ball incident in the third quarter when he hit Will Schofield with a swinging arm.

It will be assessed by the Match Review Panel, with suspension a distinct possibility.

Just 48 hours after learning of star forward Willie Rioli’s bombshell provisional suspension for allegedly substituting a urine anti-doping sample, West Coast looked flat early but worked their way back into the contest.

The Cats will now face Richmond for a spot in the grand final.

Patrick Dangerfield told Channel Seven the Cats knew they had to come out hard against West Coast to make the most of their do-or-die opportunity to keep their flag hopes alive.

Asked if the players were defensive for coach Chris Scott, who copped criticism for the Cats first week loss against Collingwood, Dangerfield agreed.

“Yeah, very defensive. Because we played some great footy this year,” he told Channel Seven after the match. ”

We played a poor game last week, we didn’t execute. We knew if we did, that we would give ourselves a chance.

“The way that we started tonight’s game was a testament to that, and to fight back against West Coast who is an amazing side.”

Hawkins also said the Cats had been tested, but come through the pressure of a cut throat final.

“We were tested … We were under a fair bit of pressure externally. But internally we knew this group was good enough. It is a new team. It’s a new make-up. We want to push forward and make it our own.”

Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui told Channel Seven after the match that the incident involving Willie Rioli’s drug test, which broke in the 24 hours before the game, had not been a factor in the loss.

“It was tough and Willie was distraught and he has gone home,” Naitanui said.

“The incident is what it is … the group has fought on and moved on in the last 24 hours.

“[Geelong] will be a tough side to beat … We will watch vision tomorrow and reflect. We fell short in the end.”

Recalled midfielder Cam Guthrie was outstanding for the Cats with 33 disposals while skipper Joel Selwood – playing in a club record 29th final – wound back the clock with a dominant first half and finished with 26 touches and a goal.

Importantly, the Cats also have the monkey off their back after avoiding becoming the first minor premiers in 36 years to bow out of the finals in straight sets.

Tom Hawkins kicked four goals for Geelong. Photo: Getty

Scott’s team had gone into the match having won just three of their past 13 finals and with Scott under pressure for his decision-making.

Hawkins booted the Cats’ first major, and another dropped mark – this time by the normally ultra-reliable Jeremy McGovern – led to Tom Atkins kicking their second.

First-year player Atkins was also responsible for another demoralising moment for the Eagles when he ran down a completely unwitting Chris Masten to take back possession, while Esava Ratugolea booted back-to-back goals.

West Coast looked down for the count before Liam Ryan, who went without a touch in the first term, unleashed a long-range set shot quickly followed by goals to Darling and Masten.

Eagles wingman Andrew Gaff stood tall in the third term with back-to-back goals and when Tom Hickey converted from a 50-metre penalty against Geelong opponent Sam Menegola, the Eagles had booted seven of the last eight majors.

But Selwood answered back from a set shot and the Cats carried the momentum into a dominant final term.

-AAP

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