North kept pressing, even well into the final term. Brown, however, summed up their day when he fumbled as he tried to gather while running into an open goal. He attempted to salvage the situation, but a toe poke also came up short.
This match was full of Geelong highlights. Gary Ablett will be in the headlines again for an errant elbow to the head of Sam Wright in the second term. He was also booed relentlessly by North fans, although Geelong supporters often drowned out the jeers with cheers.
Moreover, he showed his eternal excellence, tellingly outmarking Sam Durdin during the first quarter before marking and goaling from the pocket early in the second. His piece de resistance came in the dying stages, a dribbled beauty from the opposite pocket at the Coventry end to seal the deal. He kicked his fourth goal a minute later, making sure North’s Kayne Turner knew all about it. Twenty-five years on, the Roos are still being tormented by Gary Ablett.
The little master’s showing almost upstaged a devilishly good game from Tim Kelly, whose performance was underscored by two sublime finishes. First-year Cat Jordan Clark also goaled on the run from the centre square. Twice!
Tom Stewart spent time off the ground after a third-term head clash, a period which unsurprisingly coincided with North getting back into the game. Gary Rohan was meanwhile concussed later in the quarter. But even with those setbacks, Geelong had enough in the tank.
Are you in or not?
Geelong have become the kings of the late change in recent years, but their effort on Sunday took things to a new level. There had been concerns about Patrick Dangerfield’s knee during the week, but he was named on both Thursday and Friday, and duly took his place in the Cats’ side.
Then there had been eyebrows raised on Friday when the Cats named skipper Joel Selwood as an emergency, with the veteran having missed last weekend’s win over Essendon due to soreness. It shocked no one when news came through on Sunday that Selwood would be a late inclusion for Sam Menegola.
However, Selwood’s presence in the Geelong lineup proved to be short-lived. Around half an hour after he was included, the skipper was promptly withdrawn because of soreness, replaced by emergency Charlie Constable.
North were themselves busy on the late change front. Key defender Scott Thompson was removed from the selected side on Saturday because of an adductor injury sustained in last week’s win over Carlton. He was replaced by Curtis Taylor for what was the youngster’s first game.
Then on Sunday, North had to make another amendment, with backman Marley Williams withdrawn for personal reasons, replaced by Durdin, the latter playing his first senior game in almost a year. There were still issues seconds away from the bounce, with Mason Wood making his way to the bench at the last moment, replaced in North’s forward 50 by Taylor Garner in strange scenes.
GEELONG 3.0 8.3 14.6 16.8 (104)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.5 4.8 9.8 11.14 (80)
Goals: Geelong: G Ablett 4 T Hawkins 4 J Clark 2 T Kelly 2 G Miers G Rohan L Dahlhaus P Dangerfield. North Melbourne: B Brown 5 C Zurhaar J Polec M Wood N Larkey S Higgins T Thomas.
Best: Geelong: Kelly, Hawkins, Duncan, Ablett, Clark, Stewart, Constable. North Melbourne: Higgins, Brown, Cunnington, Dumont, Atley.
Official Crowd: 21,156 at Marvel Stadium.
T. Kelly (Geelong) 8
T. Hawkins (Geelong) 7
M. Duncan (Geelong) 7
G. Ablett (Geelong) 7
S. Higgins (North Melbourne) 7