Geelong proved too good for the Lions at GMHBA Stadium.
Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Geelong proved too good for the Lions at GMHBA Stadium. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Hawkins’ super seven heats up Coleman race

COMING into the season the focus was solely on the big three at Geelong.

That was understandable with the recruitment of Gary Ablett, but the reality for the Cats was they had some missing links when it came to any premiership discussion.

We know beating the 16th-placed team on a sunny July day at home by seven goals isn't exactly a declaration of pending domination.

But there were some significant contributions against Brisbane on Saturday that might become a lot more important in two months' time.

Rhys Stanley was brilliant against the best ruckman in the game, Max Gawn, last week, but given his inconsistent history Cats fans were rightfully holding their breath about his follow-up game.

Well, it's official the former Saint is in career-best form after he gave Stefan Martin a nice touch-up.

Stanley's athleticism has always been his asset and when his confidence is up, he effectively becomes another midfielder.

He had eight clearances against the Lions, the equal highest for the game with Gary Ablett.

The second tall forward has been a missing piece of the jigsaw for Geelong coach Chris Scott.

Rhys Stanley of the Cats takes on Stefan Martin. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Rhys Stanley of the Cats takes on Stefan Martin. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

He thought he'd struck gold with the stunning start to the season by Esava Ratugolea, but when he broke his leg in round 10 the search continued.

Veteran Harry Taylor made a couple of appearances before injury also got him and then last week youngster Jack Henry was given the gig.

Henry had been a revelation as a tall defender but with the return of regular full-back Lachie Henderson he was in danger of being squeezed out.

After showing glimpses against Melbourne, Henry improved on that against the Lions, kicking three goals to look more than comfortable alongside Tom Hawkins and Daniel Menzel.

You'd still call it a work in progress but it's something that wouldn't have been on Scott's radar at the start of the season.

Henderson wasn't in the conversation back in April either because of a knee injury that wouldn't go away.

The rust that was there against the Demons was gone with the former Blue slotting in nicely alongside Mark Blicavs, and the pair keeping Oscar McInerney and Eric Hipwood to just one goal.

Tom Hawkins booted seven goals to close the gap in the Coleman Medal race. Picture: Julian Smith/AAP
Tom Hawkins booted seven goals to close the gap in the Coleman Medal race. Picture: Julian Smith/AAP

While finding role players is crucial given the high benchmark Richmond has set in that department, having your best players in peak form is more important.

Geelong has two candidates here.

Hawkins is in rarefied air at the moment. The heroics against Melbourne - who can forget that four-goal last quarter - was followed with another bag of seven goals against the Lions.

Poor old Harris Andrews didn't pick a good week to make his return from a serious concussion because he was lost against the strength and mobility of a red-hot Tomahawk.

The bag of seven moved Hawkins to second in the Coleman Medal race on 48 goals, just four behind North Melbourne's Ben Brown.

And then there's Ablett.

While his numbers have been more than serviceable in the first half of the season, his impact is now catching up with those numbers.

Gary Ablet racked up 38 disposals. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Gary Ablet racked up 38 disposals. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

The two-time Brownlow medallist started on the bench against the Lions but when the siren rang at quarter-time he was the highest possession winner on the ground and the most influential.

Ablett finished with 38 disposals - which included 16 contested possessions and eight clearances - and was part of a midfield that dominated the second half of the game.

The Lions hung around early through some nice ball movement and Daniel McStay offering a target with two first-half goals.

But when Hawkins flicked the switch at the start of the third quarter with two goals in as many minutes, the notion this was a danger game disappeared quickly.

Dayne Beams led the Lions with 37 possessions but a lot of his mates were overwhelmed by the class of the Cats.

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan knows he has many missing parts at the moment but the big picture looks a lot more positive than it ever has.

The same can be said for Scot,t who finally may have more answers than questions.

GEELONG 2.4 7.6 11.11 18.12 (120)

BRISBANE 2.4 5.7 7.10 11.12 (78)

GOALS

Cats: Hawkins 7, Henry 3, Menzel 3, S.Selwood 2, Parfitt, C.Guthrie, Menegola

Lions: McStay 2, Beams, Zorko, Rayner, Robertson, Taylor, Christensen, Hipwood, Robinson, Barrett

BEST

Cats: Hawkins, Ablett, Stanley, Dangerfield, Duncan, Parfitt, Henderson

Lions: Beams, Zorko, Taylor, Robinson, McStay, Gardiner

INJURIES

Cats: Stewart (ankle). Lions: Nil

Reports: Nil. Umpires: Deboy, McInerney, Mollison

Official crowd: 28,226 at GMHBA Stadium

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