Inspired yet again by skipper Joel Selwood, Geelong have overrun Sydney to record a vital 32-point AFL victory in a match also notable for a respectful return to action for Adam Goodes.
A partisan Saturday night crowd at Simonds Stadium got to enjoy a virtuoso display from Selwood, who had a trademark 20 contested possessions – three more than any other player on the ground – as he became the youngest-ever Cat to reach the 200-game milestone.
With a few isolated exceptions, the capacity crowd also did themselves credit by not booing Goodes.
The dual Brownlow medallist returned to action, having sat out last weekend’s victory over Adelaide after being worn down by relentless booing from opposition fans which he believed was racially motivated.
With speedster Lewis Jetta running riot, the Swans had the better of the first half and could well have led by more than 13 points at the long break.
But the second half was very much one-way traffic, with the Cats banging on eight goals to one to record a 14.11 (95) to 9.9 (63) victory and move back into the top eight.
The Swans paid a heavy price for the loss, ceding their spot in the top four to the Western Bulldogs, who smashed Port Adelaide by 64 points earlier in the day.
After struggling early on against Sydney fullback Ted Richards, Cats spearhead Tom Hawkins ended the match with a game-high four goals – including two early in the final term, both laid on by Selwood.
To make matters worse for Richards, he was reported in the third quarter for a high bump on Hawkins which left the big Cat dazed.
In Selwood, Cam Guthrie, Josh Caddy and Steven Motlop the Cats had most of the best midfielders on the ground.
Sydney’s best players included Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Jetta.
Goodes ended the night with 12 possessions, six marks, three tackles and a goal.
His best moment came late in the first quarter when he swooped onto a loose ball and snapped a clever goal over his left shoulder.
With the crowd chanting his name, Selwood was chaired from the ground by longstanding teammates Hawkins and Harry Taylor.
“(The milestone) means a fair bit,” Selwood told Fox Sports.
“I grew up barracking for the club, I love the club, I’ve always loved the club.”
Geelong coach Chris Scott paid tribute to Selwood, who he said was extra keen to make amends after playing poorly in his previous match against the Swans.
“I think that stung a little bit,” said Scott.
“He was keen to come out and do it against good opposition.
“The thing we love about the best players in the comp, they stand up against the best teams when it really matters.”
Sydney coach John Longmire lamented a rare shellacking for the Sydney midfield.
“They kicked 7.6 from stoppages and we kicked four points,” he said.
“Their midfield absolutely dominated our midfield probably for most of the game but particularly after halftime.”
Longmire admitted Goodes was far from his best, while noting he was far from alone.
“He didn’t play a very good game but I’m not going to single him out because he had plenty of mates,” said Longmire.
“We didn’t have many players play very good games tonight.”