Geelong have overcome the late withdrawal of Patrick Dangerfield to take a step closer to the AFL minor premiership with a 45-point belting of St Kilda.
Dangerfield sat out after feeling tightness in his troublesome right calf during the warm-up, having been sidelined for six matches earlier in the season with similar issues.
But the Cats still proved too powerful for the Saints, kicking clear after halftime to post a commanding 17.8 (110) to 10.5 (65) victory at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.
The result extended Geelong’s winning streak to 11 matches – keeping them four points clear on top of the ladder – and was a huge blow to St Kilda (11-9), who have now slipped out of the top eight.
The Saints also lost injury-plagued veteran Dan Hannebery to an ankle issue in what was only his second game of the season after repeated soft tissue setbacks.
Tom Hawkins and Isaac Smith kicked three goals each for Geelong as Sam De Koning held St Kilda spearhead Max King to one goal from eight disposals in a battle of the young key position stars at the other end.
Brandan Parfitt (25 disposals), Max Holmes (24), Sam Menegola (25) and ruckman Rhys Stanley were also important for Geelong.
As well as Dangerfield, Mark Blicavs (managed) and Jon Ceglar (medi-sub) were late withdrawals, with Zach Tuohy, Luke Dahlhaus and Menegola all recalled.
The Cats reversed the result from their last meeting with St Kilda – which was their most recent loss – back in round nine.
“We were challenged through the early period of the game … and I thought at times we were better prepared to handle those situations (than in the previous meeting),” Geelong coach Chris Scott said.
“We had a bit of uncertainty during the week and that continued with Dangerfield coming out in the warm-up, and those sort of things can throw teams, and coaching groups for that matter.
“It was another example where curve balls have been thrown our way and we’ve been able to maintain our composure.”
Brad Crouch (28 disposals), Mason Wood (20) and Jack Steele (20, seven clearances) fought against the tide for St Kilda and defender Callum Wilkie did well on Jeremy Cameron but the visitors had too few contributors.
Geelong led by just four points in the shadows of halftime and pulled away with four unanswered goals during the third quarter, when their superior efficiency in attack told the story.
It was party time for the Cats as they rattled off nine consecutive majors before Jack Higgins broke the Saints’ drought late in the final term.
“Skill execution really let us down because we had some good looks but we weren’t good enough tonight,” St Kilda coach Brett Ratten said.
“We didn’t even give ourselves a chance to be in the contest or stay a little bit closer to them to maybe challenge them at one point.
“At times it was actually hard to watch.”
Higgins and Tim Membrey finished with two goals each for St Kilda, who have now lost on 11 consecutive trips to Geelong’s Kardinia Park, their most recent win coming in 1999.