Today’s final AFL game of round two was the best thus far from a young 2012 season and saw the Geelong Cats complete an epic fourth quarter comeback over Hawthorn in front of nearly 70,000 spectators at the MCG.
Conditions for the Easter Monday weren’t the greatest, heavy rain made the ground and the ball slippery, but that didn’t stop Stevie Johnson kicking two of the game’s first three goals for the Cats.
Playing his first game in 2012 after returning from a painful Achilles injury was Jarred Roughead and he contributed an early goal while spending the majority of the game playing as a big down back.
No team managed to find a way to control the first quarter. Both sides traded goals and couldn’t gain an obvious advantage in the midfield. Tom Hawkins kicked another for the Geelong, splitting a pair of goals by Buddy Franklin.
Lewis opened the second quarter with a goal and put the Hawks in front, but Geelong retook the lead when Hawkins outmuscled his opponent to mark not far from goal.
Geelong dominated the first half of quarter number two but failed to capitalize as their defense forced Hawthorn into numerous turnovers.
Franklin continued his good run with the umpires and milked another free kick while going for a mark however, his poor kicking continued and he missed an easy opportunity. In the end it didn’t matter, captain Sam Mitchell created a goal from nothing, breaking a pack and flinging the ball onto his boot in heavy traffic.
Second-gamer Billie Smedts responded with a hopeful goal that bounced over a few defenders to put the Hawks up eight.
The Geelong lead quickly vanished soon after. Whitecross kicked a couple, including one brilliant goal where he broke a pack from a boundary throw in. The Hawks were suddenly up 10 to finish the second.
Hawthorn got two more early goals to begin the third quarter, the second by Hale was their fifth straight and it seemed as if the Hawks were going to run away with the game.
Hawkins kicked his third and reduced the damage and another to Johnson, his third as well, brought them back within seven points.
Selwood marked inside 50 and rather than trying from 50 himself, he fed Bartel at a closer distance. Bartel’s goal was Geelong’s third in four minutes, turning the tide briefly in the Cats favour.
Rioli, who had been unusually quiet, kicked one for the Hawks and the momentum swung once more. When the Cats attempted to kick the ball out of their defensive end shortly after, Rioli intercept the ball and handballed it off to Suckling as he fell to the ground. Suckling made no mistake as he smashed through a goal from beyond 50.
Bateman kicked one in the direction of Franklin who, while fumbling the mark, had teammate Whitecross steal it from his clutches and kick an open goal, giving Hawthorn a 85-68 advantage heading into the final term.
But Geelong totally dominated the final quarter. Guthrie found Bartel who converted the set shot for the Cats.
Franklin and Roughead had their chances to return the favour but both opted to dribble shots at goal that missed their target.
Podsiadly kicked his third after marking with just one hand on the goal line and down the other end Mackie saved a certain Hawks major when he laid a perfect tackle on Osborne in the square.
The Cats moved closer to the lead when Christensen was awarded a downfield free taken by Podsiadly who nailed the set shot, bringing the Cats within three.
Podsiadly kicked his third of the quarter 30 seconds later when he ran into an open goal and in the process gave Geelong their first lead in 58 minutes.
Franklin had a late chance to kick a game-saving goal but opted to go with another dribble attempt that didn’t register a score.
The Cats held on despite Hawthorn having a couple of last minute chances to win a thriller 14.8 (92) – 13.12 (90)
Hawkins, a candidate for best on ground, kicked 3.2 to go along with 22 possessions and 12 marks, credited the Cats midfield immediately after the game for the team’s success in rough conditions.
Geelong has now recovered from a shock round one loss to Fremantle and the reigning premiers now look to be the team to beat early in 2012.
Podsiadly kicked five goals, Johnson three and Bartel two while Lewis had three for the Hawks and Franklin, Whitecross and Rioli added two each.
Selwood was brilliant in the midfield and received great support from Christensen and Joel Corey. Sam Mitchell was equally important for the Hawks and Whitecross was also good around the ground.