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Clark boots six as Cats knock off Crows for first NAB Challenge win

Match highlights: Cats v Crows Geelong and Adelaide head to Simonds Stadium in the NAB Challenge
Mitch Clark of the Geelong Cats marks during the 2015 NAB Challenge Week 3 match between the Geelong Cats and the Adelaide Crows at Simonds Stadium, Geelong on March 12, 2015. (Photo: David Callow/AFL Media)
Mitch Clark takes a big mark in the opening quarter

MITCH Clark demonstrated what an asset he might become at Geelong with an outstanding performance against Adelaide in Thursday night's NAB Challenge clash at Simonds Stadium.

He set the Cats alight with three goals in the opening quarter and then steadied the ship with two goals late in the third quarter as the Crows were closing. 

He put the seal on the performance with his sixth goal late in the last quarter to help Geelong to the 1.12.6 (87) to 0.9.14 (68) victory. 

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The key forward was traded from Melbourne to Geelong after retiring from football midway 2014 when diagnosed with clinical depression. 

After a solid pre-season and a promising opening performance against Gold Coast, he showed his ability taking six marks in the six-goal performance. 

He also spent time in the ruck as the Cats let him loose.

WATCH: Clark's first-quarter hanger

Geelong assistant Nigel Lappin deputised for Chris Scott in the coach’s box and he was delighted with Clark's performance after a quiet debut game against Gold Coast.

"Mitch said himself that he was a little bit nervous last week," Lappin said.

"He hadn't played footy for a fair while so to get that one out of the way ... that will do wonders for his confidence.

"We know Mitch is a really talented player and someone who's going to fit into our system.

"We think the whole mix down there in the forward line complement each other really well."

Clark's performance exposed Adelaide's lack of height in defence, with Tom Hawkins also having a presence up forward.

Crows coach Phil Walsh is on the record as saying that his back six, as well his team's defensive actions across the ground, are a work in progress but he felt there was little his side could do in the face of the Cats' blistering opening term.

"I think Geelong's pressure early was fantastic," Walsh said.

"They won the ground balls convincingly and they had us on the back foot.

"There were some patches in the game where I thought we were good, but overall we just didn't deal with their pressure well enough."

Clark might have a competitor for cult-figure status, with Nakia Cockatoo kicking two goals in the second half and setting the crowd alight with his run and dare.

The Crows were poor before half-time having 66 fewer disposals than the Cats but hit the game with more intensity after the long break. It showed on the scoreboard as they kicked the first four goals of the third term and got numbers around the ball.

Patrick Dangerfield was working hard in the middle and up forward and received support from Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Brad Crouch.

Their effort persisted in the final quarter making the game more of a contest but they were unable to stop Geelong's run through the middle.

The Crows would have been heartened by the performance of several youngsters but disappointed it was not able to match the Cats on the outside with Geelong winning 57 more disposals.

Dangerfield showed his class in the final moments, running into an open goal after turning Billy Smedts inside out in the pocket in front of the premiership stand.

WHAT WE LEARNED
Geelong: 
Geelong has proved close to unbeatable at home since 2007 and things don't look like changing too much in 2015. With eight games at Simonds Stadium, it puts the Cats into finals calculations without doing anything extraordinary. The bonus is that they look better than last year with the addition of Mitch Clark up forward and youngsters Darcy Lang and Nakia Cockatoo promising to push for senior selection. The backline is stable with Tom Lonergan, Corey Enright, Harry Taylor and Andrew Mackie holding the fort and less of a burden being placed on Tom Hawkins. The only consistent downside was their delivery inside 50.

Adelaide: 
With a new coach the Crows will take time to find the synergy that good teams possess. They introduced key players Sam Jacobs, Patrick Dangerfield and David Mackay for their first run. The trio would have benefited from the hit-out and should not be judged on one performance. Once again the lack of height in defence will test the Crows with Daniel Talia carrying a huge amount of responsibility. However they are unlikely to face the tall timber of Geelong for many weeks in the season. An increase in intensity was evident after half-time as the Crows tackled hard and got numbers to the ball. 

NEW FACES

Geelong:
Mitch Clark starred in the first quarter kicking three goals and taking a spectacular mark. He found the touch that was lacking in Townsville and received a rousing cheer when he headed for the bench. Nakia Cockatoo showed dash and even though a propensity to attempt too much with each possession was evident the performance was encouraging. When he kicked a goal after sharking the ball from the ruck in a centre clearance, Cats fans were convinced he was potentially a special player. Former Demon Sam Blease demonstrated his customary run up and down the wing, but his disposal let him down at times. 

Adelaide: 
Poor Kyle Cheney found himself matched up against Mitch Clark at times in the first quarter. It was a familiar role for the undersized defender who often gets asked to play above his weight. Rookie ruckman Reilly O'Brien battled hard against Geelong's experienced tall timber Dawson Simpson and Mark Blicavs. He competed hard but would have learned more in one game than he had for most of his career. 

Patrick Dangerfield dishes off a handball under pressure. Picture: AFL Media

GEELONG      0.4.1    0.8.1     0.10.4    1.12.6  (87)                  
ADELAIDE     0.1.4   0.2.8      0.6.11    0.9.14  (68)           

SUPERGOALS
GEELONG: Cockatoo
ADELAIDE: Nil 

GOALS
GEELONG: Clark 6, Smedts, Hawkins, Caddy, Motlop, Horlin-Smith, Cockatoo
ADELAIDE: Dangerfield 2, Lynch 2, Betts, Sloane, Walker, Martin, Jenkins

BEST 
GEELONG: Clark,Taylor, Duncan, Mackie, Caddy
ADELAIDE: Crouch, Dangerfield, Ellis-Yolmen, B.Smith

INJURIES 
GEELONG: Murdoch (cut head)
ADELAIDE: 

SUBSTITUTES
GEELONG: Cory Gregson replaced James Kelly at half-time, Shane Kersten replaced Corey Enright at half-time.
ADELAIDE: Brodie Martin replaced David Mackay at half-time, Mitch Grigg replaced Charlie Cameron at half-time

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Andrew Stephens, David Harris, Shaun Ryan, Shane McInerney

Official crowd: 8019 at Simonds Stadium

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs