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Hawkins and Clark fire as Cats outclass Blues

Match Highlights: Blues v Cats Carlton and Geelong head to Etihad stadium in the NAB Challenge
Joel Selwood of the Cats is taken high by Chris Judd of the Blues during the 2015 NAB Challenge Week 4 match between the Carlton Blues and the Geelong Cats at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on March 22, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Chris Judd gets to grips with Geelong captain Joel Selwood
GEELONG forwards Tom Hawkins and Mitch Clark have helped fire the Cats to a comfortable 19-point NAB Challenge win over Carlton at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
 
The pairing of Hawkins and Clark is an exciting proposition for the Cats in season 2015 and their fans caught a glimpse of what life might be like with the tandem on song up forward.
 
Hawkins looked dangerous every time he went near the football against the Blues, as the star forward finished the day with a game-high five goals.
 
Clark also chimed in with three majors, with the Cats' Steve Johnson – in his first game of the pre-season – booting a late major to close out the 0.17.9 (111) to 2.10.14 (92) result.


Cats coach Chris Scott said Hawkins and Clark will benefit immeasurably from playing with each other.
 
"We're careful not to get excited too about Mitch Clark, but it's hard based on what we've seen through the pre-season," Scott said.
 
"He's got a lot of minutes in and looked really dangerous at times, but more importantly worked in well with Tom Hawkins and the rest of our forwards."
 
Geelong was strong in the first half, controlling the footy and making the most of its opportunities in front of goal.
 
Young midfielders Mitch Duncan (24 disposals and two goals) and Cameron Guthrie (26 and one goal) threatened to run the Blues off their feet, while captain Joel Selwood was as solid as ever with 28 touches.
 
Geelong booted five goals to the Blues' one (plus Troy Menzel's super goal) in a high-energy first term, before a Tom Hawkins goal early in the second quarter fired the Cats to a commanding 35-point lead.
 
From there it looked as though the Cats could charge away with the contest, but the Blues refused to yield and, on the back of lifting their work rate around the ball, reeled off four goals in a row.
 
One of those majors was a Matthew Watson super goal.

 
Young midfielder Patrick Cripps was superb throughout the game, with the 20-year-old collecting 32 disposals in the best game of his young career.

Blues coach Mick Malthouse said the youngster will have learned plenty from coming up against Selwood.
 
"The more time we put into him, the better he's going to get. Particularly with guidance from guys like Judd, Gibbs and Murphy," Malthouse said.
 
"And then playing against Selwood, who I rate as one of the best players in the comp, and Johnson goes into the middle or Motlop goes into the middle or Guthrie or whoever, it's like a schoolyard he just keeps learning."
 
Old hands Andrew Carrazzo (24) and Chris Judd (18) – who was opposed to Guthrie for much of the contest before being subbed out at three-quarter time – also battled hard for much of the day.
 
The difference between the teams came down to Geelong's ability to exit the ball to the outside of the contest, where Duncan, Guthrie, Steven Motlop and Nakia Cockatoo were damaging.
 
The loss of Chris Yarran, who was a late withdrawal after battling a chest infection in the lead-up to the game, and Kade Simpson did not help the Blues' cause.
 
With Michael Jamison substituted out of the contest in the third quarter, it was left to Sam Rowe and Kristian Jaksch to hold down the fort down back.

 
It proved too difficult, as Hawkins and Clark took it in turns to hit the scoreboard in a highly-entertaining clash on Sunday evening.
 
The Blues now turn their attention to their season-opener against Richmond on Thursday April 2.
 
Geelong, meanwhile, will have to wait until Easter Monday to do battle with arch-rival Hawthorn at the MCG, in what looms as a mouth-watering contest.

Scott said Geelong was far from settled on its preferred make-up against the Hawks, with their ruck set-up also yet to be determined.
 
Big man Hamish McIntosh was superb in a VFL practice match on Saturday, leaving Scott with a selection dilemma with Dawson Simpson, Clark and Blicavs also set to feature in the ruck mix.
 
"We feel like we've got some options there, which is important," Scott said.
 
"With Mitch we are very confident he could be a very good AFL ruckman in his own right and that's certainly an option for us.
 
"We do like two big guys in our team, at least one of Hamish and Dawson, and Blicavs adds another dimension.
 
"If the question is are we settled right now? The answer's no but at least we've got options without having to settle with all that's left." 

Steve Johnson tries to power past Chris Judd during Sunday's contest. Picture: AFL Media

WHAT WE LEARNED
Carlton: Chris Yarran and Kade Simpson are central to the Blues' counter-attack. Yarran, who was a late withdrawal from the clash against the Cats with a chest infection, was best afield against Collingwood in Bendigo last Sunday. But both Yarran and Simpson's run and carry was desperately missed against the Cats. The Blues, to their credit, battled manfully inside the contest with youngster Patrick Cripps leading the charge. However, if Carlton is going to match it with the top teams on a consistent basis then it will need to improve its ability on the outside of the contest.

Geelong: Geelong's forward line is going to be difficult to contain this season. If Tom Hawkins doesn't get off the leash, then Mitch Clark just might. Hawkins looked dangerous every time he went near the footy against the Blues, ending his day with five majors. Clark also chimed in in front of the big sticks to bag three. If the former Demon can stay fit, then his recruitment will be a huge fillip. The Cats' run and gun style, which they displayed in bulk against the Blues, also suits the tall tandem. Add in Rhys Stanley, who is almost ready to resume after an interrupted pre-season, and the Cats will not be short of options.

NEW FACES
Carlton: Kristian Jaksch had a tough task contending with the height and marking power of Mitch Clark, but still managed to hold his own in certain contests. Youngsters Blaine Boekhorst and former Swan Matthew Dick struggled to get acquainted with the intensity of the contest. Clem Smith and Jason Tutt started as the substitutes, and had little chance of impacting the contest after being brought into the play after half-time.

Geelong: Nakia Cockatoo, the Cats' first-round draft pick from last season, further increased the buzz surrounding him with a couple of highlight reel-style plays. The young Cat launched himself at a ball in first-quarter marking contest, but failed to reel it in. He then sliced his way through the Blues' zone with an exciting run through the corridor in the third quarter, before balancing beautifully to find Mitch Clark leading out from full-forward. Clark was damaging up forward with three goals, but 175cm pocket-rocket Cory Gregson was subbed out of the game at half-time with just three disposals next to his name.  

CARLTON       1.1.3       2.5.6       2.8.9        2.10.14 (92)
GEELONG       0.5.3       0.9.7      0.15.7       0.17.9 (111)             

SUPERGOALS
Carlton: Menzel, Watson
Geelong: Nil

GOALS
Carlton: Henderson 2, Menzel 2, Thomas, Rowe, Bell, Jones
Geelong: Hawkins 5, Clark 3, Duncan 2, Selwood, Stokes, Motlop, Guthrie, Kelly, Blicavs, Johnson

BEST 
Carlton: Cripps, Bell, Carrazzo, Judd, Menzel
Geelong: Duncan, Selwood, Hawkins, Guthrie, Enright, Motlop, Rivers

INJURIES
Carlton: Nil
Geelong: Mitch Clark (finger)

SUBSTITUTES
Carlton: Clem Smith replaced Michael Jamison in the third quarter; Jason Tutt replaced Chris Judd at three-quarter time
Geelong: Jimmy Bartel replaced Mathew Stokes at half time; Jordan Murdoch replaced Cory Gregson at half-time

Reports: Nil 

Umpires: Harris, Ryan, Mitchell 

Official crowd: 10,631 at Etihad Stadium