IT WAS hardly the traditional Easter Monday classic between two modern-day rivals to which we have become accustomed, but it still had the blockbuster finish as Geelong held off a late Hawthorn rally to record a five-point victory.
The match looked all but over when the Cats led the low-scoring clash by five goals midway through the third quarter, but the Hawks started to take risks during an exciting final term and closed to within four points in the dying stages on the back of two goals to Mitch Lewis.
CATS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats
But they could get no closer, as Geelong held its nerve during a tense final few minutes to record the 10.9 (69) to 9.10 (64) victory in front of more than 50,000 fans at the MCG.
The victory could come at a cost for a Geelong side already missing star recruit Jeremy Cameron through injury and gun midfielder Patrick Dangerfield (suspended), with veteran Shaun Higgins (hamstring) and youngster Francis Evans (ankle) both failing to finish the match.
Experienced heads Cameron Guthrie (a career-high 43 disposals) and Mitch Duncan (37) filled the void and did the majority of the damage for the Cats in a dominant midfield display, while former Hawk Isaac Smith (15 touches) did enough against his former club to show he is still at the top of his game.
Ball-magnet Tom Mitchell (24 disposals) was relatively well held by Irishman Mark O'Connor, with Jaeger O'Meara (34 touches) and Liam Shiels (26) the biggest ball winners for the Hawks.
Tom Hawkins gave the Cats a perfect start when he snapped truly from the boundary in the third minute, but the Hawks fought hard and trailed by just eight points at the first change.
The Hawks were wasteful in front of the big sticks and, when Hawkins added his second shortly before half-time courtesy of an ill-disciplined 50m penalty indiscretion by Kyle Hartigan, the margin was 17 points at the main break.
Jacob Koschitzke squandered a gilt-edged chance to score early in the penultimate quarter and the clinical Cats made him pay as Henry bobbed up with two majors to ensure the margin was 24 points at the final break.
Three flags a distant memory
It didn't take long for Isaac Smith to remind his former club of his prodigious talent, with the former Hawk and now Cat setting up big Tom Hawkins for the opening goal of the match. Hawthorn fans must have quickly forgotten the excellent 10 years and three flags that Smith won in brown and gold as the 32-year-old was booed early on Easter Monday and unsurprisingly also performed well on the big stage yet again as he picked up 15 timely disposals for his new club.
Young Hawks still learning their craft
Inexperienced defender Changkuoth Jiath typifies much of Hawthorn's current crop of youngsters – richly talented, but still in a work in progress. 'CJ' once again caught the eye on Monday, reading the play well to pick up 23 disposals and 10 marks. While Jiath oozes promise and shows glimpses of brilliance, his decision making often lets him down and he is still a work in progress. Watch out when it all clicks for the athletic defender though, as Jiath could be anything.
Get them over the jumps at the Cattery
We've all heard of Mark Blicavs' steeplechase past and that athletics trend at Geelong has continued courtesy of its latest debutant Max Holmes. The son of Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lee Naylor, and with a national junior hurdling title of his own, Holmes showed more than enough on debut to indicate his future lies firmly with football. Chris Scott has never been shy of playing the kids and Holmes didn't let him down with a 16-disposal effort at the home of football in front of his family and friends.
GEELONG 3.3 6.4 9.7 10.9 (69)
HAWTHORN 2.1 3.5 5.7 9.10 (64)
Geelong: Hawkins 2, Henry 2, Parfitt, Tuohy, Blicavs, Constable, Miers, Clark
Hawthorn: Breust 2, Lewis 2, Wingard, McEvoy, Koschitzke, Moore, Brockman
Geelong: Guthrie, Henderson, Duncan, Blicavs, Henry, O'Connor
Hawthorn: Wingard, Jiath, O'Meara, Scrimshaw, Phillips, Shiels
Geelong: Evans (ankle), Higgins (hamstring)
Geelong: Constable (replaced Evans)
Hawthorn: O'Brien (unused)
Crowd: 50,030 at MCG