IT WAS like last year's Grand Final in reverse.
Geelong, trailing at half-time, coming with a rush. Richmond, seemingly in control of the contest through to the main break, left unable to produce any response to the rapid turn of events.
For the Cats, this wasn't revenge for what happened in the 2020 premiership decider. But a resounding 63-point victory, built on the back of a stunning string of seven straight goals in the third quarter, was as good as they could have hoped for.
TIGERS v CATS Full match coverage and stats
The main difference between last year's Gabba showpiece and Friday night's 19.12 (126) to 9.9 (63) boilover at the MCG? Jeremy Cameron.
The club's high-profile trade acquisition was lured to Kardinia Park to help capitalise on moments of ascendency in big games. He did that against Richmond, making himself an instant Cats hero with a remarkable third-quarter performance.
Cameron kicked three of his six goals in the third term, complementing a display that also saw him claim 22 disposals, eight marks and 15 scoring involvements, as he helped turn a nine-point half-time deficit into a 35-point three-quarter time lead.
He wasn't alone in reaping the benefits of the second-half demolition. Gary Rohan had played a pivotal role in Geelong edging its way back into the contest before half-time, then deservedly got his rewards later to celebrate game No.150 with a five-goal haul.
Tom Hawkins chipped in as well to finish with four goals from 20 disposals and seven marks, while Cam Guthrie (36 disposals, six clearances) and Mitch Duncan (30 disposals, seven tackles) did the bulk of the damage through the midfield.
Shai Bolton had provided Richmond with the game's first highlight, pulling down one of the Marks of the Year with a stunning high-flying grab in the early stages. It set the tone for his night, as the impressive onballer finished with 21 disposals and three goals.
But although Bolton had helped the Tigers storm into an 18-point lead at quarter-time, and had helped the reigning premiers retain that control through to the main break, his influence and that of his teammates waned afterwards.
A dirty night couldn't be corrected throughout a trying last quarter, and even worsened when important midfielder Shane Edwards added to the side's woes when he was substituted out of the game with an ankle injury.
For the Tigers, it was a bitter pill to swallow with an indifferent start to the campaign now reflected in a 4-4 record. For the Cats, it was an indication that maybe Cameron and co. can help turn decisive moments in significant contests later in the year.
A lesson in Geelong efficiency
Geelong couldn't have executed it better. A remarkable eight-goal third quarter was as efficient as any side has been this season, as the Cats profited from quick and direct ball movement going forward. Geelong mustered 12 scoring shots from just 15 inside-50s in the third quarter to completely turn the momentum of the match, kicking seven successive goals to build the foundations for its incredible win. The Cats were +23 in contested ball and +4 in clearances, but the damage was done forward of centre. Jeremy Cameron kicked three goals for the quarter, while Gary Rohan added two, with Tom Hawkins, Brad Close and Isaac Smith also getting in on the fun throughout arguably the side's best term of the season so far.
Shai takes flight to light up the MCG
Shai Bolton can sell his old car, because there's a new one coming his way. Richmond's spring-heeled speedster pulled down a genuine Mark of the Year contender just minutes into Friday night's clash, wowing supporters with a spectacular leaping grab. Having set himself as teammate Jack Graham dropped a long kick to the top of the goal square, Bolton got great initial elevation before receiving some extra height on the shoulders of the 198cm Mark Blicavs to pull down a beauty. Replays on the MCG big screens were met by wild excitement from Tigers fans – and probably Cats supporters as well – with even Bolton himself watching with a smile before going back to nail the resulting set-shot.
Cats up to old pre-match tricks
Geelong has brought the 'late change' back into vogue under Chris Scott and, on Friday night, the club was up to its old tricks once again. Despite reports surfacing on AFL.com.au as early as Wednesday that Esava Ratugolea would play on Friday night, he wasn't named in the Cats' selected side when the teams dropped on Thursday evening. But, lo and behold, an hour before the bounce on Friday the athletic ruckman was brought into the team as a 'late inclusion' for Rhys Stanley. So, what was Stanley's issue? Speaking before the match, Geelong assistant coach Nigel Lappin confirmed there was no medical problems and that he had been dropped on form.
RICHMOND 4.3 7.7 8.9 9.9 (63)
GEELONG 1.3 6.4 14.8 19.12 (126)
Richmond: Aarts 3, Bolton 3, Lynch, Rioli, Riewoldt
Geelong: Cameron 6, Rohan 5, Hawkins 4, Smith 2, Higgins, Close
Richmond: Bolton, Edwards, Martin, Graham
Geelong: Cameron, Rohan, Hawkins, C.Guthrie, Higgins, Duncan, Tuohy
Richmond: Edwards (ankle)
Geelong: Stanley (omitted) replaced in selected side by Ratugolea, Simpson (lower body), Dahlhaus (ribs/back)
Richmond: Naish (replaced Edwards)
Geelong: Narkle (replaced Simpson)
Crowd: 54,857 at the MCG