JEREMY Cameron's left boot inspired Geelong's eight-goal second-quarter blitz as the Cats got their premiership tilt back on track on Friday night.
But it was the spearhead's right hamstring that again left the Cats with cause for concern, Cameron watching on as his side withstood a persistent Essendon 15.8 (98) to 8.9 (57) at GMHBA Stadium.
CATS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
After the Bombers kicked the first four goals of the game, Cameron booted three of the Cats' first four either side of quarter-time to ignite victory before succumbing to his third right hamstring injury of the year after being cleared of a pre-game fitness test.
Not even 43 disposals in a best-on-ground display from Darcy Parish was enough for the Bombers, who lacked polish after the first break and missed the chance to move into the top eight.
Tom Hawkins (six goals) finished the job in Cameron's absence as the Cats moved back into third spot before the rest of the round 16 matches.
Playing their first match at the venue in 28 years, Essendon arrived red-hot and left the Cats startled with their forward-half pressure.
Jake Stringer's two opening-term goals set the tone, Devon Smith brought down Patrick Dangerfield with a brilliant tackle on the wing and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti nabbed Tom Atkins in front of goal for his second major.
Cameron's first, courtesy of a crafty left-foot snap, in the dying stages of the term saved Geelong from its first goalless opening quarter at home in 18 years before it got to work in the second.
With incredible efficiency, Cameron kicked two more and Hawkins added three of his own – the Cats booting eight majors from just 12 inside 50s for the quarter.
Goals to Zach Merrett and a brilliant snap out of nothing from Parish got Essendon within two kicks early in the third, only for the Cats to punish a host of Bombers errors in their back half through the returning Gryan Miers and Hawkins.
Isaac Smith channelled his inner soccer stardom with a left boot grubber early in the last quarter to put the result beyond doubt.
Jezza's hamstring woes re-surface
After three goals with as many kicks, Cats spearhead Jeremy Cameron was subbed out with his third right hamstring injury in six months. After passing a pre-game fitness test with hamstring tightness, Cameron was subbed out midway through the second quarter. The 2019 Coleman medallist first injured his right hamstring in January before he was named for the Cats' season-opener and suffered a further setback at the final session before the game. The Cats went 3-2 in Cameron's absence over the first five rounds before he exploded with 28 majors in his first 10 games for his new club.
Country kid dominates home patch
Darcy Parish grew up in nearby Winchelsea and he could've been excused for rocking up with his own football from home at GMHBA Stadium. The former Geelong Falcon collected 43 disposals in the now-annual Country Game against the Cats – including 15 in the second term alone – to claim the Tom Wills Medal. It was the out-of-contract midfielder's third individual medal of the season after collecting the Anzac Medal on Anzac Day and the Yiooken Award in the annual Dreamtime game against Richmond.
Essendon lacks firepower after first break
The Bombers couldn't have been any more impressive with four goals in the opening term. But they managed just four more for the remainder of the night despite a clear dominance of ball at their attacking end. As the Cats kicked eight goals from just 12 inside 50s in the second term, the Bombers could only muster 1.1 from 14 entries of their own as their decision-making left much to be desired. They finished with 17 more inside 50s for the match. While it rained on and off throughout the night and the ground played heavier after the VFL curtain-raiser, forwards Peter Wright, Harry Jones, Cale Hooker and Alec Waterman combined for just one major.
GEELONG 1.1 9.3 11.5 15.8 (98)
ESSENDON 4.2 5.3 7.8 8.9 (57)
Geelong: Hawkins 6, Cameron 3, Miers 2, Tuohy, Rohan, Dangerfield, Smith
Essendon: Stringer 3, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Jones, Merrett, Parish
Geelong: Dangerfield, Hawkins, Atkins, Selwood, Tuohy, Smith
Essendon: Parish, Merrett, Stringer, Ridley, Heppell, Hind
Geelong: Cameron (hamstring)
Geelong: Holmes (replaced Cameron)
Essendon: Guelfi (unused)
Crowd: 15,579 at GMHBA Stadium