Jordan Ridley after the AAMI Community Series match between Essendon and Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on March 1, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

A FAST-FINISHING Geelong has overcome both Essendon and its own inaccuracy, kicking five last-quarter goals to record a 12-point win in the AAMI Community Series.

Compounding Essendon's late fadeout was a right quad injury to important playmaker Jordan Ridley, while Mason Redman sat out the last quarter as the Cats got on a roll.


Just days after signing a new contract, Ridley limped off during the third quarter and was visibly upset at the last change as he was consoled by teammates. It is a similar injury to the one he suffered last year.

"He's got a tight quad. Obviously that'll get scanned during the week and see how that goes," Essendon assistant coach Daniel Giansiracusa said.

"He's an important player for us, so hopefully it isn't too bad. I think he's a little bit sore, so as I said, we'll get it scanned and see how it goes."

CATS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

It looked as if the Bombers were going to make a statement with a strong pre-season win, but ran out of puff as the inaccurate Cats finally found the middle of the sticks to pull clear in the 11.17 (83) to 10.11 (71) result.

The Bombers moved the ball with pace on the ball in the first half, quickly swinging the footy from half-back to half-forward with low, flat kicks, and finding plenty of targets in attack.

Max Holmes (29 disposals) was outstanding for Geelong, whether charging up the wing, playing on the ball or even jumping the fence to track down a stray footy, while versatile veterans Mitch Duncan and Mark Blicavs also spent some time in the middle.


But on the whole, Essendon's midfield was much sharper for the first three quarters, Zach Merrett (25 touches) and Darcy Parish (34) in fine touch after strong summers, with Sam Durham and Will Setterfield providing grunt at the coalface.

Despite Geelong struggling to get its hands on the footy, it remained in touch on the scoreboard. At half-time, the Bombers had eight players in the top-10 disposal tally, but led by just three points.

Essendon jumped out to a 14-point lead, after which Geelong continued to chip away, but did it in agonising fashion, one behind at a time.

Kyle Langford picked up from where he left off last year, proving to be a constant threat in attack with three goals, while Nic Martin (28) pushed forward to land two of his own.


While key forward duo Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron (playing three terms) struggled to find their rhythm, Tyson Stengle was sharp from the opening bounce, kicking three and providing plenty of defensive hustle throughout.

Geelong assistant coach Steven King said livewire forward Gary Rohan – who’s on the comeback trail from a back injury – is likely to miss round one and return through the VFL, but Ollie Henry (rolled ankle) will be right to go. 

"He's starting to get back into it now, he's just been a little bit delayed to everyone else, but he's following his plan so we're really happy with where Gaz is," King said. 

"He'll probably struggle to play round one, he'll probably get his first hitout that week, leading into it with a little bit of VFL footy."

New faces
Essendon had a host of recruits take to the field. Todd Goldstein played with his customary determination in the ruck and while Ben McKay didn't win a heap of the ball, he provided a strong presence against the Tom Hawkins-Jeremy Cameron combination. Xavier Duursma found plenty of the footy, but looked much better on the wing than when folding back in defence, coughing up two direct goals with panicked moments. Jade Gresham bobbed up on a few occasions, while at the other end of the field, mature-age draftee Shaun Mannagh kicked a beautiful spinning goal in the fourth, playing a half of footy. 


Round one chance
Nik Cox and Zach Reid played in key defensive roles, and read the ball well, but were occasionally out-muscled by their much more experienced opponents. Elijah Tsatas didn't get much midfield time, given the stacked Bombers engine room, but used the ball neatly on the wing. Ollie Dempsey looks likely to lock up a forward role for the Cats, playing with smarts and composure in the first half, but Shannon Neale may be squeezed out if Ollie Henry (ankle) or Gary Rohan (back) are right to go. Jhye Clark wasn't the biggest ball-winner, but his agility and speed at stoppages caught the eye.

Medical room
In a blow to Essendon's relatively young defensive stocks, Ridley suffered a quad injury in the third term and could miss at least a few weeks. Jake Kolodjashnij left the field late in the second term after a knock to the back, and was pulled from the game at half-time as a precaution. Peter Wright played just the first half due to load management and was replaced by Nick Bryan.

Fantasy watch
You can lock in Nic Martin (MID, $769,000) to gain defender status after round six and you can lock him into your Fantasy team in this role. He covered the ground with ease, doing his best work in the back 50 taking kick-ins, marks and providing drive. His two goals helped him to a game-high 120 points. Similarly, we saw Max Holmes (MID, $685,000) top score for the Cats with 88 and put his hand up as a Draft option that could gain DPP in his new half-back role. We saw what we needed from Essendon's midfielders with Zach Merrett (MID, $1,019,000) scoring 91 and Darcy Parish (MID, $965,000) racking up 34 disposals for 103. We could whack Zach Reid (DEF, $253,000) on our bench as a cheap defender. He had probably cemented himself a spot in the best 22 previously, but Ridley's injury makes him more important now. Jhye Clark (MID, $237,000) and Oliver Dempsey (FWD, $252,000) are every chance to be there in round one for the Cats as they scored 68 and 71 respectively. - Warnie from The Traders 


GEELONG       3.3     6.9     6.15     11.17     (83)
ESSENDON     4.4     7.6     9.7     10.11     (71)

Geelong: Stengle 3, Hawkins, Stewart, Neale, Holmes, Mannagh, Miers, Dempsey, Close
Essendon: Langford 3, Martin 2, Gresham 2, Stringer, Parish, Hind

Geelong: Holmes, Stengle, Blicavs, Dempsey, Clark, Henry
Essendon: Merrett, Parish, Martin, Langford, McGrath

Geelong: Kolodjashnij (back, TBC)
Essendon: Ridley (quad)

Reports: Nil