Whatever Chris Scott is saying at three-quarter time: tape it and play it every week
Geelong's turbo-charged starts in last quarters are keeping the Cats ahead of the pack in 2017.
The Cats have scored 126 points more than their opposition in the opening 10 minutes of each final quarter this season, habitually upping the ante at a time when other teams hurt most.
They have kicked the first goal of the final quarter in the past six matches, and in 10 of their 13 games this season.
On Sunday, the Cats screened The Great Escape once again with the 'King of Cool', Patrick Dangerfield, playing Steve McQueen's role in the first 10 minutes of the last quarter to turn the tide.
In that time, the Cats scored 20 points while keeping the Dockers scoreless to hit the lead.
It was a meritorious win given the odds were stacked against them with Joel Selwood, Tom Stewart and Darcy Lang sidelined due to injury.
Cats fans applaud Joel Selwood as he hobbles from Simonds Stadium on Sunday. Picture: AFL Photos
Teams with one fit player on the bench at three-quarter time have only won a third of games since 2004.
The interchange cupboard was so bare that 10 Geelong players did not come off the ground in the last quarter. Joining Dangerfield in going the distance were Cam Guthrie, Dan Menzel, James Parsons, Jed Bews, Harry Taylor, Zach Tuohy, Andrew Mackie, Tom Hawkins and Tom Lonergan.
That is the most players to play 100 percent of a final quarter in any team this season, and the equal fourth highest number in recent seasons.
|Players with 100 per cent game time in last quarter||Team||Match||Result|
|17||Gold Coast||R16, 2014||Won|
|11||Greater Western Sydney||R11, 2015||Lost|
|10||West Coast||R21, 2016||Won|
|10||St Kilda||R3, 2016||Won|
No wonder Dangerfield was still beaming on Monday after reeling in a lead nearly as big as the sailfish he's fond of catching.
At three-quarter time, Chris Scott had told Dangerfield to take the centre bounce then go forward.
The 27-year-old didn't need to be told something was required from everyone in the blue and white hoops.
He kept reminding his teammates how good a story it would be if the Cats won, and then went to work, knowing implicitly that an early blitz would put doubts in the minds of the opposition.
"The important thing was putting on a few early goals in that last quarter," Dangerfield said.
Easier said than done… even for Geelong.
Patrick Dangerfield was one of 10 Cats to play every second of Sunday's final quarter. Picture: AFL Photos
"It was [a case of] 'grit your teeth' but you can't play on emotion for the whole quarter, especially in a game like that," Dangerfield said.
With the home crowd spurring them on, the Cats had to dig deep.
"It was tough. That is why I praised the resilience of our group to stand up in those moments," Dangerfield said.
However, every great escape carries a warning you'd be a mug to ignore.
Geelong has trailed at three-quarter time in nine of 13 games this season.
The Cats have won five but also lost four, sometimes looking like beaten favourites stuck on the fence looking for a gap.
And their win on Sunday relied on Fremantle's Michael Walters unluckily missing a shot at goal that he kicks nine times out of 10.
The Cats have been excellent but just 18 per cent of teams win after trailing at the last change, so they're flirting with danger, having spent a lower percentage of time in front than any other top-eight team.
They would do well to remember an old horse racing adage that it's much better to be on the pace then angling for runs.
Why Demon fans can start looking forward to that finals feeling
If you feel different as a Melbourne supporter this season, don't be alarmed.
The Demons have already spent more time inside the eight in 2017 than they did in 11 seasons from 2006-2016.
Their improvement is clear, having won 33 quarters for the season, just nine fewer than they won in all of 2016 and more than they won in 2014.
The Demons are ticking off the scalps in 2017, too, beating West Coast for the first time since 2009 and recording their first win at Domain Stadium since 2004.
Dee-light and Eagle despair at Domain Stadium on Saturday night. Picture: AFL Photos
In round one, Melbourne defeated St Kilda for the first time since 2006 and the club is hoping to break a run of 16 consecutive losses to North Melbourne in round 19, after again losing to the Kangaroos in round nine.
The Demons play Sydney at the MCG on Friday night, having beaten the Swans just once in their past 12 encounters.
That 73-point win at the MCG in round 17, 2010 proved a false dawn.
This time around, such a letdown is unlikely.
The stat that shows how the Swans willed themselves to an historic comeback win
What powered Sydney's unforgettable 20-point blitz after the 25-minute mark of Friday night's game against Essendon?
Try sheer determination to grab the footy. The Swans took five of their 19 contested marks for the night in that period.
Heath Grundy snagged two of the 11 contested marks he's taken this season.
Callum Mills took his only two for the night and was a hero in that final surge. His stats at the death read: four disposals, two contested marks, one tackle, two inside 50s.
A Swan miracle, or was Friday night a Bomber choke? Picture: AFL Photos
A memorable weekend in eight extraordinary numbers
8 – times in 2017 that the lead has changed with last score of the game.
79 – years since four games in one round decided by three points or fewer. The previous time was round 13, 1938.
17 – years since the ladder was so tightly packed. After round 13, 2000, Melbourne was eighth with six wins, just one game ahead of 14th-placed Fremantle.
7-11 – the win-loss record of teams coming off the bye in 2017.
70 – games in succession Geelong's Joel Selwood received at least one free kick. He failed to earn one in the 45 seconds before he was concussed.
0 – tackles Richmond's Jack Riewoldt laid on Sunday. The goalkicker laid 17 tackles in the first three rounds and has laid just 15 tackles in the 10 games since then. He was one of 36 players in round 14 who did not lay a tackle.
6 – games in a row Melbourne has scored 90 or more points. It's the first time the Demons have done that since 2005.
9 – games John Worsfold has coached against Sydney that were decided by less than a goal.
One bonus stat: the Scott twins in tight finishes
Chris and Brad Scott have mirror images when it comes to tight finishes in home and away games decided by one or two points:
Chris: 9W, 1L
Brad: 1L, 9W
Throw in finals, and Chris's record improves. He's won the only 1-2 point final either Scott has coached. That was Geelong's two point win in last year’s qualifying final against Hawthorn.