Jake Riccardi celebrates during the round 11 match between Geelong and Greater Western Sydney at GMHBA Stadium, May 25, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

A TOBY Greene special has snatched a fourth-straight win at GMHBA Stadium for Greater Western Sydney, getting over the top of a surging Geelong by four points on Saturday evening.

For the first time in Chris Scott's 14 years at the helm Geelong has lost four consecutive games, as the Giants finished 11.12 (78) to 11.8 (74) winners.

CATS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats

GWS stretched its lead to 31 points early in the third quarter, before five-straight Cats goals had the home crowd on its feet. But it wasn't to be in Hawkins' record-breaking game as Greene broke the run to put the Giants back in front with seven minutes remaining, a lead which was never again ceded.

Jake Riccardi was powerful inside 50 for the Giants, noting the attention the Cats paid to teammates Jesse Hogan (five marks, two goals) and Greene (24 disposals, two goals), sneaking into pockets of space and crashing packs to kick four goals from 11 touches.


After the Giants' took charge in the second quarter – kicking their highest single term score of the year – Geelong slowly worked its way back in, thanks to the work of Max Holmes (32 disposals, one goal) and Tanner Bruhn (21 disposals, one goal).

Hawkins' two goals were bolts of energy for the Cats – and their fans – throughout the night, while Tyson Stengle shook off a quiet first half to slam home two final-quarter goals to square up the scoreboard late.


Geelong's manic front-half pressure was oppressive in the opening term, worrying the Giants into over possessing the ball and ultimately turning it over. The Cats often trapped GWS tight up on one wing, and defended it beautifully, meaning the visitors were at a loss whenever trying to exit defence.

It was a neat balance around the contest that allowed the Cats midfielders to be really proactive and attacking early, watching their Giants counterparts get drawn to the ball while maintaining their own space as outlets.


But at centre stoppages GWS simply dominated, leading the centre clearance count 11-4 at half-time, and eventually winning the metric 16-7. Kieren Briggs' work in the ruck (43 hitouts, eight clearances) was also a key driver in the area.

A shoulder injury to Stephen Coniglio in the first quarter, with him subsequently subbed out in the second, threatened to derail that strength at the contest, but the likes of James Peatling (18 disposals, six clearances) and Finn Callaghan (24 disposals, six clearances) rose to fill the gap.


Both teams were determined to use the corridor to break through defensive structures and generate attack. Although the Cats landed the early blows by slicing through the Giants, with a Gryan Miers kick inside resulting in an impressive Tanner Bruhn goal from outside 50 in the first quarter, the Giants were able to hit back in similar fashion.

Greater Western Sydney expertly unsettled a Geelong defence whose brand is being difficult to score against. Although star Cat Tom Stewart was working toward limiting Toby Greene, Xavier O'Halloran enjoyed a role disrupting Stewart's movement down back.


Restricting Stewart had a flow-on effect, making the Geelong’s defence vulnerable on turnover – something that has been a growing problem in recent weeks for Chris Scott's side.

But it became inconsequential late as Geelong squeezed up high, applying enough pressure up the field to release the valve on its defensive unit.


A clipped wing
Already without damaging playmakers Josh Kelly, Lachie Ash, and Callan Ward, the Giants were reliant on the experience of Stephen Coniglio in the middle. A mere nine minutes into the opening term, however, Coniglio landed awkwardly in a tackle causing a left shoulder issue. He eventually came from the ground, returning a few minutes later with the joint strapped, but was subbed out of the game during the second quarter.


The Tom Stewart problem
Star Geelong defender Tom Stewart has no doubt caused many-a-coach plenty of headaches, and it seemed that the Giants' Adam Kingsley travelled down the highway with a plan. Stewart was wholly focused on limiting the impact of Toby Greene inside 50, while Xavier O'Halloran spent the bulk of the game trying to create space for Greene away from Stewart. While certainly creating space for Greene at times, it regularly allowed Stewart's teammate Zach Guthrie freedom to move.

Toby Greene and Tom Stewart during the round 11 match between Geelong and Greater Western Sydney at GMHBA Stadium, May 25, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Hawkins, record breaker
With Tom Hawkins' 356th career game, he surpassed great friend Joel Selwood as Geelong's all-time games record holder. To celebrate the milestone, fittingly on the deck of Kardinia Park, Hawkins ran through the banner with not just his own kids, but Selwood's too. The packed stands, including those positioned in the new Joel Selwood stand, rode every bump with Hawkins, and rose to its feet as one when the milestone man kicked his opening-quarter goal.


GEELONG                                   5.0    6.2     9. 5     11.8 (74)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY     2.4    8.9    10.12   11.12 (78)

Geelong: Hawkins 2, Stengle 2, Close, Bruhn, Tuohy, Kolodjashnij, Holmes, Cameron, Neale
Greater Western Sydney: Riccardi 4, Hogan 2, Greene 2, Daniels, Cadman, O'Halloran

Geelong: Holmes, Bruhn, Tuohy, Guthrie, Stengle
Greater Western Sydney: Riccardi, Greene, Briggs, Green, Taylor, Aleer

Geelong: Nil
Greater Western Sydney: Coniglio (left shoulder), Perryman (left hamstring)

Geelong: Jack Bowes (replaced Toby Conway in the final quarter)
Greater Western Sydney: Toby McMullin (replaced Stephen Coniglio in the second quarter)

Crowd: 30,821 at GMHBA Stadium