Patrick Dangerfield and Ollie Dempsey celebrate a goal during the R16 match between Geelong and Essendon at the MCG on June 29, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IF WE'VE learned it once, we've learned it a thousand times.

Geelong will seemingly never, ever, ever die.

CATS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

After just one win from their past seven games, the Cats climbed off the canvas to defeat Essendon for the seventh time in a row, kicking five third-term goals to salute by 45 points at the MCG.

The 16.9 (105) to 9.6 (60) result makes Essendon's top-four aspirations considerably shakier, while it shores up Geelong's bid for yet another finals appearance. 


It poured with rain to open the Country Game, and while the ball remained slippery it had no impact on the scoreboard, with seven straight majors kicked between the two sides.

Chest marks and booting the ball as far as possible were the orders of the day, although the second half was played in mostly dry conditions.


With Sam De Koning playing as primary ruck (and Mark Blicavs in support), Peter Wright appeared far too tall and powerful for Jack Henry in the first half, and he was given constant supply by Sam Durham and Jye Caldwell, who controlled the midfield.

The Bombers had looked to be the much more dangerous side in the first half, locking the ball inside their attacking 50 time and time again, but they couldn't quite shake off the Cats, who drew level with an impressive and opportunistic Ollie Dempsey soccer.


Unsurprisingly, Geelong looked at its best when the veterans lifted – a Mitch Duncan drive out of defence, a Patrick Dangerfield hit into forward 50 or an intercept mark from newly minted inside midfielder Tom Stewart.

Essendon skipper Zach Merrett was held to four disposals in the first term by Tom Atkins, but kicked things off in style with a snap goal to open the second term, letting his Cats opponent know all about it.


The Cats fans grew in voice as the team found some speed out of the middle in the second half, kicking 4.2 from its first 10 entries of the third term. It included a controversial second to Dempsey as Jye Menzie was pinged for a deliberate rushed behind, coupled with a non-free to Sam Draper for an arm-chop inside 50.

Kyle Langford had been blanketed by Zach Guthrie for most of the game, but his first major halfway through the final term broke a run of six Geelong goals.

Dempsey was superb when the game was in the balance, running hard on the wing, while Caldwell battled hard throughout for the Bombers. 

Lawson Humphries – one of last year's draft bolters who was plucked from the WAFL reserves – looked at home on debut, showing some nice signs off half-back for the Cats.


A backline becomes a midfield
Despite the looming presence of Peter Wright and the resting ruck of either Sam Draper or Todd Goldstein, Geelong persisted with Sam De Koning contesting the ball-ups in the middle of the ground. He had a familiar face alongside him, with Tom Stewart playing as an inside midfielder, rather than half-back or in more recent times, wing. Playing a sweeping role, Stewart had 10 disposals to half-time, before spending more time in defence in the second half. Essendon's top-heavy side with two rucks and Nik Cox as sub was an interesting choice given the weather.

Deliberate or howler?
Years after the introduction of the deliberate rushed behind rule, a new generation of players still opt to keep the ball in play at nearly opportunity – except Jye Menzie. The relatively fresh defender was arguably in his right to run across the line, but a canny Ollie Dempsey pulled off the chase, unbeknownst to the Bomber. The umpire's view was Menzie was under no pressure, and the resultant goal took the margin to 15 points halfway through the third.


Life without Tomahawk
It would be surprising to see the now-injured Tom Hawkins push on to 2025, and with the spearhead now sidelined for a significant period with a foot issue, the door is open for Shannon Neale to earn extended minutes at the top level. In Hawkins' absence, the normally roaming Jeremy Cameron camped much closer to goal, almost in an old-fashioned full-forward role, while Neale and Gary Rohan provided marking targets further afield.

GEELONG       3.2     6.4     11.6     16.9     (105)
ESSENDON     4.2     7.3     8.3     9.6     (60)

Geelong: Stengle 3, Dempsey 2, Cameron 2, Rohan 2, Duncan, Neale, Holmes, Bowes, Blicavs, Close, Knevitt
Essendon: Stringer 2, Wright 2, Gresham, Merrett, Hind, Guelfi, Langford

Geelong: Dempsey, Bowes, Holmes, Tuohy, Rohan, Stewart
Essendon: Caldwell, Durham, Merrett, Martin, Guelfi

Geelong: Nil

Geelong: Mark O'Connor (replaced Mitch Duncan in the fourth quarter)
Essendon: Nik Cox (replaced Harry Jones in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 54,698 at the MCG