1. Esava Ratugolea could be Geelong's September wildcard
The key forward wasn't alone in struggling to make an impact for the Cats in last week's qualifying final against Collingwood. But he made amends, and quickly, on Friday night against the Eagles. The athletic Cat marked strongly twice at the top of the goalsquare and converted both shots in the opening term to have a big hand in Geelong's big start. Ratugolea is only 21 years old and had played only 26 games and kicked only 19 goals before the semi-final. But he is a crucial part of their attacking set-up with his ability to jump and leap, complementing veteran Tom Hawkins close to goal. Ratugolea finished the night with 12 disposals and three goals, and showed that he will be vital to the Cats' hopes of claiming the flag as a pack-busting presence. He's different, unpredictable, exciting and needs to be watched. The Eagles saw all of that.
CATS ELIMINATE EAGLES Full match coverage and stats
2. Geelong has dispelled the 'Cat wobbles' for now
Everything was riding on Friday night's semi-final for the Cats. After being the competition's ladder leaders for most of the season and finishing minor premiers, it would have been a major disaster to have gone out of the finals with back-to-back losses. And it was heading that way after West Coast, following a slow start, took the lead and held a four-point buffer at the final change. There would have been few Cats fans at the MCG confident of victory at three-quarter time given their September record, which sat at three wins from their past 13 finals outings before the clash. But the Cats steadied and banged home 4.1 to 0.1 in the final quarter to progress to a preliminary final clash with Richmond next week. Their season was always going to be judged on its September success, and a straight sets exit would have heaped plenty of pressure on the club. But Geelong stood up and delivered when it mattered.
NOT ELATED, NOT UNHAPPY Chris Scott keeps a lid on his emotions
3. Chris Scott broke even with his gamble
Few would have predicted that Mark Blicavs would start the clash with the Eagles on the wing. But Scott had a plan against West Coast. Blicavs, arguably the most versatile player in the competition, was an interesting case study. He used his elite aerobic capacity to power up and down the ground, and also dropped back to help out Geelong's defence, while also posing a threat in the air in attack at times. For the most part, he disregarded what direct opponent Andrew Gaff was doing, which was a coaching tactic that could have backfired. It did come back to bite the Cats in the third term, when Gaff drifted forward virtually unopposed to boot two crucial majors as the Eagles made their charge. Overall it was a fascinating duel between the pair, both incredible running athletes but with diverse strengths. Gaff was his side's highest ball-winner with 30 disposals, but Blicavs was a strong contributor. What will Scott have planned for him against the Tigers?
>> We give the top 10 players a score out of 10. Swipe across
4. Tom Hawkins has placed his preliminary final spot in jeopardy
In a rash and atypical moment from the usually disciplined Geelong goalkicker, Hawkins will face scrutiny from the Match Review Officer for a strike to Eagles defender Will Schofield. In the middle of the third term and well away from the ball, Hawkins swung his right arm and connected with Schofield's head. Hawkins appeared to make contact to Schofield with the inside of his right forearm, but it was enough for Schofield to stay on the ground for some time before getting back to his feet. It was the only blemish on an excellent night for Hawkins, who booted four goals in a masterly forward display against the Eagles. It will work in Hawkins' favour that Schofield was able to play out the game without any concerns, but the Cats face a nervous wait.
5. The Eagles will rue round 23
West Coast's premiership defence was ended by Geelong, but it will look back at its loss to Hawthorn in the final round of the home and away season as the pivotal point. The shock loss saw them lose their spot inside the top four, meaning a shot at back-to-back flags would have relied on three consecutive weeks on the road in the finals. They couldn't get past one trip to the MCG, with Geelong holding the Eagles goalless in the final term of the semi-final. Just how much a factor was the last-minute withdrawal of classy forward Willie Rioli due to a provisional suspension the day before the game? We'll never know. But the Eagles' bid for the club's first ever back-to-back premierships suffered its biggest blow three weeks before Rioli's sudden drama when the Hawks travelled to Optus Stadium to inflict the surprise loss. From there, it was always going to be tough.
WHERE IT WENT WRONG How the Eagles' season fell apart