1. Cats sink to 11-year low
Such has been the Cats' consistency over the past decade that their loss to Essendon represented the first time they'd lost three successive games in a season since 2006. In the process, Essendon saluted against Geelong for the first time since round 15, 2011, having lost their previous six clashes by an average of 45 points. Despite Geelong's withering final quarter, most worrying for Cats coach Chris Scott in his 150th game in charge was his team's disturbing lack of intensity. The signs were ominous from the outset. At half time Essendon led by 32 points, had amassed 25 more possessions and yet, astoundingly, dominated the tackle count 53-13. At that point Bomber midfielder Zach Merrett had laid eight himself. Twelve Cats hadn't laid a single tackle. Among them were stars Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Mitch Duncan.
2. Daniher's soccer goal – and four other matchwinning majors
It seemed Essendon's often wayward spearhead Joe Daniher might be in for one of those nights when his first set shot – from just inside the arc after two minutes – barely scraped in for a behind. Two minutes later the big left-footer's luck changed when he produced some magic seen more often with the round ball. Teammate Orazio Fantasia started the soccer chain by kicking the ball hard and low off the ground to the goalsquare, where Daniher had the presence of mind to shoot out his right foot and find the net. In the second term, big Joe sold some candy and kicked truly from 50. In the third took a screamer and nailed two more, one of them after the siren from long range. His fifth in the last, on the run from 50, was a steadier that got the flagging Bombers 16 points clear, and helped him claim the first Tom Wills Award for best-afield in the second annual Country game.
3. Kelly sets the tone in his milestone game
Perfect timing and perhaps some crafty planning ensured Cat-turned-Bomber Kelly reached his 300th game against the club he represented 273 times and won three premierships with. Given a lifeline in extraordinary circumstances last year as a top-up player with Essendon, Kelly has been a revelation at Bomberland with his durability, composure and experience – qualities he displayed in abundance against his former teammates. Affectionately known as 'Pops', the 33-year-old had accumulated a game-high 15 touches just two minutes into the second term and finished with 23. A highlight was a beautifully weighted pass to a leading Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti for a first-term goal. Kelly has now averaged 24 touches over his 27 games with Essendon.
4. Dons 'debutant' upstages Geelong's Irish import
In an astonishing rise to the elite level, Irishman Mark O'Connor had played just four games VFL level before making his AFL debut for Geelong. The 20-year-old showed some promising signs, made a couple of mistakes and will no doubt look back on the night as a great learning experience. For the Bombers, ex-Giants forward James Stewart – a man who was born to the game given his father Craig had played for both Collingwood and Richmond – played his first game for his new club, and slotted three first half goals, including two in the space of just four minutes late in the first term, the second from outside 50 after the quarter-time siren.
5. Watson makes a solid return
Essendon veteran Jobe Watson was rested last week after appearing to labour in a couple of previous outings and the 32-year-old former skipper was much livelier against the Cats. Despite an uncharacteristic kicking clanger just before half time, which didn't prove costly anyway, Watson gathered 21 possessions and laid six tackles and was a presence around stoppages. Last year's No. 1 draft pick Andrew McGrath also showed the benefits of a rest with his line-breaking running and sharp ball use.