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The Cats are the team to beat ... but just one question remains

Highlights: Richmond v Geelong The Tigers and Cats clash in round 12

GEELONG enters its bye next week as the competition's team to beat for this year's premiership.

Chris Scott's men could not have done any more to prove their credentials.

CATS KEEP ON PURRING Full match coverage and stats

Friday night's 67-point demolition of a depleted Richmond was another test Geelong passed in flying blue and white hoops, in a first half of the season that has seen them answer many questions. 

Can they adapt their game style after three failed finals series? Yes. Will they match it with the best? Undoubtedly. Can they get the best out of champion Gary Ablett? Not a problem. 

Is there a new breed of Cats coming through? Gryan Miers and Jordan Clark say hello. Will the new recruits have the desired impact? Gary Rohan and Luke Dahlhaus have lived up to their job descriptions, and more.

 

The latest question was posed by the Tigers, who had beaten Geelong in their previous three meetings. 

The other obstacle was that it was played at the MCG, which has become a Richmond fortress in recent years and the venue of many of Geelong's shattered September dreams.   

Richmond threatened to be the Tigers of old in the first term, laying 32 tackles for the quarter. They managed only 55 in total in last week's loss to North Melbourne.

Dustin Martin, complete with his trademark 'Don't argue' fend-off, looked on, and even first-gamer Patrick Naish snagged an early goal.

But a seven-goal-to-none second term for Geelong not only turned the game the Cats' way, it underlined why they deserve favouritism for the 2019 premiership at the season's midway point. 

 

Of course, this was an understrength Richmond line-up. Already lacking key pillars Jack Riewoldt and Alex Rance, as well as ruckman Toby Nankervis and runner Kane Lambert, they lost premiership duo David Astbury and Brandon Ellis to injury this week. 

But Geelong still had to do the job. They did it with the sort of aplomb they have done it all year: in commanding fashion, with a powerful and deep midfield, the competition's best defence and a dangerous forward line. 

 

The Cats will head into their week off on an eight-game winning streak and at least two wins clear on top of the ladder. 

They have beaten fellow contender Collingwood at the MCG, smashed last year's premier West Coast at GMHBA Stadium and accounted for middle and lower rung sides in between. 

Their only loss came to the second-placed Greater Western Sydney and that was only by four points, having led the Giants by nearly four goals early in the second half before being overrun. 

Their steamrolling of the Tigers served as a statement to the rest of the competition. 

From quarter-time they booted 11 unanswered goals, showing their range of goalkicking options, from marking pair Tom Hawkins and Esava Ratugolea, to speedster Rohan, to the crumbing ability of Miers and the finishing class of Ablett.

 

If there is any doubt over the Cats, it only remains in their finals record. Since their 2011 premiership triumph, they have won only three of 12 finals.

It is a justified question that they will only be able to answer in September. But so far, every other query has been quashed.