GEELONG is embracing its new look and "playing the long game" after strengthening its premiership credentials with a 19-point win over Hawthorn on Easter Monday.
Having now beaten its arch-rival in 12 of the past 13 meetings, Geelong stands alone at the top of the ladder with a 5-0 record and a significantly more imposing look about it than five weeks ago.
Coach Chris Scott said generational change was not going to push the Cats down the ladder as new names break into the team alongside premiership stars Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel and co.
"We're really embracing the fact that we're a different team," Scott said after Monday's win.
"We don't want to live in the past and kid ourselves that because we were good at something two years ago we're still good at it today.
"We've got to keep proving it every time we play, with different personnel.
"We don't think that makes as much of a difference as some people external to our footy club do."
Scott said Monday's win was the best guide yet this season as to where the Cats sit in the pecking order, having inflicted the Hawks' first loss since round 19 last season.
However, he said the Cats were at the start of a marathon.
"We're round five, and I know you guys (media) need to talk about what it means in the context of the season, but for us we play the long game at footy clubs," he said.
"It means a bit but it doesn't mean anywhere near as much as the stuff later in the year.
"On our night we're better than the five clubs we've played this year … I reckon that's all it tells you to be honest."
As well as standout performances from midfielder Steve Johnson (34 possessions and three goals) and key forward Tom Hawkins (five goals), the Cats were well served by recycled players Hamish McIntosh and Jared Rivers.
McIntosh was superb moving between the ruck and forward line to finish with 14 hit-outs and 1.2, while Rivers stood tall in a backline that held the Hawks to just 87 points (well below their season average of 128.5 going into Monday's match).
"They’ve had a tough run, particularly Hamish," Scott said.
"It would be easy for Hamish to drop his bundle a bit and lose confidence in his ability and his body – he had played eight games in three years.
"We all feel really proud of the way he's stuck at it because for the first 12 months it was hard for him to call himself a Geelong player because he just couldn't get out on the field.
"You can do all the work perfectly in rehab, but until you get out there with your mates on the big stage, it's hard to call yourself one of them. I think he can do that now."