1. Options were the difference
While the Cats were forced to rob Peter to pay Paul, moving Harry Taylor forward when their options dried up, Hawthorn had an embarrassment of riches in attack. Jack Gunston was quiet early but came alive against Tom Lonergan to boot three goals. When Luke Breust was quiet, Paul Puopolo was on song
, crumbing and snapping expertly. The Hawks' advantage was underlined when the Cats sent Taylor forward and left Jared Rivers to man star Hawk Jarryd Roughead, who was quiet but structurally important. The Cats needed more support for Hawkins.
2. Geelong's round 22 loss was not "mission accomplished"
In round 22 the Cats conceded 10 consecutive goals in the second half, but coach Chris Scott said that match was "mission accomplished" ahead of a September rematch. Scott's point that a home and away match would bear no resemblance to a final between the sides was correct, and this was an enthralling September clash. However the Cats were still found out against a team that has their measure right now. After taking a five-point lead halfway through the third term, Geelong conceded eight of the last 10 goals. It was much more worrying than the round 22 rout.
3. The Cats have a mountain to climb historically
While the Hawks take the ideal path to a potential Grand Final berth, Geelong must win an interstate preliminary final to get to the last Saturday in September, not to mention next week's semi-final against the winner of Saturday's elimination final between North Melbourne and Essendon. The Cats have lost two of their past three clashes against the Swans in Sydney, and two of their past three against Fremantle in Perth. The Hawks, meanwhile, have a week off to freshen up and the prospect of Cyril Rioli being shot into a preliminary final.
4. Sam Mitchell is one cool customer
While the pace and pressure went up a notch on Friday, Mitchell took a step back and stayed calm in the heat of battle. The midfielder was never rushed and the player that settled the Hawks whenever Geelong challenged, inevitably finding the footy and hitting a target. He was effective with nine of his 10 first-quarter touches, and added seven more in the second. By three-quarter time he had a game-high 30 possessions, leaving Mitch Duncan in his wake.
5. Joel Selwood is built for finals football
Granted, we already knew that, but it's worth repeating. The skipper was outstanding for his team
and carried the players on his shoulders when Hawthorn gained momentum. He held his nerve from 50m on the run to kick the opening goal of the game and went on to kick one in each of the first three quarters, seizing big moments. He was clearly the Cats' best player, finishing with 31 possessions (16 contested), nine clearances and seven inside 50s. He couldn't have done any more.
6. Josh Walker wanted another chance in September
In his one and only final, against Fremantle last year, Josh Walker finished goalless and with two marks. Early on Friday night he looked like a different player. He took two contested marks in the first quarter, and on the eve of half-time he lost his man Josh Gibson and backed into a pack to mark, converting his set shot from 50m after the siren sounded. That big-time play made scores level, but he was unable to kick on after the main break, finishing with just six touches and highlighting the Cats’ need for another big forward.