GEELONG has flexed its premiership muscles while extinguishing the finals chances of an insipid Essendon with a 66-point romp at the Gabba on Sunday afternoon.
CATS SHARPEN CLAWS Full match coverage and stats
The Cats blew the game apart with five goals in the opening 13 minutes of the match and did not relent, winning 17.6 (108) to 5.12 (42).
The victory moves them to second spot and sets up a tantilising Friday night blockbuster against premier Richmond, which will shape the top-four chances of both teams.
Essendon can mathematically still make the eight, needing to win its final two games and rely on a heap of losses elsewhere, but could be put out of its misery on Tuesday night if Greater Western Sydney defeats Adelaide.
However, after Sunday's performance, they deserve to be nowhere near the finals.
Geelong did as it pleased, leading by 30 points at quarter-time and 59 at the half, moving the ball swiftly and under little pressure to give its potent forward line ample chances.
Essendon were horrid, beaten badly around the contest and unable to match the Cats when the ball got to the outside.
Sam Menegola had a picnic, racking up 30 disposals and kicking two goals, one following a lovely build-up that included slick hands from Tom Hawkins and an exquisite squared pass from Patrick Dangerfield early in the second term.
Hawkins now leads the Coleman Medal by a whopping 10 after kicking four goals, while Gryan Miers kicked three and Tom Stewart (24), Mitch Duncan (19) and Dangerfield (17 and two goals) all had an influence.
The Bombers were best served by Zach Merrett (24 dispoals), while Sam Draper showed some promise in the ruck.
Should this unheralded Cat be All Australian?
Part of Geelong's big improvement in 2020 has been the emergence of its unheralded midfielders. With Joel Selwood missing some footy and Patrick Dangerfield spending more time forward, Cam Guthrie and Sam Menegola have taken huge strides, and the latter was again sensational against the Bombers. Playing on his first Father's Day, Menegola set the tone for his team early, gathering 11 first-quarter disposals to pilot the Cats to a match-winning lead. His 30 touches included two goals and 11 score involvements, continuing a fantastic season that should put him right in the frame for All-Australian selection.
Bombers' first-quarter woes continue
Essendon turned up to the Gabba less than an hour before the opening bounce and during the first quarter it appeared as if half the team was still on the bus. It's a theme that has followed them all season. From the moment Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti inexplicably missed a handpass to Irving Mosquito rather than take the routine 15m set shot in the opening minute, it was all downhill. Essendon trailed by 30 at quarter-time, the eighth straight game they've failed to kick more than one goal early. Incredibly, the Bombers haven't won an opening term since round two against Sydney.
Who comes out when Gaz returns?
Chris Scott is going to have a serious selection headache when Gary Ablett returns following another outstanding showing from his small forward brigade. Gryan Miers (15 disposals and three goals) and Luke Dahlhaus (16 and one goal) were exceptional and appear virtual locks for the finals, with Brad Close and Tom Atkins set to battle out the final spot. Friday's match against Richmond is their last audition before Ablett is available to return in round 18 against Sydney.
GEELONG 6.2 12.3 14.4 17.6 (108)
ESSENDON 1.2 2.4 3.8 5.12 (42)
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Miers 3, Bews 2, Blicavs 2, Dangerfield 2, Menegola 2, Dahlhaus, Rohan
Essendon: Redman, Shiel, Stewart, Stringer, Townsend
Geelong: Menegola, Hawkins, Stewart, Duncan, Miers, Dangerfield
Essendon: Merrett, Parish, Draper, Smith
Geelong: Tuohy (ribs, replaced in selected side by Z.Guthrie), Stanley (replaced in selected side by Jenkins)
Essendon: Mosquito (knee)