THE GARY Ablett show will have a final act.
A Grand Final act, to be completely accurate, after the champion Cat helped steer Geelong to a commanding 40-point win over Brisbane in Saturday night's preliminary final.
LIONS v CATS Full match coverage and stats
It means although this year's flag decider has been shifted to Queensland, in what is the starkest example of COVID-19's impact on football, the 2020 premiership will head back to Victoria as the Cats take on fellow powerhouse Richmond at the Gabba next Saturday night.
It is the first time since 2011 – when the Cats overcame Collingwood to claim the premiership – that it will be an all-Victorian Grand Final.
Ablett was no bit-part player in the Cats' 11.16 (82) to 6.6 (42) win over the Lions, with his brilliant third term helping elevate Geelong to a comprehensive victory over the home side.
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The retiring all-time great kicked two goals for the quarter – one from a controversial missed throw (or score assist) from Patrick Dangerfield and the other a vintage on-the-run chip from the 50m line – to ensure he will finish his career under lights searching for a dream third flag with the Cats in his 357th game.
Geelong's win broke a run of four preliminary final defeats and sets up a monster clash with the Tigers to decide the unprecedented premiership with both sides based away from home for more than 100 days. Chris Scott will be shooting for his second flag with the club as senior coach.
It was a disappointing finals exit for the Lions, who joined Port Adelaide as bowing out at the last hurdle despite qualifying final victories and a week's rest.
Brisbane hung in against the Cats for the first three quarters but the Lions will rue the way they played in the penultimate clash, with their dare, flair and line-breaking run missing.
Gary Rohan booted three goals and Tom Hawkins also kicked two in a strong forward performance, while the Cats' midfield unit of Mitch Duncan (22 disposals), Sam Menegola (19) and Dangerfield (17) was also important. Tom Stewart in defence was also among the Cats' best.
Nothing came off for the Lions, with Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale (24 disposals, two goals) their best in a flat end to such a promising campaign.
Geelong's early ascendancy set the tone but it took the Cats time to make the most of it.
The Lions, meanwhile, were steered by Charlie Cameron, whose two opening-quarter goals kept them within four points of the Cats at the first break despite a midfield masterclass that saw Geelong record 15 clearances to four.
Geelong could have blown the game apart in the second quarter but failed to capitalise on its opportunities. Hawkins got involved again, while a long-range snap to Rohan extended the Cats' lead to 21 points, before two against-the-play goals to Brisbane saw the Lions claw back within five points by half-time.
But it didn't tell the true story of the clash. Although Brisbane's engine room lifted in the second quarter, Geelong's experienced core had clearly taken the grip over the game at the coalface.
The Cats had extended that lead to 18 points at the last change and could have had it sealed if not for the inaccuracy. Brisbane kept in the game in the last quarter, with Neale's second long-range bomb giving the Lions some hope in front of a rapturous home crowd.
But Brisbane was left needing more, and Geelong was in no mood to let it happen. While grinding out the preliminary final win and holding Brisbane at bay, the Cats had one eye already on the Tigers with everything on the line.
BRISBANE 2.0 4.3 5.5 6.6 (42)
GEELONG 2.5 4.8 7.11 11.16 (82)
Brisbane: Cameron 2, Neale 2, Hipwood, Rayner
Geelong: Rohan 3, Ablett 2, Hawkins 2, Miers, Tuohy, Parfitt, Henry
Brisbane: Neale, Rich, Lyons, Lester, Zorko
Geelong: Duncan, Stewart, Dangerfield, Ablett, Hawkins, Rohan
Brisbane: Darcy Gardiner (knee) replaced in selected side by Jack Payne, Birchall (hamstring)