In Saturday night's Five things we learned, brought to you by Haier, the world's No.1 appliance maker, we discover that Lachie Neale waged a one-man war, you can't sleep on Geelong's 'lesser' lights and the Cats' midfield taught the Lions a lesson - again.
LIONS v CATS Full match coverage and stats
1. The Cats' midfield taught the Lions a lesson - again
Just like it did when winning by 27 points in round six, Geelong's midfield bullied its Brisbane counterparts to lay the foundation for victory. The Lions tried to stiffen their onball brigade with the inclusion of Cam Ellis-Yolmen, but it made little difference. The Cats set the tone in the first term, winning the clearances by a landslide 15-4, and although Brisbane stabilised as the match wore on, the damage was done. Gary Ablett's third-quarter goal, where his teammates walked the ball out of a centre bounce with a chain of handballs, was indicative of the dominance. Rhys Stanley, Mark Blicavs and Tom Hawkins were all exceptional in the ruck.
2. Gaz really wanted one more game
With retirement awaiting and his future now a game-by-game proposition, dual Brownlow medallist Gary Ablett wound back the clock to have a huge say in the Cats' victory. Stationed at his half-forward home, Ablett kicked two goals in the crucial third quarter to slam the door shut on the Lions' hopes. His first came via a clever snap – albeit after a blatant throw from Patrick Dangerfield – while his second was vintage Ablett, streaming forward and kicking truly on the run from 55m. He also laid an earlier goal on a platter for Tom Hawkins, and finished with 14 disposals and four marks.
3. Neale waged a one-man war
For the second straight final, the Brownlow Medal favourite was almost invisible in the first quarter, but just like he did against Richmond two weeks ago, Lachie Neale lifted his team in spectacular fashion. After Geelong owned the stoppages in opening term, in which Neale had just two touches, the prolific midfielder racked up 10 disposals, five clearances and kicked a goal on the run from 55m just before half-time to keep his team in the game. Neale finished with 24 disposals, eight clearances – both game highs – and two long-range goals.
4. Don't sleep on the Cats' 'lesser' lights
While the bigger Geelong names of Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Ablett and Tom Stewart certainly had an influence, it was a few lesser lights that helped the Cats' advance to their first Grand Final in nine years. Brandan Parfitt was super physical with his eight tackles, Sam Simpson banged bodies and finished with 14 touches and Gary Rohan had some big moments to bury his finals demons with three goals. After a tough first quarter against Charlie Cameron, Jake Kolodjashnij ended up doing an exceptional job on the Brisbane livewire, keeping him goalless after the first change.
5. The Lions have found a long-term defender
The pre-match omission of Darcy Gardiner with a knee injury left a huge hole in Brisbane's back six. Jack Payne, with just four games to his name, was called in to face the fire. He started on Rohan, who has a little too much pace for him, but had some important touches and ended up taking five marks to stabilise a Lions defence that was under siege. Payne certainly did not look out of place on the big stage and should only improve from the experience.