TWIN towers Cale Hooker and Peter Wright proved there will be life after Joe Daniher with prominent displays in Essendon's AAMI Community Series loss to Geelong on Saturday night.
Hooker booted four goals and Wright clunked four contested marks, but it wasn't enough as the Bombers went down in the dying stages 12.7 (79) to 9.18 (72) at GMHBA Stadium.
CATS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
Fringe Cats wingman Jordan Clark (29 disposals) kicked the go-ahead goal inside the final four minutes to solidify a standout evening before second-year forward Francis Evans put the result beyond doubt.
Boom Geelong signing Jeremy Cameron booted two goals and played close to 80 per cent match time, showing no signs of the hamstring setback that slowed his summer.
The ex-Giant was eased through the final term alongside Patrick Dangerfield who also increased his output after a pre-season groin complaint.
Cameron and Gary Rohan (two goals) looked the most dangerous Cats forwards, the home side having no shortage of attacking options with 10 individual goalkickers.
Ex-Hawk Isaac Smith (25 disposals) wasted little time providing an impact in his first match after missing last week with a rolled ankle, while Shaun Higgins (11 disposals, one goal) played 58 per cent of game time.
Bombers midfielder Zach Merrett finished with 37 touches built off a prolific first half while Darcy Parish (32) enjoyed extra exposure in a midfield that featured Jye Caldwell (24).
The Bombers' slicker ball movement was a highlight and provided a host of one-on-one contests for Hooker and Wright with assistance from second-year tall Harry Jones. However, inaccuracy ultimately cost them the game with Geelong's defence holding fort later in proceedings.
Wright, who has crossed this year from Gold Coast, took the honours in his direct match-up with Mark Blicavs and should've gone home with a better outcome than his 1.2.
Hooker was opposed mostly to Lachie Henderson, the veteran Bomber thrown forward in recent weeks with plans for Michael Hurley to play in attack kyboshed as he fights a nasty hip infection.
Both sides escaped serious injury concerns, however Bombers defenders James Stewart (hamstring awareness) and Nick Hind (shoulder) were taken out late as precautions.
Former Saint Nick Hind looked polished at half-back for the Bombers before he was taken out of the game in the final term alongside Sam Draper, Dylan Shiel and James Stewart. Draftee Nik Cox got more comfortable as the game wore on while Giants signing Jye Caldwell looks a star in the making with his poise through traffic. Draftee Archie Perkins, second-year ruck Nick Bryan and rookie signing Alec Waterman featured only in the final term with Marty Gleeson. Jeremy Cameron finished with 2.1 and one on the full, playing higher up the ground as Tom Hawkins played deeper. Isaac Smith was busy in his first outing in Geelong colours and even attended several centre bounces. Shaun Higgins played mostly at half-forward before he was put on ice in the last quarter as Francis Evans got more opportunity in attack.
Round one chance
Forward-turned-defender Tom Atkins flourished in his new role as he pushes for a berth in the Cats' jam-packed backline. The 25-year-old, who was dropped after last year's qualifying final, collected 28 disposals and provided several goal-saving efforts, used as one of seven initial defenders before Jake Kolodjashnij replaced Jack Henry at half-time. Jordan Clark was super on a wing and looks ready to reclaim his spot for the season-opener against Adelaide. Bomber Ned Cahill (10 disposals) continued his development at half-back, while Harry Jones was quiet on the stats sheet but provided a presence, flying for several marks in attack.
Essendon defender James Stewart was taken out during the third quarter with the Bombers not wanting to take any risk with his hamstring awareness, while Nick Hind had his shoulder assessed. Teammates Jake Stringer (Achilles) and David Zaharakis (knee) sat out and appear unlikely for round one, while Michael Hurley is fighting a hip infection that has him out indefinitely. The Cats were forced to throw youngster Sam De Koning and Josh Jenkins into the ruck with Esava Ratugolea (leg knock) and Rhys Stanley (concussion) missing but both will be available for the start of the season. Luke Dahlhaus (groin) played minutes in the Cats' earlier reserves match, however Mitch Duncan (calf) is in an uphill battle for round one.
Carrying a breakeven of just 55, third-year Cat Jordan Clark (DEF/MID, $422,000) could be a mid-priced answer in the backline this year. He did all he could to break back into the Cats' round one team with a monstrous display. Primarily playing as a wingman, he was everywhere. From taking kick-ins to hitting the scoreboard, Clark collected a game-high 135 Fantasy points. Zach Merrett (MID, $884,000) was Essendon's best with 134, but it was Darcy Parish (MID, $625,000) who should come into Draft consideration due to his midfield role. A late-round value pick if he can find the Sherrin in the season proper.
GEELONG 4.2 6.2 9.5 12.7 (79)
ESSENDON 1.5 5.10 6.15 9.18 (72)
Geelong: Rohan 2, Cameron 2, Higgins, C.Guthrie, Hawkins, Z.Guthrie, Bews, Blicavs, Clark, Evans
Essendon: Hooker 4, Smith 2, McGrath, Langford, Wright
Geelong: Clark, Stewart, Atkins, Rohan, Dangerfield, Bews
Essendon: Merrett, Parish, Hooker, Wright, Ridley, Draper
Essendon: Stewart (hamstring awareness), Hind (shoulder)
Crowd: 11,121 at GMHBA Stadium