GEELONG coach Chris Scott has praised the performance of Patrick Dangerfield after the Brownlow medallist tore the Western Bulldogs to shreds in a third-quarter onslaught that helped lead the Cats to a 10th straight win on Saturday night at GMHBA Stadium.
After back tightness restricted him to a season-low 11 disposals against Port Adelaide last weekend, the 32-year-old changed the game after half-time, finishing with 26 disposals, 10 contested possessions, seven clearances and a goal from only 63 per cent game time.
With the Bulldogs jumping out of the gate by kicking the first four goals of the game, it was Dangerfield who helped steady the ship on a night where Geelong celebrated Joel Selwood's 350th game.
"He was super in there against some great players," Scott said after the 28-point win.
CATS V BULLDOGS Full match details and stats
"He just looked powerful and he did change the game in the third quarter in particular."
Dangerfield has endured an injury-interrupted season, spending a month on the sidelines in the middle of the season after a calf injury to prepare his body for the closing stages of the home and away season.
Now Scott hopes the eight-time All-Australian can build some momentum into September after entering recent finals series with niggles and issues that have limited his performance.
"The fact that he has missed quite a bit of footy this year gave us a chance to have a look at it with a glass half full approach, which was if we can get him into some form playing well in good condition. That's why we held him back for so long, so he could be in peak condition before he played; all going well [he will] hit some form and be really firing go into a final series, which just hasn't been the case in previous years," he said.
"If there's one thing that we know for sure after the last few years is that you need to be playing your best footy in the finals; it doesn't really matter who you are, history is really clear, the teams that have won it have hit a purple patch and have been hard to stop."
While Scott doesn't believe the magnitude of the occasion helped swing the momentum, the premiership coach said the result was fitting of the milestone, with Selwood becoming only the 21st player in AFL/VFL history to reach 350 games, surpassing Essendon legend Dick Reynolds with win No.160 as captain.
"Well I think it really helps the occasion, doesn't it? It's befitting of the occasion," he said.
Three-time All-Australian defender Tom Stewart made an impressive return after serving a four-game suspension for a bump on Richmond midfielder Dion Prestia, finishing with 22 disposals, 10 marks and seven intercepts.
"I thought he was super. The risk with Stewy is he's just such a proud player and he's just so desperate to come back and have an impact that he might try and do too much. I just thought he stayed really disciplined and played the role that we asked him and had a big impact on the game," he said.
Gary Rohan was substituted out of the game with concussion and will miss next Saturday night's game against St Kilda at GMBHA Stadium.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was left to lament a terrible third-quarter burst where Geelong kicked eight goals without response, pointing the blame at a midfield group that was comprehensively beaten in the decisive term.
"I'm not going to use any dramatic words because it will be the headline tomorrow about that third quarter; I think you guys can choose your own," Beveridge said.
"It was a power play by the top side and it was an indication when the power play came we weren't quite up to dealing with it. Simple grassroots intensity and skill and game sense aspects of the game they just overwhelmed us in that third quarter.
"They've been a handful for most this year and we couldn't deal with it for long enough."
Beveridge was pleased with the performance of key defenders Ryan Gardner and Zaine Cordy – who replaced Alex Keath in the 22 – against Coleman medallists Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins.
"I thought Zaine and Gardy were very good. I thought Gardy was particularly good, obviously Tom Hawkins missed a set shot or two but I thought our key defenders were terrific," he said.
"We've had different personnel go through at different times. I thought it was pretty good from Zines having not played there for a while. Alex played pretty well for Footscray against Werribee but it's not the time to be talking about selection now."