MAKE that 11 wins in a row.
Geelong's scintillating run continued on Saturday evening, re-affirming its standing as the League's No.1 seed heading into September with yet another victory, seeing off a desperate St Kilda by 45 points at its GMHBA Stadium fortress.
Even without a host of first-team players - including Joel Selwood (managed), Gary Rohan (concussion), late withdrawal Mark Blicavs (managed) and even later withdrawal Patrick Dangerfield (calf tightness) - the Cats showcased their strength in depth and flexed when it mattered to get the job done.
CATS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
The Cats started and finished the game like a house on fire, sandwiching the Saints' fightback which saw the margin reduced to as little as four points late in the second quarter, with an impressive show of class on all three lines.
Sam De Koning was sensational, keeping Max King to a single goal, while Sam Menegola (25 disposals, 10 score involvements) and Brandan Parfitt (25 disposals, 10 clearances, six tackles) were sensational in the middle, along with the unsung Max Holmes (24 disposals, 531 metres gained) and Isaac Smith, who booted three goals along with Tom Hawkins.
SAINTS SWEAT ON STAR Ratten says club won't risk Hannebery
As a result of the 17.8 (110) to 10.5 (65) win, Geelong sits a game plus a healthy percentage clear of second-placed Collingwood heading into the final two games of the season where it will go in as heavy favourite against Gold Coast and West Coast.
On the other hand, the Saints, who were the last team to beat Geelong back in round nine, were simply unable to sustain their effort for long enough. After an impressive end to the first half, St Kilda was run over by the juggernaut that is Geelong - shipping nine goals to two in the second half - with the first of those not coming until the 17-minute mark of the final term.
St Kilda's (11-9) hopes of a return to September action have now taken a major hit, with Richmond's win over Port Adelaide seeing them fall out of the top eight heading into a difficult end to the season - while luckless midfielder Dan Hannebery was subbed out with an ankle injury in only his second game back in the side.
Early on, it was all Geelong. The Cats raced out of the blocks, moving the ball with aplomb into their attacking 50, and carving up the Saints defence who probably should've been down by more than the 22-point deficit at the quarter-time siren.
However, in the second quarter, St Kilda was a completely different outfit, showcasing the famed pressure Brett Ratten had spoken so glowingly about for weeks. The Saints' intent around the ground went up tenfold and they were able to not only level things in the middle, but gain a semblance of control.
As a result, the scoreboard began ticking over, with the Saints booting four goals to the Cats' two in the second term - but a late goal to Tyson Stengle kept the visitors at an arm's length with the margin back out to 10 points at the major break.
From that point on, it was all Geelong, which booted nine unanswered goals to put the contest to rest in style and ensure its undefeated run against the Saints at GMHBA Stadium continues beyond 23 years.
A trifecta of late changes
Chris Scott hinted at late changes earlier in the week, and the late changes came through in the truckload, albeit with one extra that was not part of the proverbial plan. The Cats coach opted for a smaller approach in comparison to the side initially selected on Thursday evening, with Mark Blicavs (managed) and Jonathon Ceglar (medical sub) withdrawn from the side in place of the returning Zach Tuohy and Sam Menegola. However, two late changes became three, with Geelong's midfield being dealt a seismic blow in the form of Patrick Dangerfield being pulled from the side at the 11th hour due to calf tightness - only weeks after missing four games with a calf injury. Dangerfield came from the field early during the pre-game warm-up and was, as a result, not risked by the Cats medicos who gave Luke Dahlhaus a late-minute reprieve in place of the star midfielder.
Stanley shoulders ruck duties
So, about the famed ever-changing Geelong ruck mix. As a result of the late changes which saw Blicavs and Ceglar miss, Rhys Stanley was given the tall task of shouldering the lion's share of the Cats' ruck responsibilities and going head to head with in-form Rowan Marshall in his first game back from a knee injury. While the former Saint was beaten convincingly by Marshall in the hitout battle, Stanley was more than able to level the contest when the ball hit the deck, adding an impressive five clearances and seven tackles to his 16 disposals. How they manage the ruck mix going forward will be an interesting storyline going into September with Blicavs set to return and Ceglar still in the mix.
Double tag from the Saints
It was a tough night at the office for Saints fans, but they have plenty to look forward to in the form of Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens who were among some of their best on Saturday evening. The first-year duo were given the tall task of following two of Geelong's most important players. After a couple of impressive weeks as a tagger, Windhager was handed another assignment in the form of Cameron Guthrie - and while the midfielder still tallied 22 disposals, his impact was still somewhat quelled by the youngster. Meanwhile, Owens was deployed as a defensive forward going one-on-one with arguably the best intercept player in the competition, Tom Stewart. In only his fifth game, Owens kept Stewart relatively quiet, holding him to only four intercepts and two marks.
GEELONG 6.4 8.5 12.7 17.8 (110)
ST KILDA 3.0 7.1 7.4 10.5 (65)
Geelong: Hawkins 3, Smith 3, Stengle 2, Cameron 2, Menegola, Tuohy, Henry, Duncan, Holmes, Close, Z.Guthrie
St Kilda: Higgins 2, Membrey 2, Sinclair, Wood, King, Steele, Butler, Long
Geelong: De Koning, Menegola, Parfitt, Smith, Hawkins, Smith, Holmes, Duncan
St Kilda: Crouch, Wood, Marshall, Steele, Sinclair, Windhager
St Kilda: Hannebery (ankle)
Geelong: Mark Blicavs (managed), Patrick Dangerfield (calf tightness) and Jonathon Ceglar replaced in selected side by Sam Menegola, Luke Dahlhaus and Zach Tuohy
St Kilda: Nil
Geelong: Jonathon Ceglar
St Kilda: Zak Jones (replaced Dan Hannebery in the fourth quarter)