As is so often the case, the big two of Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood were front and centre as Geelong won a tense arm-wrestle against luckless Port Adelaide last night.
But just as important in ensuring the Cats got up by two points was the performance of fellow midfielder Mitch Duncan, who took another step closer to making it a big three.
The 25-year-old was clearly the best player on the park for the opening three quarters of the clash at Simonds Stadium.
And even though it was another ‘Dangerwood’ special that conjured up the winning goal in the dying minutes, Duncan also had a big moment late in the final term.
He was the one who reacted quickest when Dixon was called to play on, just as the big Port forward was about to take the set shot for goal that would have put the Power up by nine points had he have been successful.
“(Duncan) was fantastic – in the first half he really set us up,” said Cats coach Chris Scott.
“His ball use was fantastic, he’s a really hard runner and he was great in and around the congestion as well.
“We’ve got high hopes for him and he’s pushing towards that A-grade midfielder level that we were always confident he’d get to.”
The Dixon incident is set to be much-scrutinised in coming days, but Hinkley acknowledged the umpires had got it right in calling the former Sun to play on in the final quarter as soon as the 30-second shot clock had expired.
Dixon was preparing to begin his run-up to kick for goal when the umpire called play-on, and was forced instead to dish off a hasty pass.
“I understood it. Time ran out,” Hinkley said.
“Unfortunately they got it 100 per cent correct, as far as right on the dot.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before – but that doesn’t matter.”
#AFLCatsPower Ridiculous play on call against Charlie Dixon. It's a great game constantly spoiled by umpires with no feel for the game
— Graham Cornes (@Cornesy12) May 25, 2017
Why don't Channel 7 put the 30sec stopwatch alongside the Dixon mark and shot on goal vision – settle it once and for all. #catsvpower
— Warren Tredrea (@warrentredrea) May 25, 2017
I am seething and I don't even follow Port!
They've been robbed.
Dead-set bloody robbed.#AFLCatsPower
— Jake Bourke (@JakeBourke) May 25, 2017
That Dixon decision. Disgrace. Can't remember that rule being enforced. Ever. Of course an AFL apology won't change result #AFLCatsPower
— Tom Wilson (@TomWilsonFOX) May 25, 2017
The 11.15 (81) to 11.13 (79) victory improved the Cats’ win-loss record to 7-3, while the Power slipped to 5-4, having had the bye last weekend following their long trip to Shanghai to take on Gold Coast.
Port Adelaide were well served by midfielders Jared Polec, Ollie Wines and Brad Ebert, ruckman Paddy Ryder and three-goal forward Robbie Gray.
For the Cats, former Crow Dangerfield finished the night with 24 disposals and three goals against his one-time crosstown rivals, including the late match-winner from a Selwood assist.
It was a moment of magic from the reigning Brownlow medallist that lifted Geelong to a heart-stopping two-point victory, in a tense and tight encounter where the margin never got beyond 12 points for either side.
With less than two minutes remaining and the home team two points in arrears, skipper Selwood’s scrappy kick from a stoppage fell to Dangerfield, whose instinctive left-footed kick flew through for a goal from a tight angle.
The Power had one last chance to snatch victory, but defender Tom Stewart snuffed out the danger by preventing the dangerous Robbie Gray from taking a mark when well within scoring range.
As is so often the case, the indefatigable Selwood was the best player on the park in the final quarter, taking a spectacular high mark and amassing 10 possessions to end the night with a game-high 33.
“It’s such an asset as a coaching group to have players that you can look in the eye at three-quarter time and know what they’re going to deliver,” said Scott.
“They were great… it’s always a relief when you win.
“I feel relieved when you win by 10 goals and you feel that by 10 when you win by two points or whatever it was and it looked for all intents and purposes that we were going to lose it late.”
He praised the Power, saying: “I think we’re starting to get a picture around who the best teams in the competition are.”
“I’m still not sure, we’re still not sure ourselves, but we suspect they’re up there, so it was a good performance to get over the line,” said Scott.
The opening quarter was a contrast between Port’s efficiency and the home team’s wastefulness.
The Power were able to convert a meagre eight inside-50s into three goals, while the Cats could only manage one major from their 18 forward-50 entries as they trailed by eight points at the first break.
Dixon lifted the intensity in the opening minute of the second term with a crunching bump on Selwood, which appeared to be hard but fair.
But Dangerfield burst to life in the second quarter, kicking two goals and setting up another one for Tom Hawkins.
The arm wrestle continued throughout the second half on a night when Geelong also celebrated the 10th anniversary of their drought-breaking 2007 flag.
.@GeelongCats thrilling win gets thumbs up from @CameronLing
11th time this year a game has been decided by 3 points or less#AFLCatsPower pic.twitter.com/mZnB3g3a6i
— AFL on 7 (@7AFL) May 25, 2017
Gary Ablett was the only member of the 2007 premiership team not at Simonds Stadium for the occasion – with two of the 22, Selwood and evergreen defender Andrew Mackie, taking the field.
The Gold Coast star will miss Saturday’s match against Melbourne in Alice Springs with a shoulder complaint, but still chose not to make the trip to Geelong to join in the festivities.
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