Ten out of 10 for our determined Cats

PARTY TIME: Mitch Duncan is embraced by Joel Selwood as Travis Varcoe and Paul Chapman come in to celebrate. Photo: Getty Images

YES: Big Cat Tom Hawkins celebrates a goal yesterday. Photo: Michael Klein.YES: Big Cat Tom Hawkins celebrates a goal yesterday. Photo: Michael Klein.

THIS was the result that pre-season form indicated: A team burned by an early exit in September that had things rolling and ready for Round 1.

The other team coming off the back of a Grand Final loss, which looked throughout the summer series that it had clearly started behind everyone else.

But the pre-season form guide was made to look a nonsense in a single half of footy.

The team that looked primed was remarkably off the boil.

Hawthorn’s ball use was precise. Only its conversion on the scoreboard was the problem. Geelong’s disposal was way off. You can’t image the Cats would have fumbled any more had there been a cake of soap out in the middle instead of a Sherrin. The domination in the centre was extensive. The Hawks doubled Geelong’s forward entries in the first quarter, and by halftime had accumulated 39.

Last year, the Cats conceded only 47 inside-50s a g ame.It was a number that told a significant story.

The Hawks at times waltzed through the middle. Shaun Burgoyne did that in the second quarter, when the Cats left the entire back half of the centre square exposed for the midfielder.

When they went to the rooms at the main break, Hawthorn’s centre clearance lead had blown out to 10-3.

Bradley Hill had been lively in the opening quarter, and it was that sort of spark that was eluding the Cats. The Hawks were largely controlling ball and territory, considerably helped by Geelong’s handling of the ball. But that command didn’t really translate to scoreboard pressure. Hawthorn’s lead was 30 points when Isaac Smith snapped a goal 24 minutes into the second term.

But then Cat Tom Hawkins, completely out of sorts in the first half, grabbed the ball in the pocket late in the quarter and slotted the set-shot snap. He then marked another a few minutes later and sent the ball inside 50, eventually resulting in a Travis Varcoe snap from the top of the goal square with nine seconds left on the clock. Suddenly the margin was a manageable 20 points.

What happened after halftime will be the blueprint for how the Cats need to play the rest of the year. Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel and Paul Chapman asserted themselves, setting loose a barrage of young runners.

Varcoe, Steven Motlop, Mathew Stokes, Billie Smedts and Taylor Hunt all provided the run and carry Geelong needed.

Suddenly, the Cats looked assured. They gathered where Hawthorn fumbled; hit targets where the Hawks missed; and they took advantage on the scoreboard. They had Hawthorn under pressure at almost every turn, and the longer it went the more it looked as though Geelong’s unbeaten run over its arch-rival would be extended to 10.

It’s a win that sets the Cats rolling in a new season, franks their impressive form of the NAB Cup, and confirms that their young kids can stand up when it counts.

Geelong 1.5   5.7   10.12   13.15       93
Hawthorn 4.3   8.9   10.10   12.14     86

GOALS: Geelong: B. Smedts 2, J. Podsiadly 2, M. Duncan 2, T. Hawkins 2, A. Christensen, A. Mackie, J. Selwood, P. Chapman, T. Varcoe. Hawthorn: L. Breust 2, L. Franklin 2, S. Savage 2, B. Guerra, C. Rioli, D. Hale, I. Smith, J. Lewis, J. Roughead.

BEST: Geelong: J. Selwood, P. Chapman, T. Varcoe, T. Lonergan, T. Hunt, S. Motlop, M. Stokes, H. Taylor. Hawthorn: S. Mitchell, B. Sewell, B. Hill, P. Puopolo, R. Schoenmakers, J. Gibson.