It was a dream afternoon for Geelong, who romped to victory in the 2022 AFL Grand Final, defeating Sydney by 81 points. It was their veterans who wreaked havoc, whether it was Tom Hawkins up forward, Patrick Dangerfield in the guts, or Isaac Smith on the outside.
For the Swans, there'll be some soul-searching, with coach John Longmire left to rue some possible selection errors, while a star in the making didn't touch the ball for nearly a half of football. Here's whose stocks are up and down.
Our footy experts cast their eye over the week's action to find out whose stocks are up -- whether it's a coaching masterstroke or a player having a blinder -- and whose are down.
Tom Hawkins was held goalless last time these teams met in Round 2 earlier this year, but made amends and delivered on the biggest stage when the game was on the line. Known to be one of the best forward 50 rucks in the game, Hawkins capitalised twice in ruck contests to kick the first two goals of the match, using his strength to take the ball out of the air and boot the opening two goals.It was a tone-setting first term for Hawkins, and one which proved symbolic of the Cats' dominance around the hard ball. For the Swans, it was diabolical to allow two of the very same goal, and the fact they allowed Hawkins to do it twice was damning. Credit to the Cats' big man, however, who played to his strengths and helped deliver this squad an elusive flag.
Geelong might have fielded the oldest team in any AFL match, but doesn't age equal experience? In the case of these victorious Cats, it certainly did, and it was 32-year-old Isaac Smith on one of the wings who had a day out. One of the most influential players on the ground and a fitting Norm Smith Medal winner, Smith finished the match with three majors, 32 disposals, 12 marks, and a staggering 771 metres gained. Now a four-time premiership winner (three with the Hawks and now one with Geelong), Smith has shown that shrewd free agency recruitment pays off. Somehow we can't see this bunch of 'oldies' curtailing the celebrations too early...
It's fair to say Patrick Dangerfield has atoned for his 2020 Grand Final performance. The Brownlow medallist was magnificent in what is his career's crowning glory, tallying 26 disposals, nine clearances (five centre clearances) and SIX direct goal assists - the most recorded in any game this season. Was he stiff not to be named Norm Smith Medallist?
He's an All-Australian, arguably recruit of the year, and was one of Geelong's best on Grand Final day. Tyson Stengle has turned not only his career around, but his life around. He kicked 4.1 on the afternoon and had nine total score involvements in a front-half masterclass. Well done Stengle, well done Eddie Betts, and well done Geelong.
A lot of Geelong's haters are eating humble pie this weekend. Too old? Well, they put out the oldest side ever assembled - and won. Too slow? Geelong's midfield was too strong, too fit, and too hungry all afternoon. They were first to the footy, hard at the contest, and clean with ball in hand -- all things which, even if you are a 'slower' team, give off the impression of speed. Kudos to the Cats, they perservered for years and years in the face of critisism for their list build, and Chris Scott has vindicated every decision -- on the field and off it.
To say it was a dismal day for the Swans would be a mighty understatement, but even in the anguish of defeat there were shining lights. Chad Warner has played just 39 games but could well be Sydney's most important full-time midfielder going forward. He finished the match with 29 disposals, 10 clearances, two goals and 587 metres gained, and was clearly the Swans' best on the day. Veteran co-captain Luke Parker didn't stop working, tallying 23 disposals and a staggering 14 tackles, and Robbie Fox; much was made of his finish to the season, and his crucial smother late in their qualifying final win over the Dees, but he too was excellent in a defence that was comprehensively out-muscled and out-classed. Fox's efforts to quell Jeremy Cameron were notable given how potent Geelong's other forward weapons were, and he finished with 26 disposals of his own.
Sydney's midfield brigade was left flat-footed and too often was second to the ball int he crucial early stages of the Grand Final. While Patrick Dangerfield, Cam Guthrie and Rhys Stanley got to work early on the inside, and Isaac Smith on the outside, Sydney's mids were just unable to get clean possession of the footy in the contest - and the game slipped away accordingly. Often it wasn't just contests around the stoppages, but loose ball contests in play as well. By quarter time the writing was on the wall, with the Cats leading the disposal count 113-67, the inside 50s 20-8, clearances 12-9 clearances (and that didn't really tell the story of Geelong's dominance, contested possessions 48-29, and marks 35-13.
Emblematic of the Swans struggles to get meaningful and clean touches early in the contest, Isaac Heeney only registered his first disposal after 15 minutes of play ... in the second term. One of Sydney's most dangerous players in the midfield and in the forward half, the supremely skilled Heeney managed three possessions before he was able to register a disposal - highlighting Geelong's tenacity around the loose ball. Well after it was clear Sydney was going to struggle to force and lock the footy in their front half, coach John Longmire made the move to put Heeney in the centre, but well in to the second term after the Cats opened up a six-goal lead? The mind boggles.
Speaking of John Longmire and the match committee, the decision to name and play Sam Reid while under an injury cloud with a bad adductor backfired spectacularly. Aside from being in a forward line which didn't get enough supply (or, indeed, quality supply), Reid looked lame, something which was clearly evident after a crunching tackle on the wing with a few minutes left in the second term. Reid got up proppy, but Sydney gave the veteran forward until a few minutes into the third term to get rolling again. Unfortunately for Reid, he was subbed out not long after, finishing the match with just four handballs. To some end, you back the player and the coaches to make the right call, but -- and hindsight is a wonderful thing -- Logan McDonald would have offered a lot more than Reid and probably Hayden McLean.
He might have re-signed last week for one more year, but the bronx cheers halfway through the fourth term really summed up Lance Franklin's afternoon. Buddy looked every bit his age in the Swans' loss, picking up just five disposals and scoring one behind. Admittedly, it doesn't help when your team manages just 32 inside 50s for the match, but taking only two marks (both uncontested) isn't good enough for a leader on such a big stage.