Geelong has survived a massive scare to lock in an AFL top-four spot, as Gary Ablett showed flashes of brilliance on his return to action in a six-point win over lowly Sydney.
- The Cats were level on points with the fifth-placed Eagles but finished fourth because of a superior percentage
- They did not take the lead against the Swans until early in the final quarter
- The Hawks beat the Suns by 51 points to finish in 15th position on the ladder
The injury-ravaged Swans stunned the Cats early with four of the first five goals and led until the four-minute mark of the final term.
But class eventually told as Patrick Dangerfield, Sam Menegola, Brandon Parfitt and Tom Stewart played key roles in the Cats’ crucial 10.9 (69) to 9.9 (63) victory in Carrara.
It took a desperate late smother from Mark Blicavs on James Rowbottom to secure the result on the final play of the match.
The win gave Geelong fourth place on the ladder and a double chance for the finals, starting with a qualifying showdown with either Brisbane or Port Adelaide.
Dangerfield was moved permanently forward after half-time and kicked three crucial late goals to help drag the Cats over the line.
Menegola, Parfitt and Stewart were busy throughout but Geelong’s midfield struggled to gain ascendancy against a Swans on-ball division led by experienced campaigners Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker.
Sydney got the early jump, registering their highest first-quarter score of the season (5.4), but lost James Bell to concussion after a head clash with Jordan Dawson.
Their nine-point lead at quarter-time would have been greater if not for Tom Papley’s miss from the top of the square running into an open goal.
Ablett’s first two touches were goal assists and he kicked one himself before quarter-time to help stem the tide, but he was one of few the Cats to have much of an impact to that point.
The free-flowing contest became a grind during a goalless second term.
Dangerfield’s move forward helped change the match and he put the Cats in front with the first goal of the final quarter.
He added another moments later and could have had a fourth from a free kick, but advantage was paid when Parfitt kicked a goal off the deck.
The Cats endured nervous moments in the dying stages.
Papley cut the margin back to 11 points and Justin McInerney trimmed it to six with 19 seconds remaining before Blicavs’s late heroics.
Chief goal sneak Papley was an ever-present threat in attack but was wasteful in kicking 2.5.
Parfitt and Coleman Medal leader Tom Hawkins finished with two goals each for Geelong.
Hawks finish on winning note
Retiring Hawthorn stalwart Paul Puopolo has made a stylish three-goal farewell in a 51-point demolition of Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval.
Puopolo booted two of Hawthorn’s seven first-term goals in the 17.6 (108) to 8.9 (57) victory, which meant the Hawks finished with a 5-12 win-loss record for the season.
The Hawks are likely to finish 15th on the ladder, with the Suns expected to be in 14th place. If the Sydney Swans upset Geelong on Sunday afternoon they will leapfrog both the Suns and Hawks.
In what was a dead rubber between two non-finalists, the Hawks exploded from the blocks in the opening quarter to lead 7.1 (43) to 1.1 (7) at the first change.
Aside from Puopolo, fellow veteran Jack Gunston kicked two goals in the opening term before finishing with four for the match.
Another departing Hawk, three-time premiership player Ben Stratton, collected 13 disposals and kicked a last-quarter goal, which was just the second in his 202-match career.
Tom Mitchell (33 disposals), James Cousins (24), Liam Shiels (25) and ex-Sun Jaeger O’Meara (25) were influential for the Hawks throughout the contest.
Gold Coast’s co-captain David Swallow (27 disposals) and Noah Anderson (25) were the team’s leading ball winners.
Suns forward Alex Sexton booted three majors, while debutant Jy Farrar scored a goal with his first kick in the AFL ranks.