The Gold Coast Suns gave a refreshed Geelong a major scare before suffering a 14-point loss in the AFL clash at Metricon Stadium on Sunday.
The Suns led 68-61 deep into the third quarter before the Cats snapped out of holiday mode to eventually triumph 15.20 (110) to 13.18 (96) in front of 15,824 fans.
It was Gold Coast’s 21st consecutive defeat and gives them a total record of three wins and 36 losses under coach Guy McKenna.
Geelong strike weapons Paul Chapman (four goals), in his return from a groin injury, Tom Hawkins (four goals) and skipper Joel Selwood (32 disposals) were outstanding.
For the hosts, Harley Bennell (22 disposals, two goals) and Josh Caddy (three goals) impressed. Gary Ablett (27 disposals, two goals) again led the way for Gold Coast, although his radar scrambled a couple of times in front of goal at crucial stages.
The lethargic Cats, who were missing stars Harry Taylor, Steve Johnson and James Podsiadly, were wasteful in the opening quarter and their defenders appeared content to push up the field.
Gold Coast’s forwards took advantage of the extra space as they booted four goals, including a brace to Trent McKenzie, to hold a 12-point lead at the first break.
Maybe it was the tactical nous of the Suns new director of coaching, dual premiership-winning mentor Malcolm Blight, or the Cats relaxing too much during their six-day break on the tourist strip, but the Suns were full of energy on their home turf.
Certainly the return of Michael Rischitelli (hamstring), Campbell Brown (knee) and Jarrod Harbrow (illness) helped their cause, with superstar Ablett able to lighten his load against his former club.
The Suns continued to dominate uncontested marks in the second quarter before Chapman put a stop to the rot, booting three consecutive goals that put his team in front.
A Caddy major ensured the Suns – coming off a 126-point hiding to West Coast – went to the halftime break with a shock 45-42 lead.
The Cats finally showed why they are the defending premiers in the third quarter in a sparkling seven-goal display but they still only led by 19 points heading into the final quarter.
An Ablett goal bridged the gap to just 12 points before a Hawkins banana-kick major from close range gave the Cats some breathing space.
The Suns ran out of legs in the final 20 minutes as Geelong (9-5 win-loss record) surged ahead to seal the result.
Suns defender Joel Wilkinson limped off late in the first quarter with a left ankle injury.