Patrick Dangerfield was the life of the party as Geelong celebrated milestones for club stalwarts Corey Enright and Jimmy Bartel with a hard-fought win over the Western Bulldogs.
Enright played his 326th AFL match on Friday night to overtake Ian Nankervis and become the club’s all-time games record holder, while Bartel notched his 300th game.
Both were influential in the 16.7 (103) to 11.12 (78) win over the gallant Bulldogs, with Dangerfield’s 33-disposal, three-goal performance the centrepiece of a momentous evening for the Cats in front of 24,331 fans at Simonds Stadium.
“It’s big … we wanted to honour the occasion but we also don’t want to be disrespectful to other games of AFL football,” coach Chris Scott said of the win.
“If anything, the challenge is to make sure your emotion level is relatively stable. There’s no doubt, in our minds, that we were going to be up for the game.
“But there was a risk that we were going to try too hard and be a little bit over the top with our emotion and (the Bulldogs) were probably in the same boat.
“I thought it was a fiercely contested game but we were really pleased with our composure.
“It’s just nice to send well-loved guys off the ground in a situation like that after a win.” Enright and Bartel finished with 27 and 25 disposals respectively, with Bartel delighting the home crowd with a running left-footed goal in the dying seconds of the match.
Rhys Stanley kicked a career-high five goals and Zac Smith was the dominant ruckman on the ground with 31 hitouts as the Cats extended their winning streak against the Dogs to 10 games.
But this was no pushover win for Geelong.
Luke Beveridge made five forced changes to a side that suffered a horrendous injury toll in last week’s loss to St Kilda but the depleted Dogs dominated large patches of the contest without capitalising on their hard work.
Geelong eventually turned the tide with a four-goals-to-one third term after the Dogs lost Tom LIberatore to an ankle injury and Jack Macrae to a hamstring strain.
The Cats’ 13th win of the season keeps them right in the hunt for a top-four finish.
“We’re on the right track and clearly we weren’t on the right track as little as a few weeks ago,” Scott said.