Geelong have put an undermanned Essendon to the sword, scoring a comprehensive 87-point NAB Challenge win in Shepparton.
Saturday’s game was shortened with the AFL’s extreme heat policy enforced but the Cats still had plenty of time to expose an understrength Bombers on their way to the 0.17.9 (111) to 0.3.6 (24) thumping.
After thrilling Cats fans with his stunning debut in the hoops, Patrick Dangerfield picked up where he left off with a game-high 24 disposals and a goal, with Josh Caddy, Mitch Duncan and Cameron Guthrie also prominent through the middle.
Nathan Vardy led all scorers with four goals.
Geelong didn’t emerge unscathed, however, with exciting defender Jackson Thurlow stretchered off in the third quarter with what appeared to be a serious knee injury.
“He’s going to get scanned on Monday,” assistant coach James Rahilly replied when asked about the severity of the injury.
“The (doctors) have had a little bit of a look at it, but they can’t confirm anything yet. It didn’t look great but we can’t confirm anything yet … fingers crossed he’s alright.”
Brendon Goddard, David Zaharakis and Joe Daniher were among those rested from an Essendon side already decimated by the loss of 12 players banned for anti-doping violations.
Last week’s first-up win against arch-rivals Carlton gave Dons fans a small glimmer of hope for the season ahead but Saturday’s performance was perhaps a more accurate indication of the task in front of John Worsfold’s men.
“I thought we saw some exciting things today even in a big loss … I see some signs of what guys can do,” Worsfold said.
“We’re not going to wallow – we’re going to be focusing on improving and working hard.”
After a scrappy opening term, the Cats ran riot in the second with seven unanswered goals to open up a 62-point lead as the Bombers managed just one rushed behind to halftime.
Sam Grimley broke the drought shortly after the resumption in a quarter where Essendon were at least able to put up a more competitive performance, albeit without making any inroads into the margin.
The already-shortened final term was cut by a further two minutes as players struggled to cope with the sweltering heat, with the Cats easing to the emphatic win.
Players from both teams wore black armbands in honour of Geelong Brownlow medallist Paul Couch, who died just hours before the game.