Patrick Dangerfield celebrated his first Geelong game with a stunning best-on-ground performance in a thrilling 30-point win over Hawthorn in another Easter Monday classic at the MCG.
The former Adelaide superstar gathered a career-best 44 possessions in a jaw-dropping display in his first outing for the Cats, almost singlehandedly willing his new side to the 18.8 (116) to 12.14 (86) win in front of 74,218 fans.
Geelong enjoyed a 30-point lead at halftime but the reigning premiers stormed back into the contest to have their noses in front by two points at the last change.
But the Cats weren’t to be denied and finished with a seven-goals-to-two final term to enjoy a season-opening win.
It was fitting that Joel Selwood, for so long a battered and bruised lone hand at the midfield coal face, was on the receiving end of Dangerfield’s first possession as a Cat – a slick handball within the first minute of the match.
It was the first of many for both players as Geelong put a gap on the reigning premiers after neither side managed a score in the first nine minutes.
Zac Smith couldn’t have put in a more impressive first half in his first game since crossing from the Suns with three goals as the Cats led by 15 points at quarter-time then increased that advantage in the second.
At the other end, the Hawks’ forward line lacked shape without injured linchpin Jarryd Roughead.
But, champion side that they are, Hawthorn found a way to hang in with the rampaging Cats.
Premiership stars Luke Hodge, Isaac Smith and Luke Breust all managed just one possession each in quiet opening terms but lifted as prime movers Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis and Shaun Burgoyne helped launch a counter-attack.
Noticeably more intense at the stoppages, Hawthorn wrenched the momentum off the Cats, who suddenly couldn’t move the ball out of their back half.
The ever-lively Paul Puopolo added two goals to take his tally to three, with his third running into an open goal snatching back the lead.
It barely seemed possible but Dangerfield lifted his game another notch in a stunning last quarter onslaught as the Cats finished over the top of their tiring opponents.