After five years, Harry Taylor and Geelong are back at the pointy end of the AFL premiership hunt.
Friday night’s epic two-point qualifying final win over Hawthorn eliminated the doubts that had persisted this year about the Cats’ flag credentials.
They have the week off, boast a healthy list and will most likely welcome back key defender Lachie Henderson from knee surgery for their preliminary final.
Since their three-premiership dynasty ended in 2011, Geelong had only won one final and missed last year’s top eight.
After struggling for consistency this season, especially against lower-ranked teams, the Cats roared into the finals with a seven-game winning streak.
Making the top four and then Friday night’s pulsating win against their arch rivals confirmed Geelong can go all the way.
Taylor, one of Geelong’s most experienced players, was a key member of the 2009 and ’11 premiership teams.
He is among seven Cats from the 2011 premiership team who played on Friday night, while six Geelong players had a finals debut they will never forget.
“It’s exciting to be a part of,” Taylor said.
“It’s tough to win finals – we haven’t won as many finals as we would have liked over the last few years.
“So although it was interesting circumstances (on Friday night), it’s great to win a final and be in a position to play in a preliminary final.”
Taylor added it was a privilege to be part of the nine-year rivalry with Hawthorn, with Friday night’s classic undoubtedly the highlight.
As usual, the match featured dramatic momentum shifts and there were seven lead changes in the second half.
“It’s just the drama and romance of it all It’s amazing to be a part of as a player,” he said.
“It’s so funny in the games, we’ll get in front and you know they’re going to come back and vice versa.
“I remember a few times playing on (Jarryd) Roughead and we’d be standing next to each other saying, ‘I’m sure you’re going to come back or I’m sure we’re going to come back’.
“It’s pretty unique.”
Taylor, Henderson and Tom Lonergan have been a solid key defensive trio for the Cats this season.
Lonergan was outstanding on Friday night, particularly with some big marks in the frenetic last quarter.
“He was excellent – he took three good intercept marks late, when we needed to stifle the momentum,” Taylor said.
“Again, I thought he played well all game, but that last quarter he stood tall and it was fantastic.”