It might be time to dismiss two long-held beliefs that have dominated football discussion: that this is Greater Western Sydney’s flag to lose, and Geelong cannot challenge without Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood.
For all the knocks on the Cats, they are firmly in premiership calculations after a powerful performance at their Simonds Stadium fortress on Saturday night.
Their 44-point drubbing of the Giants, set up by a powerful third term where they slammed six goals to one, has given their campaign a massive shot in the arm and delivered an equally big blow to the pre-season flag favourite.
The win has secured the Cats a top-two finish, ensuring a home qualifying final, and will force the Giants to have to take the scenic route to the last Saturday of September.
Whatever happens on the last day of the home-and-away season, the Giants’ finals path is now fraught.
If Richmond lose, the Giants will meet the Cats again in a fortnight. It would take a considerable improvement for them to turn the tables, particularly if the AFL schedules the game in Geelong.
The other scenario is equally unpalatable – a trip to face the Crows at Adelaide Oval where they were crunched by 56 points in round one.
A top-two berth was hard to imagine at the start of the month when the Cats were emphatically beaten by Sydney and lost premiership stars Selwood, Tom Hawkins and Mitch Duncan.
They have since won three on the bounce – their two most impressive coming against fellow finalists. This was arguably their most complete performance, topping their against-the-odds victory over Richmond.
Dangerfield was again superb, finishing with 33 possessions – 24 of which were contested. He brought teammates into the game with his work at the coalface and his use of the ball.
His highlight came during a banner third term when he crumbed and goaled from his own marking contest.
Selwood’s absence was not missed with Scott Selwood and Mitch Duncan on song. These leaders will need to have strong finals for the Cats to succeed but watch out if they do.
The younger Selwood held his own against Dylan Shiel, his 12 tackles giving the Cats midfield a harder edge. Sam Menengola again defied his humble draft origins with an accomplished display.
Geelong’s forward set-up was potent, bringing up triple figures for just the third time in the past three months.
Tom Hawkins, back from suspension, was influential without dominating the scoreboard, creating space for Dan Menzel and Steven Motlop. He will be better for the run.
The Giants had a night to forget with little working for them. Their midfield, with the exception of captain Callan Ward, was well beaten.
They were smashed for contested possession, which meant their ball movement lacked its usual fluency. They were not allowed to play their game.
Steve Johnson had a shocker in front of his old fans, having little influence with his eight possessions. His position in the Giants side must now be under huge doubt.
Injury has provided the Giants with an alibi for much of the year but this was the strongest team they have fielded all season.
The Cats were lively early, winning the ball in close and moving the ball briskly into an open forward line for Hawkins and Menzel. When they did not score, their pressure allowed them to lock the ball in and force the Giants into panic kicks.
There were few instances when they were able to run the ball freely, but when they did they were dangerous.
The Cats were ferocious early in the second, pushing their lead out to 19 points. When they had the chance to hurt their opponents, they showed no mercy – and through legitimate means.
Greene and Jacob Hopper both wore badges of honour, floored by knees in the back from marking contests.
Nor were the Cats missing tackles. Brendan Parfitt’s on Stephen Coniglio was a beauty, thwarting a promising forward thrust. His effort was in marked contrast to Greene’s attempt on ruckman Zac Smith, who was able to dance around his supposedly more agile pursuer.
But the Giants found a way. Aidan Corr provided the spark with a desperate tackle on Dangerfield. His teammates followed and suddenly the Giants were winning key contests across half-back, allowing them access to the corridor. It was fleeting.