GEELONG have been overrun by an impressive West Coast outfit, going down by nine points at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.
Geelong looked on track for a mighty upset when Zach Tuohy kicked his side almost four goals clear early in the second half, only for the Eagles to slowly wear their rivals down.
New Coleman Medal frontrunner Josh Kennedy proved the difference, booting three of his four majors in a thrilling final term to lead West Coast to an 11.7 (73) to 10.4 (64) win.
Kennedy took only 16 seconds to kick the first of his goals but barely touched the ball until three-quarter time, with Jake Kolodjashnij, Lachie Henderson and Harry Taylor rotating on him.
He came to life in the last term, getting on the end of a Tim Kelly pass for his second, before brushing off Taylor at a stoppage and crumbing a Nic Naitanui tap to snap truly and cut the Cats' buffer to two points.
Jack Darling subsequently gave West Coast its first lead since Kennedy's opener but the game remained in the balance as the minutes ticked away.
Enter Kennedy again. Jamie Cripps opted to put the ball at the top of the goalsquare, with Kennedy timing his jump perfectly to snatch the Sherrin from the air and seal the game.
Naitanui was also integral in the second-half fightback, gradually working over makeshift Cats combination Esava Ratugolea and Mark Blicavs to keep his All-Australian bid pumping. .
Geelong was terrific in the opening half and for much of the night, controlling the tempo with expert ball movement and disciplined defence that limited the Eagles' patented kick-and-catch game.
West Coast averaged a League-most 84 marks in the first eight rounds but had only 27 at half-time and 57 by the end.
Tom Stewart was a leviathan down back for the Cats, who were also well served by the silky skilled Mitch Duncan, superstar Patrick Dangerfield and Zach Tuohy in his new forward role.
No need for big numbers
Nic Naitanui's remarkable return to his best form after his torrid injury run added another chapter on Saturday night. Geelong might have been satisfied with how Esava Ratugolea and Mark Blicavs were performing against him at half-time but 'Nic Nat' was prominent in the final two quarters as West Coast ran rampant. The 30-year-old finished with 12 hitouts to advantage, four clearances, six score involvements and 10 disposals. It was just the fourth time this season that Naitanui had double-digit touches but his critics on that front are long silenced. If Cyril Rioli was the game's best 15-disposal player, then Naitanui has the mantle with 10. Whether he's jumping all over his opposition ruckman in the centre, charging out of the centre with his own clearance or burying someone in a tackle, the No.2 pick from the 2008 NAB AFL Draft is a menace.
A goal or not?
West Coast had slashed the Cats' lead to two points early in the final term when the controversial moment of the night arrived. The pro-Eagles Optus Stadium crowd had voiced their displeasure many times during the night but saved their loudest boos for this one. Geelong second-gamer Brad Close slipped a handball to an on-the-move Sam Simpson, whose attempt to kick a much-needed goal came off his knee first then arguably his foot. The goal umpire's initial reaction was to award a goal but it was sent to the ARC for a score review. None of the 'slow-mo' shots were conclusive, leaving the Cats to celebrate. Ultimately, it didn't matter, with West Coast running Geelong down as its form surge continued.
Constable holding office well
It's always been a tad surprising we haven't seen more of Charlie Constable since he was drafted in 2017. The prolific tall midfielder played seven of the first nine games last year but couldn't get closer than emergency duties thereafter – and had to wait until round eight this season to return. Constable won 19 possessions in the wet against Fremantle, then followed up with 16 more in Saturday night's loss to West Coast, including 12 in the first half. His numbers would have been more impressive except for him departing early after copping a head knock. It's unclear how much of a role Constable will play for the remainder of the season, given the likes of Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett, Quinton Narkle, Jack Steven and Luke Dahlhaus are still out of the side. Either way, coach Chris Scott knows he can depend on Constable, but rival clubs' interest in him is sure to keep rising. He is contracted at the Cattery until the end of the 2021 season.
WEST COAST 3.0 4.2 7.6 11.7 (73)
GEELONG 4.0 7.0 9.2 10.4 (64)
West Coast: Kennedy 4, Sheed 2, Darling 2, Ryan, Cripps, Ah Chee
Geelong: Tuohy 2, Hawkins 2, Menegola, Duncan, Dangerfield, Parfitt, Miers, Simpson
West Coast: Kennedy, Sheed, Yeo, Kelly, Shuey, Naitanui
Geelong: Stewart, Duncan, Dangerfield, Tuohy, Guthrie, Menegola
West Coast: Edwards (concussion)
Geelong: Constable (concussion)