TOM HAWKINS has put Geelong on his broad shoulders with a virtuoso performance to dismantle Port Adelaide by 10 goals at Metricon Stadium on Friday night.
Hawkins kicked six goals and set up two others in arguably the most dominant power forward display this season, leading the Cats to a 14.7 (91) to 4.7 (31) victory against the competition leaders.
Geelong now sits in equal second with Brisbane, four points adrift of Port, whose third loss of the year was a bad one.
The Cats kicked seven goals to one in the final term to drive home their commanding victory.
Hawkins was on-song from the opening quarter and was too big, too strong and too skilled for undersized Tom Clurey, taking a whopping seven contested marks for the night.
The 32-year-old has raced to the sole lead in the Coleman Medal, six clear of West Coast spearhead Josh Kennedy.
Geelong's midfield gave Hawkins fantastic service – whether it was over the top of Clurey who played in front most of the night, or hitting his chest on the lead.
Patrick Dangerfield (24 disposals and three goal assists) was magnificent, using the ball with penetration and precision, while Cam Guthrie (27) and Sam Menegola (21) were also prolific.
Port was never really in the contest, with two of its four goals coming via 50m penalties.
While Hawkins had a bumper evening, his counterpart Charlie Dixon had a night he'd rather forget, totally blanketed by Harry Taylor, who kept him to just three disposals and no shots at goal.
Are the Cats now the flag favourites?
What a week – or four days - it's been for Geelong. They thumped second-placed St Kilda by 59 points at the Gabba on Monday night and have now put a huge dent into Port's premiership credentials. While West Coast has surged into calculations and Brisbane – who the Cats also beat handsomely last month – keep on keeping on, Chris Scott's men look the complete deal at the moment with one of the competition's stingiest defences, a deep midfield, and the Coleman Medal leader in its forward line. Oh, and Gary Ablett to return.
Questions on Port's key defence
Hawkins' mauling was not the first time Port Adelaide's defence has been exposed for height this season after Brisbane's tall forwards got the better of them earlier in the season. While Port's shorter defenders – led by skipper Tom Jonas and Clurey – have had magnificent years, it might be a chink opponents look at as the importance of the matches increases. Could there be regret over trading Dougal Howard in the off-season?
Cats dodge a bullet
Sam Simpson hobbled off with a hamstring injury early in the third quarter, but things could have been so much worse for Geelong. Midway through the second term veteran Harry Taylor collided with teammate Jake Kolodjashnij, sending both crashing to the turf. Port kicked the ball inside its forward 50 where the two met at top speed. The tangle of bodies left both men on the ground for some time afterwards. Taylor eventually hobbled off awkwardly favouring his hip, while Kolodjashnij limped around for the rest of the quarter. Luckily though, both played the game out.
GEELONG 2.3 4.3 7.7 14.7 (91)
PORT ADELAIDE 0.1 1.6 3.7 4.7 (31)
Geelong: Hawkins 6, Rohan 3, Atkins, Fogarty, Guthrie, Henderson, Menegola
Port Adelaide: Farrell, Georgiades, Lycett, Woodcock
Geelong: Hawkins, Dangerfield, Blicavs, Guthrie, Menegola, Taylor, Bews
Port Adelaide: Boak, Amon, Houston, Powell-Pepper
Geelong: Simpson (hamstring)
Port Adelaide: Nil