GEELONG delivered a brutal reminder to Fremantle about where it needs to improve if it is going to emerge from its rebuild and become a finalist again in an emphatic 69-point win at Optus Stadium on Thursday night.
Riding the momentum created by three wins in the past month, the Dockers stepped out on the big stage for the first time in five years but were taken apart by the ruthless Cats, who won 14.16 (100) to 3.13 (31).
The Cats kicked seven unanswered goals either side of quarter-time to set up the win and then rattled home with the last six to make a statement about its own ambitions in 2021.
Their sixth win in seven clashes against Freo further entrenched them in the top four, with the significant percentage boost placing them on top of the ladder for the moment and helping them in their push for a top-two spot at the end of the home and away season.
The disappointing Dockers, meanwhile, slipped to eighth and could fall out of the top eight altogether after a short stay if both West Coast and St Kilda win in round 18.
They were also left wounded, with gun ruckman Sean Darcy finishing the match on the bench with an apparent knee concern and key forward Rory Lobb substituted out of the game at half-time with an ankle injury.
Geelong dominated the midfield battle, winning the clearances 44-35 as Cam Guthrie (35 disposals and seven clearances) and Sam Menegola (30 and seven) outshone their younger opponents, who could not take advantage of Darcy's ruck domination.
They then settled into their high possession game on the outside and didn't let Fremantle ever get things on their terms, winning 123 more disposals and taking a massive 72 more marks.
The final tally of 58-38 inside 50s even flattered Freo, given the control and purpose with which the Cats were able to enter, and the haphazard nature of the Dockers' thrusts forward.
Missing forwards Gary Rohan and Jeremy Cameron, spearhead Tom Hawkins took matters into his own hands and booted four goals, while Patrick Dangerfield kicked three.
After building a 14-point lead at the first change, Geelong was ruthless in making its move in a five-goal second quarter that exposed the gulf between third and seventh on the ladder.
The trend of the match was well established at half-time and the Dockers lacked the muscle and method to turn things around in coach Justin Longmuir's heaviest defeat in his two seasons.
Hawkins leads aerial domination
After going goalless against Carlton for the first time this season last week, Hawkins rebounded to make up ground in the race for the Coleman Medal. He passed the 40-goal mark for the 10th consecutive season and repeatedly found space to work into, holding off opponent Alex Pearce, who didn't have enough support. The Cats took a massive 28 marks inside 50 to the Dockers' two, despite missing Rohan and Cameron, who have kicked 53 goals between them this season. Fremantle tall forwards Lobb (six disposals and two marks) and Josh Treacy (six and one) failed to fire but were poorly served by rushed inside 50s that too often went to the Cats' advantage.
Banged up Darcy does it alone
There was hardly a winner on the ground for Fremantle apart from ruckman Sean Darcy, and the in-form big man finished the match on the bench with what appeared to be a left knee concern. His first quarter was colossal, with eight disposals (seven contested) at 100 per cent efficiency, four clearances and five hitouts to advantage. He finished the match with 18 disposals, 37 hitouts and a team-high eight clearances, despite sitting out most of the last quarter. With Lobb also sidelined after half-time and in doubt next week with an ankle injury, it leaves the Dockers with some concerns to work through before their clash against Sydney, with Matt Taberner no certainty to return.
FREMANTLE 1.3 1.7 3.10 3.13 (31)
GEELONG 3.5 8.8 11.12 14.16 (100)
Fremantle: Brayshaw, Walters, Colyer
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Dangerfield 3, Menegola, Narkle, Selwood, Miers, Dahlhaus, Close, Ratugolea
Fremantle: Darcy, Brayshaw, Ryan, Switkowski
Geelong: Menegola, Guthrie, Hawkins, Dangerfield, Tuohy, Narkle
Fremantle: Lobb (ankle), Darcy (knee)
Fremantle: Walker (replaced Lobb)
Geelong: Holmes (unused)
Reports: Treacy (Fremantle) for rough conduct on Bews
Crowd: 35,271 at Optus Stadium