Essendon VFL’s last hitout before September ended on a disappointing note, going down to Geelong by 41 points at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday.
While the Dons struggled to find the consistency present over previous weeks, the Cats never left cruise control, managing the 8.5 (53) to 13.16 (94) victory.
The Bombers started the day in fine form, hitting the ground running with a Mark Baguley major just four minutes in.
A quick reply from the Cats brought the game right back and kicked off what was an arm-wrestle of a quarter.
The Dons steadied as the game progressed to eventually be rewarded with a goal to Matthew Day (two goals, six marks).
Spurred by great composure inside 50, Tynan Smith provided a fend-off and finished with Essendon’s third.
A late goal saw Geelong take a one-point lead at the first break.
The VFL Dons truly lifted in the second, working tirelessly in the scrappy conditions as they attempted to wrestle back the lead.
An impressive chain of play from the backline helped set up Day for his second goal of the game.
The Cats had all the answers, however, racing out of the blocks with back-to-back goals.
Jordan Ridley (27 disposals, eight marks) responded two minutes later, sparking the Bombers into life.
Both sides traded majors for the remainder of the term, as skipper Aaron Heppell booted his first and David Myers (20 disposals, two tackles) side-stepped to the classiest of finishes.
Skipper Aaron Heppell recorded 20 disposals and a goal against the Cats. (Photo: Ben Johnstone)
Geelong took full advantage of the breeze to kick the final two goals of the term as Essendon went into the main break trailing by nine points.
A downpour of rain did not make things easier for the Bombers in the third.
Geelong dominated the run of play, making the most of its opportunities up front as it looked to extend its lead.
The first major was scored 15 minutes in via Geelong’s Darcy Fort, highlighting the tight start.
The Cats continued to run rampant, leaving the Bombers chasing a 25-point buffer in the final term.
The young Dons put up a fight in the fourth quarter as the trying conditions improved.
Essendon increased its inside-50 count, but wayward kicking proved costly.
Despite a more competitive start to the quarter, the Cats once again pulled away to extend the margin to as much as 39 points.
A late running goal to Dylan Landt capped off a standout performance, finishing the day with 18 disposals, two tackles and a goal.
But it wasn’t enough, as a rampaging Geelong outfit stormed home 41-point victors.
Jake Long (21 disposals, nine marks) impressed through the centre, while Riley Bowman (eight disposals, 19 hit outs) battled hard in the ruck.
Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (14 disposals, four marks) and Bruno Laguda were prolific in defence.
Senior coach Dan Jordan put the loss down to a range of things, but said he was proud of the way his side responded to the challenge.
“We found it pretty hard - the first 10 minutes of the third quarter we couldn’t capitalise. Geelong went down and kicked a couple and got some momentum and were able to take it away,” Jordan said.
“We knew Geelong had a really strong side and they were good around the ball. They probably just got on top around the contest and that was the difference I thought.
“I thought our group did well all day, and we were probably just undermanned by a more polished side.”
Heading into finals next week, Jordan wants the playing group to remain consistent.
“We’ve had some inconsistent efforts over the last few weeks, so we have to re-group,” he said.
“The guys are really confident - they’ve had a good year and they’ve put themselves in a good place to be to have a double chance.
“We just want to dig in and play the way that we want to play, we’ve got nothing to lose. We’ll go to the Swinburne Centre next week and hopefully take it right up to the Tigers.”
The VFL Dons will face Richmond in a qualifying final at the Swinburne Centre on Saturday.
Essendon 3.0 7.2 7.5 8.5 (53)
Geelong 3.1 8.5 10.12 13.16 (94)
Goals: Day 2, Baguley, Smith, Ridley, Heppell, Myers, Landt
Disposals: Ridley 27, Long 21, Heppell 20, Myers 20, Landt 18
Victoria Raptis is in the final year of her Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) degree at RMIT University. As part of their strategic partnership, Essendon Football Club and RMIT University are committed to providing opportunities for students, staff, players and the wider community.