Geelong's new-look forward line fired on all cylinders in the Cats' 28-point win over Essendon at GMHBA Stadium on Thursday night.
Recruits Gary Rohan (four goals) and Luke Dahlhaus (25 disposals, eight tackles) provided a spark, partnering Gary Ablett (three goal assists) in the dangerous forward set-up.
Skipper Joel Selwood (38 disposals) starred in the midfield alongside Tim Kelly (28) and Patrick Dangerfield (30) servicing key forwards Tom Hawkins and Esava Ratugolea in the 15.11 (101) to 11.7 (73) victory.
The Bombers were left to rely on their usual suspects Dyson Heppell (21 disposals) and Zach Merrett (24) to do the heavy-lifting alongside new signing Dylan Shiel (25).
Merrett sat out the opening quarter before a blistering 14-disposal second term with the Bombers opting to play with 23 and leave Sam Draper, Brayden Ham and Dylan Clarke sidelined when the game was on the line.
Orazio Fantasia had to wait until the 25th minute of the third term to register a kick in his first pre-season game, while Tom Bellchambers returned for 32 hitouts to win the ruck battle against Rhys Stanley.
The Cats shot out of the blocks in front of 9070 fans, kicking the first three goals of the game before Essendon bounced back to take a two-point lead into the first break.
Rohan made the most of a line-ball rushed behind free kick against Conor McKenna to kick his second goal early in the second quarter. Outside of the nine-metre goalline, McKenna's handball attempt failed to reach Michael Hurley before he was called for deliberate.
Ratugolea later provided two minutes of brilliance to excite the home fans. First he took a strong pack mark and converted before a crumbing effort on the very next play drifted just wide of the goal.
The intensity of the contest reached its peak later in the term as Mark Baguley and Tom Stewart tangled on the wing before Joel Selwood threw a wayward elbow on the Bomber.
Selwood won’t have anything to worry about from the Match Review Officer, however he did cough up a free kick for the action, paid by emergency umpire Jacob Mollison.
As Heppell and Stewart were put on ice late in the contest, Dahlhaus and Rohan showed why the Cats landed them in the off-season with a fine piece of tandem work in the third term.
Dahlhaus' no-look handball deep in attack found its way into the path of Rohan, running into kick the third of his four majors.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Geelong: The Cats' round one defensive conundrum will be made tougher after strong showings from five key backs. Harry Taylor impressed after missing a large part of last week following a head knock alongside Jack Henry, Tom Stewart, Lachie Henderson and Mark Blicavs. Jake Kolodjasnhij, managed after the Eagles clash, is another in contention with Zach Tuohy and Jed Bews set to miss. Showed up by the Eagles' ball control, the Cat set about owning possession with 119-64 marks. The Cats rarely played on after conceding a behind.
Essendon: After restricted time last week off an interrupted pre-season, Joe Daniher played 90 minutes but failed to hit the scoreboard. A number of teammates were used as the deepest forward in the goalsquare at centre bounces including Jake Stringer, David Myers and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti. The Bombers continued to use the AFL-issued LED-style communication board after it was revealed clubs would be permitted to use their own.
Geelong: After a blistering start to his senior career last week, defender Jordan Clark did his chances of a round one debut no harm. Wrecking ball Tom Atkins collected 17 possessions in his forward role, winning raves reviews from assistant Nigel Lappin post-match in a sign he's all but secured an AFL debut for the season-opener. Fellow mature-age draftee Darcy Fort entered after half-time, while untried second-year duo Gryan Miers and Charlie Constable played limited game time. Recruits Luke Dahlhaus and Gary Rohan were standouts in attack.
Essendon: Dylan Shiel's ballhandling looked a class above his teammates, finishing with a team-high 25 disposals. The former Giant also spent large chunks of his 79 per cent game time in the front half. Draftee Brayden Ham only came into the contest late in the final term, while untried big man Sam Draper relieved ruckman Tom Bellchambers for the final 10 mintues.
Joel Selwood (MID, $732,000) spent the early parts of the game on the wing as a conduit between the bench and the field before assuming his customary role in the centre square for 38 possessions.
Geelong faces a 15-day break before meeting Collingwood under lights at the MCG. Fringe players will get the chance to impress in a VFL practice match against Werribee next Friday night – seven days out from round one. The Bombers will use all 17 days ahead of their round one clash against GWS to get work into pair Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia.
GEELONG 3.1 9.6 14.9 15.11 (101)
ESSENDON 3.3 5.3 9.5 11.7 (73)
Geelong: Rohan 4, Ratugolea 2, Hawkins 2, Menegola, Kelly, Ablett, Dangerfield, Dahlhaus, C.Guthrie, Atkins
Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Brown 2, Ridley, Myers, Stringer, Baguley, Smith, Heppell, Langford
Geelong: J.Selwood, Dangerfield, Dahlhaus, Kelly, Rohan, Henry
Essendon: Shiel, Heppell, Merrett, Ridley, Saad
Umpires: Fisher, Gianfagna, Mitchell
Official crowd: 9070 at GMHBA Stadium