K rock Football

Finals almost a lock for Cats

Teammates celebrate Stefan Okunbor’s first goal as a Geelong player. (Geelong Cats Image/Arj Giese)

GEELONG has all but locked in a VFL finals berth after handing North Melbourne a 102-point belting in a one-sided affair at GMBHA Stadium.

Rhys Stanley and Charlie Constable led a dominant on-ball division and the Cats took an early stranglehold on the contest and finished with a dozen individual goalkickers.

In-form forwards Wylie Buzza, Darcy Fort and Jarmaine Jones kicked three each as the home side recorded its biggest win of the season, 21.12 (138) to 5.6 (36).

The result put fifth-placed Geelong three wins and percentage clear of the chasing pack that sits outside the top eight, though the Northern Blues have a game in hand.

Another Cats win in the final two rounds of the home-and-away season – or even a loss for the Blues against Richmond on Sunday – would see Shane O’Bree’s side confirm its finals place.

“We’ve spoken about being confident versus complacent and the boys are confident, so we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” O’Bree said.

“Team rewards and individual rewards will come along the way.”

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Stanley and Ryan Abbott dominated the ruck battle against North Melbourne’s Tom Campbell and Tristan Xerri to give Constable (41 disposals), James Parsons (33) and Sam Simpson (28) plenty of service in the middle.

As a result, Geelong dominated inside-50s (64-27) and never looked like losing after generating a run of six straight goals leading into quarter-time.

“We set the game up the way we wanted to play and implemented our structures and intent around the contest,” O’Bree said.

“The boys are all on the same page and really enjoying playing with each other at the moment, which is the most pleasing thing.”

Stanley boosted his chances of an AFL recall with 29 hit-outs, 15 disposals, four marks and two goals. He will be in the selection mix next week.

“You can’t fault his attitude,” O’Bree said.

“He’s playing to his strengths and some of the hit-outs to advantage to our mids was a real highlight today.

“I thought at times when he fatigued he went away from it but I think when he plays to his real strength in the contest and around the contest he’s very dynamic.

“I thought he played like that today and last week, as well.”

Irish rookie Stefan Okunbor provided one of the highlights of the match with his first VFL goal, which sparked wild celebrations during the second quarter.

“It was a great goal, left-footer, and the celebration was even better,” O’Bree said.

“That’s what it’s all about. To see the enthusiasm and excitement on his face after he kicked it was fantastic.”

The only downside for Geelong on a positive day was Lachie Fogarty’s minor hamstring injury.

Nakia Cockatoo was rested after getting through half a game on return from a serious knee injury six days earlier, while Zac Guthrie narrowly missed out on selection after failing to overcome an ankle injury.

Both will be in the mix to play when Geelong takes on third-placed Williamstown at Downer Oval next Sunday.

Twitter: @shayne_hope

GEELONG  21.11 (137)

NORTH MELBOURNE  5.6 (36)

Goals; Geelong: J. Jones 3, D. Fort 3, W. Buzza 3, O. Brownless 2, C. Constable 2, R. Stanley 2, R. Abbott, N. Kreuger, L. Fogarty, J. Tarca, J. Kennerley, S. Okunbor

North Melbourne: T. Campbell 2, C. Jansen, T. Wilkinson, B. McLaughlin

Best; Geelong: C. Constable, J. Jones, J. Parsons, P. Dowling, R. Stanley, S. Simpson

North Melbourne: T. Campbell, B. McKay, N. Hrovat, R. Morrison, T. Hotchin, N. Holmes