GEELONG 6.4 12.7 16.11 20.13 (133) ST KILDA 1.2 2.3 2.5 5.7 (37)
GOALS Geelong: Selwood 3, Walker 3, Duncan 3, Hawkins 3, Murdoch 2, Mackie, Lang, Bartel, Stringer, Stokes, Motlop. St Kilda: Shenton, Armitage, Billings, Weller, Riewoldt.
BEST Geelong: Stokes, Hawkins, Duncan, Bartel, Motlop, Simpson. St Kilda: Armitage, Ray, Ross.
UMPIRES Armstrong, Farmer, Burgess.
CROWD 25,180 at Simonds Stadium.
When you're almost 11 goals up at half-time fielding an experimental team against a vastly inferior opponent, there's only one way to round out a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Look forward.
"We were really strong on the fact that we might change a few things with a view to the future, but we needed the players to live in the moment (too)," Geelong coach Chris Scott said of a second half in which the Cats' coaching staff didn't quite throw the magnets up in the air and go with where they landed, but still tinkered enough to makethe day worth more than just four points banked with disturbing ease against a woeful St Kilda.
Scott concluded that the Cats were "building a little bit", but knows that the quality of the opposition made this a win with an asterisk. St Kilda coach Alan Richardson's questioning of his team's effort was a most damning rider.
Scott admitted his players' positions became largely irrelevant, with adherence to system the main game. Yet their dominance was such that Mark Blicavs was able to further his key backman experience on Nick Riewoldt, Harry Taylor went forward, Brent Hartman spent time on the ball and Darcy Lang was given a full half after starting in the green vest.
"We're really excited about the way that Hartman and Lang attacked the contest," Scott said of the first-gamers, emphasising that neither had been "gifted" their debut after doing all that was asked of them in the VFL. "They were ready. The challenge now ... for our young players on the fringe is to cement their spot, because we do have a few coming back."
Among them Steve Johnson and Jared Rivers, both late withdrawals who could have played if more was at stake, plus Josh Caddy, Allen Christensen and Hamish McIntosh. Christensen is destined to return for the trip to the Gold Coast, while Scott gave the strongest indication that Shane Kersten, who kicked six in the VFL on Saturday, will become the fourth Geelong debutant of the season.
"He's one that we've been looking to play for a long time and circumstances kept him out. But it might almost be time."
St Kilda kicked off proceedings with one of the fastest goals of the season as Maverick Weller cashed in on Jack Steven's clearance with just 13 seconds elapsed, but a cloud quickly blackened the Saints' sunny start. Geelong kicked the next eight and the contest was effectively over by the time Josh Walker's long shot on the quarter-time siren was deemed to have crossed the line.
Visiting fans hoping the Cats' burst was wind-assisted were soon disappointed as the locals added another six before half-time, the first of them to Jordan Murdoch from a couple of metres out surrounded by four opponents whose inability to retard him would have had a coach pulling out tufts of hair at under 12 level. The inquisition into how it happened could fill the entire Monday game review on its own.
The Saints began the last quarter staring down a couple of unwanted markers, needing to get their tally to 27 to avoid notching their lowest score since 1910, and with the Cats leading the marks inside 50 count by 21-1 and within reach of a record differential of 29 in a statistic as damning as any that characterised the most lopsided of clashes.
Their blushes on the former front were spared when Jack Billings screwed home their fourth goal, following Cameron Shenton's long bomb at the start of the last term. But in Murdoch's second, from an errant Sean Dempster handball, there was a neat summary of an afternoon in which the Saints really should donate their match payments to charity.
Scott praised Hawkins' effort in taking 13 marks up forward and presenting tirelessly up the ground, while at the other end Nick Riewoldt had a starkly contrasting afternoon in which his coach noted that the Cats' defenders thought so little of St Kilda's other forwards that they double and triple-teamed the veteran champion.
The Cats will spend little time revisiting this romp, with Scott looking squarely to next weekend. "Three big forwards, a really top-line midfield," he said of the Suns. "We won't be going into the game with any luxuries - we'll be attacking it pretty hard."
Which even St Kilda's coach conceded on Sunday was far more than his team could manage.