Five moments that won the Grand Final: A blistering start, acing free agency

Too old, too slow, too good. Again.

We've heard that all before, but Geelong have yet again defied the odds to claim an incredible 10th club premiership, doing so with the oldest team ever fielded in VFL/AFL history.

The Cats obliterated the Swans by 81 points at the MCG to secure their first flag since 2011, and here, we've highlighted five moments in particular that steered them to a famous cup-winning triumph.

Geelong's blistering start

Be honest - who saw that coming? Even if you tipped a comfortable Geelong win, seeing them pile on six goals in a first quarter onslaught -- they're most in a first term of a Grand Final -- was genuinely startling.

They showed Sydney no mercy, and it began with spearhead Tom Hawkins, who characteristically capitalised from two forward 50 stoppages by snapping out of a pack fortuitously and giving the Cats the opening two majors of the afternoon. It's a role Hawkins has relished at Geelong for the best part of two years -- using his strength to shove his opposing ruck out of the way to have a free swing at goal -- and it begs the question: how did the Swans not know it was coming?

The Cats obliterated John Longmire's side in the first half an hour, winning the contested possession count by 19, the uncontested possessions by 19, and taking 22 more marks around the ground to set up the win. They controlled the footy and took Sydney's much spoken about pressure game completely away from them, and were far too strong around the stoppages.

A 35-point lead and it was never surrendered. Just wow.

Edging out the Pies mattered... a lot

The Cats were able to win in the first week of finals for the first time since 2016 when they overran the Magpies in a qualifying final classic just a few weeks ago.

It was a six-point triumph highlighted by match-winning efforts by maligned Cat Gary Rohan, who booted three goals and played one of the most influential games of his career, forward ace Jeremy Cameron (three goals and 12 score involvements), and defender-turned midfielder Tom Atkins, who played a fourth quarter for the ages picking up 12 possessions (eight contested) and four clearances to help edge his side over the line.

Collingwood was the better team for much of the contest, but the important win to the reigning premiers meant they were able to enjoy a week off (not too shabby for the league's oldest team), and subsequently host a prelim and Grand Final against two interstate sides.

Now make no mistake, it wasn't luck -- Geelong was the best team all year and rightly deserve and have earned this flag -- but as the Pies found out in Sydney, the winner of that qualifying final would in hindsight have a favourable route to the cup.

Acing free agency - the new Grand Final formula?

We all know the Geelong story, bucking the backwards to go forwards trend and avoiding the dreaded rebuild by utilising free agency better than anyone and recognising that mature-age talent is the best way to an AFL premiership.

The haters will say they've failed many a time, especially in the last decade -- they've featured in every finals series bar one since 2006 -- but you can't deny the inevitable expectations of this experienced group season on season, a team that expects nothing less than a Grand Final appearance each year regardless of some eventual underachieving results.

First Patrick Dangerfield elected to pursue his rights as a free agent and joined the Cats in 2016, ditto Isaac Smith in 2020, Jeremy Cameron did the same and arrived in 2021. The three players were a decisive trio and pivotal part of Geelong's success in 2022.

But then there's rewarding state league talent; they selected All-Australians Tom Stewart, with pick 40 in the 2016 national draft, and more recently threw Tyson Stengle a lifeline, his outstanding 44-goal season in the SANFL last year too hard to ignore after off-field incidents with the Tigers and Crows threatened to derail his career.

No flags since 2011 despite remaining 'strong' and experienced. But they backed in their system, have established a winning environment and a culture players in the AFL want to be a part of. Bravo, Geelong.

Hard-luck Holmes, but a sensible decision

You've got to feel for Max Holmes, his dream of winning an AFL premiership must wait at least 12 more months after being ruled out with an injury concern.

The young wingman had a superb end to the year for Geelong and was one of the more damaging players in that position in the league, prior to tweaking his hamstring in the side's preliminary final win over Brisbane.

He trained all week, his hand firmly up, but Chris Scott's wise mind would take no risks in the biggest game of the year, instead bringing in a fully fit Mark O'Connor, and Brandan Parfitt as the medical substitute, and taking no risks.

Watching Sydney's Sam Reid line up on the other side -- after hurting his groin against the Pies last week -- and being subbed out just after half time of the Grand Final probably justifies the Scott decision as the correct one - taking in underdone players in big games always fraught with danger as the Swans invariably found out.

O'Connor had 13 touches and six marks in Geelong's 81-point win. Does an injured Holmes make the Cats 82 points worse and change the result? Nah, probably not, but it was undoubtedly, and despite however harsh, the right decision to make.

A Punt Road end thumping - twice!

A 36-point deficit might have been staring Sydney in the face at the main break, but stranger things have absolutely happened and yes, with a nothing-to-lose style and a bit of luck in the third quarter, the Swans were still in it.

Instead, the Cats owned the premiership quarter much like the first, again using a six-goal avalanche to the Swans' one behind to set up an unquestionable victory.

Mitch Duncan hit the scoreboard early, Brad Close followed suit, Smith nailed his third beauty on the run, and suddenly it became easier to look not where the goals were coming from, but where they weren't.

Of course we'll mention Stengle's typical 40-metre snap from the boundary to carry Geelong's lead to beyond 12 goals, too, a scene Cats fans have learned to love in 2022 as we bare witness to one of the most fairytale of fairytales that is the crafty forward's rise to stardom.

From there it was well and truly party time.

But the unsung heroes in this run was the stingy defence that hadn't given the Swans an inch all day, Tom Stewart, Sam De Koning and Jake Kolodjashnij setting up like they had all season to deny the away team any easy entries, or even just simple looks, into their front half.

A complete performance indeed.