Mature-aged recruit Darcy Fort has made a dream AFL debut with three goals for fast-finishing Geelong who have downed the Western Bulldogs by 44 points at GMHBA Stadium to remain a game clear atop the ladder.
The 25-year-old Fort has taken the long road to the top level, beginning his career with local club South Barwon before stints with Werribee and Footscray in the VFL and SANFL outfit Central District.
With No.1 ruckman Rhys Stanley a late withdrawal due to an adductor injury, another inexperienced big man Ryan Abbott and Fort were left to ruck against Bulldog Jackson Trengove.
But it was up forward where Fort had his biggest impact, marking strongly and kicking three goals as the Cats booted the last six goals of Saturday evening's game to win a high-scoring encounter 21.7 (133) to 13.11 (89).
The home side also had good returns from spearhead Tom Hawkins (four goals) and Gary Rohan, who had two of his three majors on the board inside the opening four minutes of the match.
Silky-smooth midfielder Mitch Duncan also booted three goals including the sealer from long range late in the final term as Geelong racked up their highest score of the season.
It was a free-flowing affair pretty much from the opening bounce, with the pick of the first-quarter goals a flying effort on the run from long distance by Bulldogs backman Jason Johannisen.
The visitors narrowed the margin to five points entering time-on of the second quarter after a major from clever forward Sam Lloyd.
But the Cats ended the half with a bang, booting three goals in three minutes to lead by 22 points at the break.
Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli produced the two individual highlights of the third term with a pair of spectacular running goals - the first from 55 metres out and the latter from well inside the centre square.
Chasing their first win in Geelong since 2003, the Dogs looked every chance of springing a massive upset when Mitch Wallis narrowed the margin to nine points early in the final quarter.
But from then on, it was largely one-way traffic, with Geelong booting the last six goals and Tom Stewart thrilling the crowd with a stunning high mark over Tom Liberatore.
Midfielders Wallis, Bailey Smith and Lachie Hunter were among the Bulldogs' better players.
Star Geelong onballer Patrick Dangerfield spent the final few minutes on the sidelines after hurting his ankle.
The table-topping Cats travel next weekend to the Gold Coast to take on the Suns, while the Bulldogs' next challenge is against North Melbourne in a battle of the Marvel Stadium co-tenants.
Australian Associated Press