Geelong ends 11-year title drought in Aussie Rules football

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It was never in doubt for the Geelong Cats on the way to their first Australian Football League championship since 2011.

The Cats won their 16th consecutive match and were never threatened in a 20.13 (133) to 8.4 (52) win over the Sydney Swans.

The Cats, who finished in first place in the regular-season standings with 18 wins in 22 matches, led by 26 points at halftime and 74 in the third quarter before a sellout crowd of 100,024 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

It was the largest crowd at the MCG since 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic had placed crowd restrictions since but were lifted this year.

The Cats, from a regional Victorian state city about 75 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Melbourne along Port Phillip Bay, are the “old boys” of the AFL. For their semifinal a week ago, the Cats fielded the oldest team in Victorian Football League/AFL history with an average age of 28 years, 173 days, including 10 players over the age of 30.

“They’re so hard to win,” Geelong captain Joel Selwood said of AFL titles. “Every side says it, but I think we deserved one. (We’ve) just been bashing away.”

Isaac Smith (32 disposals, three goals), Patrick Dangerfield (26 disposals), Tom Hawkins (three goals) and Mark Blicavs (23 disposals) led the Cats.

It was a long time coming for Dangerfield. He won his first AFL title after playing more than 300 games.

“This is Everest. This is the pinnacle. This is what it means to be content, I think,” Dangerfield told Seven Network television. “It was worth the wait and better than I ever could have ever imagined.“

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