MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Isaac Smith of the Cats (R) celebrates kicking a goal along side Jeremy Cameron of the Cats during the 2022 AFL Grand Final match between the Geelong Cats and the Sydney Swans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 24, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Ahead of the 1954 VFL Grand Final, Footscray skipper Charlie Sutton sent a short and sharp message to his tri-coloured charges: shop early and avoid the rush.

68 years and a pandemic later, it was a different litter that picked up the sermon and bolted.

As both Geelong and Sydney entered the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the first decider on Wurundjeri land in 1093 days, punters and pundits nationwide coaxed themselves into believing they had already read the script.

The Cats, experienced and ravenous, would send their ruckman behind the play and operate with a loose man in defence.

The Swans, youthful and buoyant, would crack in at stoppages, controlling the ball and, perhaps, the tempo.

Yet, by the siren's sound for quarter time; the rush, well and truly, over, it was the Pivot City side that had it all, and more, to their name.

Yes, Chris Scott's clowder allowed the Swans an extra man at the coalface, but with six goals to one on the board at the opening break, Geelong had strangled Sydney's strength from them, dominating contested footy and sending the ball forward at will.

Following a career that had seen him ply his trade in multiple timezones, four-club ruck Tom Hickey entered his first grand final week as the footy world's darling, proving far more than serviceable in each of his September outings.

But with so many of their own snuffed along the stretch, the Cats scuppered the fairytale early, with Tom Hawkins twice winning, spinning and grinning for majors, leaving the former Sun, Saint and Eagle looking to the heavens for salvation.

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Not to be outdone, skipper Selwood began etching the opening lines of what could be his final chapter in style, racking up nine disposals in the opening term.

By the half, the champion in his 40th final had been quelled, with littermates in Patrick Dangerfield, Isaac Smith, Bradley Close and Tyson Stengle chiming in at double time.

The latter's pair of second-term majors took his seasonal tally over the half-century mark and edged the Cats further towards the prospect of a famous cricket score on a ground that has played host to the ilk of Bradman, Sobers and Cook.

While a fightback commensurate with the Bloods' modus operandi was on show for portions before the main break, hard-fought goals to Hayden McLean, Callum Mills and Isaac Heeney were futile as the Cats went on to extend their lead, residing six goals to the good at the half.

The afternoon of Sam Reid came to an unofficial end ahead of half-time; the veteran providing four handbells and little more than a yelp as Sam De Koning proved untamable in the air and on the ground.

The 30-year-old never looked close to fit, wincing and berating McLean for delivering an errant kick in the warm-up, on which asked him to bend only mildly.

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In a pastel suit and a gaudy faux-mullet, British pop star Robbie Williams acted as the starter, with his arsenal of fireworks wafting the scent of gunpowder across the painted surface a full hour before battle.

And following the homegrown notes of G Flip, Goanna and The Temper Trap, it took the Cats little more than a minute to resume their rout, this time with Mitch Duncan getting in on the act at the Punt Road end.

Despite the time remaining on the clock, the actions of all beyond Duncan's dagger would be inconsequential; the only sport remaining to see which Cat would be taking the Norm Smith Medal back down the highway.

Cameron Guthrie joined the party, the bearded midfielder's major wedged between Close's second, Smith's third from his post on the wing and Stengle's snap from the drip tray.

While the senior Guthrie brother's influence could not be denied within the engine room, the former Hawk and the kid experiencing the most vaunted ressurection since Christ thrust themselves further into best-on-ground contention.

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With an All-Australian blazer already to his name this season, Stengle's afternoon saw him reach the pot of gold at the end of his redemptive arc. However, with the 23-year-old fed routinely by the boots of Smith and Dangerfield, the ex-Tiger and Crows' elders remained in the running.

The pair controlled the ball both inside and outside of the contest, conducting the tempo and re-writing history with every deft kick.

Combined, the decorated duo entered Saturday afternoon with three premiership medallions between them. Yet, as the sun set over the Ponsford Stand, the reality had set in for Dangerfield; the mountain had finally been scaled to completion.

Smith would end the day with 32 touches, three majors, a diabolical 14 score involvements and the Norm around his neck.

As the specially branded Sherrin hit the term to commence the dead-rubbered last stanza, Geelong held a 74-point lead - eight goals in arrears of their own record set in 2007.

Though their past work would remain unbroken, the 81-point win was Geelong's 16th in a row and Sydney's largest loss of the season - their previous lull coming in Round 7 with a 24-point loss at the hands of the Lions.

Having watched on as their side packed their carts and hit the checkouts at pace, Geelong's army in the outer found time to offer Lance Franklin Bronx cheers; the superstar, well and truly, snuffed by Jack Henry all afternoon.

And there were plenty of hoarse hooped throats, with 100,024 finding their way through the gates, the biggest grand final crowd since 1986.

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Medical-sub Brandan Parfitt and De Koning continued the procession with close-range finishes from the City End goalsquare. The task of eventually capping the Cats' golden afternoon falling to Selwood and Jeremy Cameron, willing the blue portion of the packed stands to their feet for the umpteenth time.

Having been made to wait since 2011 before adding to their already stocked trophy cabinet, plenty of loose ends required tying for the Cats.

But with the work done early and the proverbial cue in the rack before the break, Selwood - finally a premiership captain - and his teary coach could breathe easy as they unequivocally proved they are the greatest team of all.

GEELONG             6.5       9.8       15.11       20.13 (133)
SYDNEY               1.0       4.2         4.3           8.4 (52)

Stengle 4, Hawkins 3, Smith 3, Cameron 2, Close 2, Blicavs, De Koning, Duncan, C. Guthrie, Parfitt, Selwood
Sydney: Warner 2, Hayward, McLean, P. McCartin, Mills, Heeney, Papley