IF tonight proves to be the last game for the Bendigo Gold, the end has come with the biggest loss in Bendigo’s 16-year VFL history.
The Gold – fighting for survival beyond this season – were tonight taught a football lesson by the powerful Geelong, which won by 201 points at the Queen Elizabeth Oval, 35.17 (227) to 3.8 (26).
While the effort of the Gold couldn’t be questioned, they simply had no answer to a brutal and clinical performance from the top-of-the-ladder Cats.
Geelong kicked 10 goals in the first quarter, six in the second, 11 in the third and eight in the last.
However, the night wasn’t a total debacle for the Gold.
Off the field, there were positive signs for the club as it continues its community campaign for support.
A crowd of more than 2000 watched the game, while the club received at least 80 new membership pledges for next year.
Tonight's loss brings to an end a tough stand-alone season for the Gold, who finished 2013 winless from their 18 games and with an average losing margin of 96 points.
But of all the hidings the Gold copped this season – and there were seven by more than 100 points – no side has impressed Bendigo coach Aussie Jones more than reigning premier Geelong.
“They’re the best we’ve played by a long way,” Jones said.
“Across the park, their run was too good, they were too quick, too tall and too well-drilled.
“The whole Geelong system is working really well at the moment, so full credit to them.”
Such was the gulf between the two sides, it felt like a schoolyard game where the year 7s were playing the year 12s.
“And that is what it has been like all season,” Jones said.
“We’ve been honest all season in that the boys need to have big pre-seasons over summer and it’s going to take time.
“Geelong had about 16 professional footballers running around tonight, but I want to give the boys a pat on the back for their effort... they never threw in the towel.”
The Gold lacked any run tonight as a long season took its toll on the tired young bodies.
While the Gold played without spark, the Cats lit up the QEO with their quick, precise ball movement, particularly through the corridor where their midfield ran riot.
If the 52 scoring shots to 11 wasn’t reflective enough of the Gold’s inability to get their hands on the ball, the inside-50 count was 79-28 in Geelong’s favour.
In attack, Shane Kersten (six), George Burbury (six), Mitch Brown (four) and Ryan Bathie (four) combined for 20 goals for the Cats to be among 15 goalkickers.
A standout feature of the Cats’ play was their goalkicking accuracy.
Their tally of 35.17 included a remarkably accurate 19.6 after half-time, largely thanks to getting easy shots close to goal.
Bendigo kicked all three of its goals during an 11-minute burst in the second quarter.
Between the six and 17 minute marks of the second term, Billy McInnes, Jack Sheahan and Ben Archard all goaled for Bendigo.
By the time McInnes had kicked the Gold’s first goal, Geelong already had 12 on the board.
Bendigo’s best players were star midfielder Alik Magin, who was a workhorse all night, Ricky Thomson, who had a tough job on Geelong playmaker Billy Smedts, Riley McIvor – who took a hanger on the final siren – Nathan McCarty, the creative Tom Hams and Archard.