Esava Ratugolea gives Geelong Cats cause for optimism
Esava Ratugolea only needed six disposals to kick an AFL career-high four goals in a telling contribution to Geelong's 38-point win over Richmond.
But what impressed Cats coach Chris Scott was what the gradually improving ruck-forward produced on Sunday that didn't register on the stats sheet.
'He competed really strongly in the air, especially when he was outnumbered,' Scott said.
'That's been a strength of Richmond's for so long now and we know that they're undermanned, we can all see that, but they've still got some quality players down there.
'The way Esava was able to attack the contest and bring the ball to ground when he was well out of position I thought was a highlight of our game.'
Ratugolea had trouble with a knee injury before half-time but played through the issue and the rewards came thick and fast in the second half.
From late in the third quarter, the 23-year-old added three goals to his tally to match Cats spearhead Tom Hawkins' game-high output of four for the day.
Rhys Stanley led Geelong's ruck division against the Tigers but with key forward Jeremy Cameron set to return from a hamstring injury before the finals, Ratugolea's versatility in the forward line and ruck could see him hold his place in the side.
'He's shown capacity in both positions,' Scott said.
'There's a strong argument that if you have a player that can look quite dominant as a key forward and then also spend some time in the ruck, they become valuable players.
'I don't think there's many really, really good ones in the competition for a reason - because it's a hard role to play.
'But Esava in combination with Hawkins was good and with Cameron to come back we've got some options.'
Geelong sit second on percentage behind the Western Bulldogs after the 15.5 (95) to 8.9 (57) win over Richmond made it 10 victories in their last 11 outings.
Captain Joel Selwood (corked quad) is in some doubt for the clash with North Melbourne in round 20, but Shaun Higgins (knee) is expected to return.
If cleared, former Bulldog and Kangaroo Higgins will play his 250th AFL game against one of his former clubs.