How the footy cycle turns, it was only 2009 when these two sides clashed in a memorable Grand Final, yet in 2012 sitting 7th and 10th, this is a must win clash for both teams just to make the eight.
All the interest in the lead up to this game will be on the fitness of each club’s spearhead forwards Tom Hawking and Nick Riewoldt. Both will no doubt be given until the very last moment to prove their fitness from their concussion/knee injuries respectively, although you think if they do play the lack of mental agility from Hawkins may be a lesser loss than the diminished running ability of Riewoldt.
The two clubs have played 207 times, with the current tally 124 to 83 in favour of the Cats. The Cats have won the past two meetings of the two sides (both in 2011); and the teams have split their twelve matches at Docklands six apiece.
The Cats had been ominously charging towards September with victories over Essendon, Adelaide and Hawthorn – in the game of the year, before their close loss to the Eagles after losing spearhead forward Hawkins early in the game.
Steve Johnson was near unstoppable in the first half, but faded in the third quarter, but was able to cover the loss of the rested Kelly and racked up 32 disposals and ten tackles. The emerging Allen Christensen also found plenty of the ball, and Motlop and Stokes proved handy up forward to cover the loss of Hawkins.
The Cats footy manager Neil Balme said he was confident the Cats would be boosted by the availability of Joel Corey, James Kelly and Trent West. The availability of West is particularly timely to come in to replace injured ruckman Orren Stephenson, who broke his hand against the Eagles on Friday night. Paul Chapman was restricted to light training early in the week and will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness, as will Hawkins who trained with the group on Tuesday.
Cats captain Joel Selwood will also play after having to plead guilty for an incident that was nothing more than sibling rivalry.
St Kilda will be sweating on the return of their skipper Nick Riewoldt, who sustained an injury to his right knee against the Demons. Riewoldt is the Saints leading goal kicker, and focal point – with 47 goals, and a marking target for 131 of his side’s forward entries this season. In the skipper’s absence, former Eagle Beau Wilkes was able to chime in with a career high five goals against the demons, and will be expected to provide similar scoreboard pressure alongside Justin Koschitzke on Friday night if the skipper doesn’t come up.
Nick Del Santo and Leigh Montagna have been busy of late, while Brendon Goddard and Lenny Hayes have been workman like, but yet to capture their previous stellar form and will have to lift if the Saints are any hope.
Clint Jones and Farren Ray were both late withdrawals before the demons game, but are expected to return after strong form in the VFL.
If both Hawkins and Riewoldt were to miss, the Cats have had Podsiadly, Motlop, Stokes, Chapman, Taylor, Johnson and Duncan all kick multiple goals in matches, while the Saints could welcome in promising forward Arryn Siposs who kicked four goals for Sandringham last week, Adam Schneider and Jason Blake to cover.
Two separate games could play out depending on prognoses, yet both teams will be equally desperate to win. The battle in the centre will be crucial not only in feeding the – potentially makeshift – forward lines, but also for pushing forward and scoring themselves. Geelong seem to have more answers up forward and more mids in form or fresh for what will be a tough and tight contest.
Geelong by 18
B: Matthew Scarlett, Tom Lonergan, Josh Hunt
HB: Andrew Mackie, Harry Taylor, Corey Enright
C: Mitch Duncan, Steve Johnson, Joel Corey
HF: Paul Chapman, James Podsiadly, Steven Motlop
F: Mathew Stokes, Tom Hawkins, Jimmy Bartel
Foll: Trent West, Joel Selwood, James Kelly
I/C: Jonathan Simpkin, Taylor Hunt, Josh Walker, Jordan Murdoch
Emg: David Wojcinski, Jackson Sheringham, Cameron Guthrie
In: Paul Chapman, Joel Corey, Josh Hunt, James Kelly, Trent West
Out: David Wojcinski, Jackson Sheringham, Allen Christensen (Groin), Cameron Guthrie, Orren Stephenson (Hand)
B: Jarryn Geary, James Gwilt, Tom Simpkin
HB: Sean Dempster, Sam Fisher, Sam Gilbert
C: Jason Gram, Lenny Hayes, Brendon Goddard
HF: Ahmed Saad, Beau Wilkes, Nick Dal Santo
F: Stephen Milne, Justin Koschitzke, Leigh Montagna
Foll: Ben McEvoy, David Armitage, Jack Steven
I/C: Jason Blake, Adam Schneider, Farren Ray, Jamie Cripps
Emg: Rhys Stanley, Arryn Siposs, Jack Newnes
In: Jason Blake, Adam Schneider, Farren Ray
Out: Nick Riewoldt (Knee), Tom Ledger, Sam Dunell