By Justin Flynn
Friday night’s match-up between Tom Hawkins and David Astbury looms as one of those individual battles you would travel a long way to see.
Both players are near certainties to be chosen in the preliminary 40-man All Australian squad.
Hawkins has been on fire for Geelong this season, especially during the past fortnight after demolishing both Melbourne and Brisbane with consecutive seven-goal hauls.
Richmond’s Astbury is one of the AFL’s most underrated defenders. He constantly stops the opposition’s best forward, allowing Alex Rance to roam and play an intercept marking game while also allowing Dylan Grimes to play on the third defender whether that be a tall or a small.
Geelong has won 20 of its past 23 games against Richmond, but the Tigers have a two-game winning streak that began in last year’s qualifying final. Richmond won by 18 points in round 13.
Both clubs have injury concerns with Geelong defender Tom Stewart being cleared of a serious ankle injury, but still unlikely to line up tonight. Richmond midfielder Dion Prestia will miss with a broken rib.
Richmond sits a game and percentage clear of the rest of the competition on the ladder while the Cats are clinging to eighth position, but are only a game outside the top four.
Richmond has won its past 18 games at the MCG, setting a new record.
But Geelong coach Chris Scott believes his side is primed to end the reigning premier’s run at the home of football.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t be the team that hits a hot streak,” he said after Saturday’s win over Brisbane.
“I’m actually in the camp – it’s a small camp – that believes they can be beaten.
“And why not us?”
To do so, Geelong will probably need to have a handy lead at the final break.
Richmond is the best last-quarter side in the competition having won 14 final quarters, but the Cats are not exactly slow finishers either. They have won 12.
One thing in Geelong’s favour is that Scott Selwood is playing after missing the round 13 encounter. He will most likely apply a hard tag on Dustin Martin. Collingwood’s Levi Greenwood ran with the Brownlow Medallist last Saturday with success, although Martin still booted three goals when he went forward.
Both sides are settled in defence. Richmond concedes an average of 70 points against (ranked second) while the Cats are fourth with 74.
Richmond will have to lose a game at the MCG sooner or later. Chris Scott’s “why not us?” comment gives the Cats genuine hope that they can almost sew up a finals spot and push for a top four rank.
But tipping against Richmond at the G is fraught with danger.
Richmond by 14 points.
Tonight’s game at the MCG starts at 7.50pm.