Coach rushes ‘into defence’

Andrew Mathieson
GEELONG coach Mark Thompson has been forced to defend several key players just days out from another top-four clash against Western Bulldogs.
Tom Hawkins’ battles in the ruck, Joel Selwood’s attempts to draw high tackles, James Podsiadly’s indifferent away form and even Mark Blake’s attempt to regain his spot have all came under intense scrutiny.
Thompson said the Cats were taking in their stride external criticism following a third loss from the past seven games.
“This time last year – we shouldn’t look back too much – back by round 21 teams were queuing up to play Geelong,” he said.
“Well, it’s round 20 this week, so it’s not that dissimilar to last year, so I’ve got the faith, absolutely.
“It’s a funny game – it’s a week to week thing.
“If you win, everyone’s happy and talks you up. If you lose, you get belted around the ears.”
Thompson admitted Hawkins “struggled a bit” in the ruck in the 22-point loss against Collingwood.
Rival Darren Jolly told Geelong radio his eyes lit up when he saw the Cats part-timer struggle at the centre bounces.
“That’s a big statement,” Thompson said.
Selwood raised the ire of Magpies fans last Saturday night for earning several free kicks from high tackles.
Hawks great Dermott Brereton suggested the midfielder had perfected a method of pushing tacklers’ arms up toward his head and shoulders to earn the attention of umpires.
Ironically, Collingwood was the first club to raise concerns about Selwood ducking with the AFL two years ago.
“It’s probably an issue – he gets a lot of (frees),” Thompson conceded.
“But he does stick his head over the ball a lot more than other players do.
“The umpires can only pay it as they see it and if there’s a little technique there where the opposition’s arms fly and they do get him around the neck, well, around the neck is around the neck.”
Thompson said an out-of-form Podsiadly should “get back to enjoying every game of football that he ever gets to play”.
The J-Pod copped unexpected harsh words from former Cat and media personality Billy Brownless over his inability to perform on the big stage.
“Look, he’s under pressure but he has been a remarkable story this year – there’s no question he’s been fantastic for us,” Thompson said.
“I think right now he is playing to sort of stay in the team.”
Thompson was also quick to dismiss flak over ruckman Blake who has been languishing in the reserves out of favour behind Hawkins and Trent West.
“When he was in the side a lot of supporters wanted him out,” Thompson said.
“Now that he’s out, they want him back in, so make up your mind.
“We probably see it clearer than a lot of our supporters.”

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