By JOHN VAN KLAVEREN
GEELONG’S battle to defy the odds and remain a finals relevant team continues tonight against North Melbourne.
Losing to Hawthorn in last week’s qualifying final, relying on tried and tested performers, led to renewed questions about Geelong’s place in the AFL pantheon.
Commentators argued another flag would allow Hawthorn to claim equal-era status with Geelong, conveniently overlooking the Hawks’ lower win percentage and lower finishes, including one season out of the finals altogether.
But Cats coach Chris Scott still has the long-term firmly in mind while remaining upbeat about the team’s short-term prospects.
No one seriously expects the Cats to win through to the grand final this year – even Geelong supporters are almost resigned to the inevitable.
Add to that further injury setbacks, including ruckman Hamish McIntosh out with knee soreness, Steve Johnson still under a cloud and Allen Christensen struggling with a back injury, and the Cats could arguably have underdog status.
Scott admitted his younger players needed to step up this week but saw “room for optimism”.
“If we can turn around some of those performances and get a bit more of an even contribution we’ll be in good shape.
“We’ve come up with some tangible things we need to monitor from the coaches box.”
Captain courageous Joel Selwood cited finals experience as a positive for the young brigade.
“The younger kids got another finals experience, performing in front of a big crowd and we’ll be better for the experience,” he said.
Scott agreed the experience would only help his newer charges.
“Short-term it gives all of our players and our coaches the opportunity to build some momentum and play a bit better than we did on the weekend.
“And if we do and it’s good enough then we can roll that momentum and good form into the week after.”
Scott said only fit Cats would face the Kangaroos.
“We’ll take in a team that’s absolutely capable of getting the job done, not only this week but into the next couple of weeks as well.
“I understand that when you’ve got a few injury concerns over individuals; the perception can be that the team’s a bit wounded.
“We won’t be taking in a team that’s wounded or flat or with any excuses this Friday night. We’ll be ready to go, enthusiastic and planning to play our best footy.”