By JOHN VAN KLAVEREN
The Cats versus the Gold Coast Suns is an intriguing match-up for a few reasons.
The established but transitioning Cats will meet the up-and-coming northerners on Saturday at Metricon Stadium.
The two share a number of similarities, even down to the competition between their respective stadium sponsors.
It’s fourth versus eighth with little disparity between their average match statistics so far.
And the last obvious connection is that Gold Coast is led by former favourite Geelong son Gary Ablett, the leading midfielder in the competition and with whom most of the Geelong side are quite familiar.
This promises to be a similarly close result to the 2012 round 15 meeting, which the Cats won by 16 points, with margins in three of their previous four meetings blowing out.
Ablett hopes the Suns rise in time for him to snare a third flag, while his former Geelong teammates are working to teach the new brigade to capture a fourth.
One former teammate has quietly filled the vacuum left by the Brownlow medallist. Matthew Stokes is now an elite midfielder.
If that sounds a bit over the top in comparison with Ablett, it’s only because Stokes is flying so far under the radar it’s as though he’s underground.
Just going on the statistics it’s clear he’s in the top 10 midfielders in the league and has been the key in-and-under player as Geelong awaits the return of Allen Christensen and Josh Caddy.
Given his former forward roles, he also has the finesse to finish off his good work.
The Suns missed by three points against West Coast but gained plenty of confidence from their barnstorming finish to almost pinch the game despite a 35-point three-quarter time deficit.
Chris Scott will be wary of the type of game the offensively-minded Suns can bring and will be glad to have Jared Rivers back to bolster the Geelong defence.
Despite the 96-point margin against the Saints, Geelong has relied on defence more than offence this year.
The Suns have not managed to crack triple figures against Geelong yet and if the Cats keep them contained they should have enough firepower up forward to consolidate top four.