By JOHN VAN KLAVEREN
IT’S NOT exactly home but Etihad Stadium is a lot closer to Kardinia Park than Port Adelaide, Fremantle, Sydney or Gold Coast.
On previous form, that in itself should mean a win for the travel-weary Cats.
Chris Scott would say the losses represent the fact that the interstate teams take up three of the top four places, rather than an aversion to travel.
The top eight sides Geelong has accounted for so far include Hawthorn, Collingwood and North Melbourne – the Cats have not lost a game in Victoria so far this season.
Essendon still harbours finals aspirations despite its ASADA dramas, as demonstrated by its fighting win over Adelaide last week.
But the Bombers have only a four point win, in the corresponding round in 2011, to show for their last five meetings with the Cats.
Already the indications from the Bomber camp are that it has earmarked this as a key game in its fringe-of-the-eight struggle.
Fans will also be keen to see how Paul Chapman deals with playing against his old side.
Geelong’s older hands have at times afforded their former teammates a little too much respect, forgetting they also have a game to be won.
The respect for the talismanic Chapman was identified by Jimmy Bartel as he contemplated the peculiar prospect tackling his old and familiar teammate.
No doubt all the premiership teammates will be best of buddies once careers are over and the reunions kick in.
In the meantime, there is again a game to be won and a top-four finish to be chased.
Ball use was a key deficiency against the Suns, acknowledged by Scott post-match and spotlighted this week. Too many handballs at the expense of kicks meant turnovers were quickly punished.
Essendon is among the highest ranked teams for disposals, averaging almost 400 a game, while the Cats are ranked 10th, averaging 361 a match.
It means that when Geelong does get its hands on the ball, high efficiency will be required to collect a winning score.
The alternative forward option offered by Shane Kersten should help considerably, while the steady improvement of Allen Christensen and Josh Caddy will help, although Matthew Stokes will be missed.