Cats going for ‘small change’

Andrew Mathieson
GEELONG coach Mark Thomp-son is leading the charge for a cap on interchanges to curtail injuries on bad playing surfaces as the Cats prepare to play at notorious ANZ Stadium tomorrow night.
And the two-time premiership coach, whose formula to leave star players on the field longer that has produced 83 wins and a draw from the club’s past 100 games, is leading by example.
The Cats are ranked last for just 105 interchanges and are the closest to AFL targets compared to the Western Bulldogs’ highest competition average of 130 moves off the bench per game.
“We don’t have a real problem,” Thompson said.
“In fact, I’ve been encouraging our coaches to try and reduce it anyway.
“I think we are sixteenth, so we don’t change it – we are the lowest interchange club.
“I’m easy – I’m not one to try and shape rules for our own advantage.
“I’ll let the AFL decide what they want to do, if they want to bring it down to 80 or 100.”
Thompson said he has resisted following the pack with the sudden spike in interchanges because “I didn’t want to be a copy-cat”.
Geelong has in past years sent football operations manager Neil Balme to Sydney’s second home ground to inspect a surface that has come under heavy scrutiny amid its use for rugby league and union matches.
Thompson expected a better surface this year but could still find a joke when remarking on the state of the ground.
“We don’t mind going out to Western Sydney,” he smiled.
“We were critical (of the surface) a couple of years ago.
“By all reports it’s very good now.
“Once you get to the stadium it’s fine – it’s a patch of grass, the rooms are good, the coaching box is fine.
“There’s no problem with the stadium – it just takes you an hour and a half to get there.”
Thompson predicted the out-of-form Swans to return to their favoured “boring” game style.
Sydney was exposed for pace on the open expanses of the MCG against a fast Melbourne side that bore an eery resemblance to the Cats.
“They (the Swans) will aim to start really well, put pressure on us, close the game down, kick the ball along the boundary line, try and keep possession of the ball, have a lot of stoppages,” he said.
After saying Sydney “stole” Mumford from Geelong for a contract the Cats couldn’t match, Thompson was more excited about the return of injury-plagued Max Rooke.
Rooke could return as early as two weeks, so the tough defender was in the mix for another finals series.
“He always stands up in big games and is tough as nails,” Thompson said.
“If he’s in good form, he’ll put a lot of pressure on the rest of the guys.”

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