Geelong skipper Joel Selwood and fellow midfielder Mitch Duncan will hit the ground running despite surgery in the off-season, according to midfield coach Matthew Knights.
Selwood, who underwent hamstring surgery over the off-season, was champing at the bit to take on the Hawks next Friday, Knights told Geelong Cats Media.
“He’s got a real thirst for the game again and I was lucky enough to be able to do some one-on-one sessions with him over the break,” he said.
“Just to see him go about his work, whether it was running or ball work, [he’s a] thorough professional and it’s given him really good prep time for this period.
“Now being able to get back into the body-on-body stuff, he’s feeling great.”
Knights predicted big things for Duncan, who kicked three goals in Geelong’s round 1 loss to Greater Western Sydney back in March.
Duncan underwent surgery over the off season after suffering grade 3 medial ligament damage in Geelong’s qualifying final loss to Collingwood last year.
“I’m expecting a huge season from Mitch, I really am,” Knights said.
“Mitch Duncan’s been exemplary with the way he’s prepared himself. His body shape is great.”
Duncan responded good-humouredly to the praise during a press conference on Wednesday.
“Yeah, he’s spruiking me, I don’t know what he’s doing,” he laughed.
“I’d better get a kick now.”
The eight weeks off, as COVID-19 restrictions halted the AFL season, had helped Duncan get more fitness in his legs, he said.
“It’s great to get an eight-week training block in, pretty much a mini preseason, coming into this next patch of games.
“Whether I would have fell in a hole midway through the year [without the break] or not, I guess we’ll never know.”
Despite kicking three goals in round 1, Duncan did not see himself moving up forward from the wing more often.
“All midfielders like kicking goals and impacting the game,” he said.
“I’d like to kick three every week. If I can hit the scoreboard it’s a bit of a bonus.”
Duncan said he had enjoyed training in small groups.
“It feels like you touch the ball a lot more.”
He had also enjoyed “getting hit again” as the Cats ramped up match simulation for restart, despite teammates treading on his feet “that many times”, he said.
Without crowds to cheer the Cats on, for now, the team would look to players like Luke Dalhaus, Jack Steven and Gary Rohan to create that “energy and enthusiasm” instead, Duncan said.
Meanwhile, Duncan’s midfield colleague Sam Menegola also received a glowing endorsement from Knights.
“He’s in good shape,” Knights said.
“Sam’s had plenty of prep time. [He is] really big with his fitness and his training, he’s a real self-driven athlete and he’ll be in really tip-top shape come Hawthorn in a couple of weeks.”