By Luke Voogt
Geelong Cats have a double shot at redemption on Saturday night to rectify their qualifying final lost to Port Adelaide and avenge last year’s against Collingwood.
Cats skipper Joel Selwood is almost certain to take on the Pies despite undergoing surgery last week for a dislocated finger, according to fellow star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield.
Sporting a cut over his left eye from last Thursday’s 16-point loss to Port, Dangerfield said nothing short of Selwood being “run over” by “a car” or having his “leg cut off” would stop him playing.
“I’d very much expect the skipper to be leading the way come Saturday night,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.
Some Geelong players, including champion Gary Ablett, performed well below their best in last Thursday’s loss against Port Adelaide.
But the Cats’ inaccuracy, some brilliance from former Cat Steven Motlop and a Port Adelaide purple patch in the third quarter were the main factors separating the two sides.
The Cats kicked 5.12, including an uncharacteristically inaccurate five behinds by Coleman Medallist Tom Hawkins, and wasted several opportunities to set up shots, including in the dying seconds of quarters.
“We had opportunities … and we didn’t capitalise on them,” Dangerfield said.
“I didn’t feel like we played all that poorly, we just didn’t execute the way that we would have liked.
“It wasn’t like we lost by 50 points, it was two or three goals. You take some of those opportunities and the game swings.
“It’s important when you have the momentum, especially in the shortened games, that you do make the most of it.
“Otherwise you’re giving the opposition time to get back into the game.”
Geelong would need to “defend with ball in hand” on Saturday night if Collingwood had a similar burst of momentum to Port Adelaide’s in the third, Dangerfield said.
“It’s getting the ball back and [maintaining] it for one or two minutes rather than kick it down the line.”
“There [were] probably some stages where we [turned] the ball over across half-back that led to scores – that’s really hard to defend.”
But Dangerfield was confident Geelong would bounce back and said the Cats would avoid dwelling on their poor goalkicking, to prevent it getting into their heads.
“It’s a bit self-fulfilling sometimes if spend all your time on it.”
Ruck Rhys Stanley was one of the Cats standouts last Thursday and will have his work cut out for him against star Pies opponent Brodie Grundy.
Selwood and Scott Pendlebury make for a fantastic battle in midfield, while last week Dangerfield showed again how explosive he can be, both up forward and in the centre.
Brody Mihocek, Jordan De Goey and Mason Cox were brilliant in Collingwood’s one-point over West Coast, and the big American is always a wildcard.
But if Geelong’s intercept-marking backline including Tom Stewart and Mark Blicavs can nullify them, it will go a long way towards a Cats victory.
Tom Hawkins narrowly avoided his second finals suspension in as many years this week, escaping with a $1500 fine for an errant back elbow on Port Adelaide’s Tom Rockliff.
The big forward’s inclusion will be massive for the Cats, especially if he kicks with his normal accuracy.
Expect a big effort from Ablett, as every game from now could be his last.
Cats by 14 points.