By Luke Voogt
Geelong Cats hope to complete the final step into the AFL Grand Final after making the preliminary finals for the fifth time since their 2011 premiership.
Star forward Tom Hawkins expected Saturday night’s blockbuster against Brisbane Lions at the Gabba to be a quick, high-intensity game.
The Coleman Medallist will likely face fellow All-Australian Harris Andrews, who he respected despite gaining the edge on him in their past few encounters.
“His ability one-on-one is as good as anyone and the way that he reads the game is second to none,” Hawkins told a press conference on Tuesday.
“I’ll take confidence from last time we played and also look at what I did on the weekend and just go and try to play my game.”
Hawkins kicked 4.1 in the Cats’ semi final win against Collingwood last weekend, compared to 0.5 the week before.
He attributed his return to accuracy to simple goal-kicking practice.
“I got the work in. If you’re down in any part of your game you work on it,” he said.
“We did some work today out on the oval. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to kick well, but I’m really confident that given an opportunity I’m going to make the most of it.”
The Cats have made the preliminary finals an incredible 10 times in the past 14 years including their three most recent premierships, but have lost their past four prelims since their 2011 flag.
Almost every Geelong player has played a prelim, while only five Lions have made it to this stage of the season.
But the finals experience would not necessarily give the Cats the edge after a season like no other, Hawkins said.
“The way that we’re removed from the general public in our hub and own little bubble, it is slightly different.”
Star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield was explosive in Geelong’s loss to Port Adelaide and continued his white-hot form against Collingwood.
He kicked four goals, including two amazing bananas from the boundary, and is a game-changer in the centre or up forward.
“Pat’s such a dynamic player, he’s really hard to match up on,” Hawkins said.
“I try play a little bit higher and leave Pat a bit deeper.
“He draws the footy to him, he draws defenders to him, which makes our job easier.”
The Cats have trained regularly under lights, and had a “physical” session on Wednesday night in the lead up to the game, according to assistant coach Matthew Knights.
Knights acknowledged Brisbane’s two “underrated” ruckmen and quick midfield.
He floated Cam Guthrie or Brandon Parfitt as options to tag Lachie Neale or other Brisbane midfielders but said the Cats would adjust on the night if needed.
Knights said he was hugely excited for Saturday night’s game.
“We don’t look back at all. We just think about what’s on our agenda on Saturday and that’s the Brisbane Lions.”
The Cats dominated possession and clearances in their round six win against Brisbane.
If they can repeat that, keep the ball up forward and make the most of their opportunities like they did last weekend, it will go a long way towards a Geelong victory.
The Lions have won all 10 games at the Gabba this year, but the Cats have their four games there too.
The match will be a clash of two of the AFL’s most talented and deep midfields, while mercurial forward Charlie Cameron is a wildcard for the Lions.
Up the other end Hawkins and Dangerfield, along with Gary Ablett and Gary Rohan, will test the Lions’ backline.
Cats in the thriller by 8.