By Luke Voogt
Reigning Cats best-and-fairest Cam Guthrie appears set to return for a clash of two titanic midfields when Geelong takes on Western Bulldogs on Friday.
“They’re all a little bit different,” Cats coach Chris Scott said of the Bulldog’s star-studded midfield during a press conference on Wednesday.
“Some clubs have put some work into their damaging ball-users behind the ball, Bailey Dale, Caleb Daniel – Daniel’s moved into the midfield a little bit more.
“[Marcus] Bontempelli might be the best player in the competition, [Jack] Macrae’s the leading disposal winner in the competition and Libba [Tom Liberatore] is one of the better contested stoppage players.
“That’s not even thinking about their players that are ahead of the ball.”
In one of just two losses for the Bulldogs this year, Melbourne’s James Harmes held Liberatore to a season-low 16 disposals.
But Scott declined to say if Mark O’Connor, who held reigning Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale to the same number earlier this year, would tag Liberatore.
“We’ll prioritise balance over anything,” he said.
“If you focus your attention on one of them, the rest of them get you.”
The Bulldogs will have their own challenge containing the Cats’ in-form three-headed goalkicking monster of Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron and Gary Rohan.
Cam Guthrie looks likely to return from a shoulder injury, as Scott forecast last week.
“We think he’ll play … but we’ve still got 48 hours to work through,” he said this Wednesday.
But Scott said the Cats would be “more cautious” with Gryan Miers returning from a fractured fibula, with the small forward missing a “fair bit of running” due to the leg injury.
Geelong was “leaning” towards playing him in the VFL if a game becomes available, Scott said.
He said the Cats were taking a longer-term approach, rather than solely getting “locked into what the best 22 is” each week.
“Cohesion’s important, but more important than that is having a big group of capable players,” he said.
“I don’t think the team we pick week-to-week is a referendum on what we consider to be the very best team that we can pick down the track.”
Scott indicated promising midfielder Quinton Narkle was on the verge of forcing his way back into the senior side.
“When we are close to full availability it’s a hard midfield to get into, but I think he’s got the capacity to force his way into our team irrespective of who’s available.”
State government on Wednesday announced a crowd of 7000 would be allowed at the game, drawing a mixed response from Scott.
“I think 7000 is better than none,” he said.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that we can’t get more people here in the environment that we find ourselves in in regional Victoria.
“But it’s great for the players to at least get some in.”