By Luke Voogt
Veteran forward-midfielder Shaun Higgins is set to play his 250th game against Richmond, with the Cats welcoming returning players both up forward and down back.
Cats coach Chris Scott indicated dynamic forward Gary Rohan and reliable tall defender Lachie Henderson would return to bolster the side for its second grand final rematch this season with the reigning premiers.
“Both those guys will be fine,” Scott told a press conference today.
He hinted Rhys Stanley would likely contest the ruck against returning Richmond big man Toby Nankervis on Sunday.
“I thought [Stanley] was very good [last week] against one of the best ruckman in the comp [Sean Darcy],” he said.
“I think Rhys more than matched him, in particular, in centre bounces.”
Scott warned the Tigers were still dangerous and perhaps less predictable without their best player Dustin Martin.
“It makes it more challenging for the opposition because you do have to guess a little bit as to what they’re going to without him,” he said.
Scott foreshadowed star forward Jeremy Cameron returning before the finals.
“We’re really confident he’ll play before the end of the home-and-away season, and give him and us enough time to make sure he’s absolutely cherry ripe going into finals,” he said.
“That would be the broad assumption based on where he is in his rehab. But what was right one day could be wrong tomorrow.”
The return of key midfielder Mitch Duncan appears further away, according to Scott.
“[It’s a] bit harder to tell with Mitch whether he’ll come good before the end of the home-and-away season but we’re supremely confident he’ll play this year,” he said.
After dealing with a few “curveballs” from Victoria’s most recent COVID-19 outbreak, the Cats took some time for an “opportune” rest after returning from their win over Fremantle in Perth last Thursday, Scott said.
The slightly longer break between the win and this Sunday’s clash allowed a quick break before commencing a seven-week training program, he said.
The break could benefit Higgins, who successfully challenged a staging fine from last Thursday ahead of his milestone game this Sunday.
The Cats recruited the 33-year-old, who has kicked 227 goals in his 248 games since debuting for the Western Bulldogs, from North Melbourne last year.
Higgins had begun to find form as a high half-forward after struggling with injury earlier in the year, Scott said.
“The 250 milestone speaks to his resilience and perseverance, as much as his talent,” Scott said.
Higgins admitted at times he had questioned his AFL career, like during 2013 when he suffered a season-ending foot injury.
“There are always obstacles and [that is] probably what makes it so special,” he said.
“I’m grateful that I’m still going at this age – to be given the opportunity to continue doing what I love.
“I still love playing, I sill enjoy the two hours and everything that goes in and around that during the week.”