By Luke Voogt
Geelong forward Tom Hawkins has escaped a one-week suspension at the AFL tribunal, freeing him to play against West Coast on Saturday night.
The Cats appealed Hawkins initial charge for high-contact striking rather than accept a one-match suspension with a guilty plea, arguing the contact was to the body.
The AFL tribunal agreed on Wednesday night, ruling Hawkins’ stray elbow to Fremantle defender Luke Ryan during Monday night’s game was primarily below the shoulders.
After 26 minutes the tribunal found Hawkins made contact to Ryan’s collarbone and that any contact above the shoulders was negligible.
Tthe tribunal fined Hawkins $1000.
Ryan required no medical treatment for the incident.
In a press conference on Tuesday, midfielder Mitch Duncan said he understood Hawkins getting frustrated at opposition defenders.
“He gets scragged a lot being a key forward. I suppose it does get frustrating at times but every forward cops that,” Duncan said.
“Defenders do everything they can to curtail their opposition forwards. There’s obviously a lot of scragging involved in the AFL.
“Umpiring’s a really hard job and they do the best they can and always do a really good job. It’s just the rub of the green sometimes.
“[Hawkins has] got white line fever, he’s a competitor and sometimes plays on the edge. It just happens sometimes.”
Hawkins’ inclusion is massive for the Cats who will face the in-form Eagles at Optus Stadium in front a large and hostile crowd.
“He’s obviously a key presence for us, someone we look to kick the ball to a lot,” Duncan said.
With both ruckman Rhys Stanley and Darcy Fort sidelined due to injury, the Cats will likely turn to Esava Ratugolea to curtail star West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui.
For the Cats Saturday night’s match begins an NBA-style fixture block, with 33 AFL games in total to be played over 20 days.
Duncan said recovery would be the key to getting the most out of the period.
“We’ll still get out there and get the body moving at stages but I think a lot of it will be around recovery and watching a bit of vision,” he said.
“It’s a bit of foreign territory with these five-day and four-day breaks. We’re still adapting. Coaches and the fitness staff will have a plan.”
The Cats have just five days to recover after a hard-fought slog in torrential rain on Monday night against Fremantle.
Duncan was one of the Cats best in the ugly, low-scoring affair, tallying 26 disposals, seven tackles and a goal in his return from a hamstring injury.
Mature-aged recruit Brad Close kicked two goals in his first AFL match.
But the Cats will face a far more challenging foe in the Eagles, especially against former Geelong midfielder Tim Kelly and Naitanui.
With a home crowd the Eagles might be too strong to overcome.
Eagles by 7.