Cats face physical clash

Isaac Smith in a press conference on Tuesday. (Louisa Jones) 232917_11

By Luke Voogt

Ex-Hawthorn speedster Isaac Smith hopes to avoid former teammates’ efforts to “clean him up” while wearing blue and white for the first time in the traditional Easter Monday clash.

Smith joined the Cats as an unrestricted free agent last year, after winning three premierships in 210 games with the Hawks.

Smith said next Monday’s game would be physical after Hawthorn veteran Luke Breust indicated some Hawks were “pretty happy to clean him up”.

“I know he won’t be, so I’m happy with him,” Smith responded in Tuesday’s press conference.

“All the blokes I was looking to avoid have probably retired now. James Sicily’s not playing either, he’s got sharp elbows.

“I’m sure it will just be a good contest, they’re usually pretty close games, and if they want to worry about that stuff, hopefully we end up getting the ball.

“I’m not overly physical – have a look at me – but there’ll be a bit of lip out there I’m sure.”

Friend and former teammate Liam Shiels joined the banter in a promotional video earlier this week.

“I’ve been into him telling him I’m going to tag him and he’s telling me I won’t be able to keep up,” Sheils said.

Smith’s speed has certainly impressed Cats fans this season, and he also kicked the match-winning goal to help Geelong escape with a controversial one-point win over Brisbane last Friday.

“You don’t need to be playing your best football now, we just need to be playing well enough to win, so hopefully we can keep winning and our better footy’s to come,” Smith said.

The game included a divisive non-call in the final seconds and verbal confrontation between Cats coach Chris Scott, Lions players and their coach Chris Fagan at quarter time.

“I was fortunate enough to play for Clarko [Alastair Clarkson] for 10 years and he’s as good as I’ve seen at having his player’s backs, and Chris is every bit as good,” Smith said.

“You want to see your coach being competitive and passionate, and if there are a few words exchanged between a player and coach it’s not too bad.”

Smith acknowledged players and coaches needed to be “smart” and “careful” with their behaviour as “role models”.

But with 22 “extremely passionate” players “moments like that are going to happen” and the AFL, media and clubs “certainly get a lot of leverage off” them to “promote the game”, he said.

“You’d struggle to [find a] premiership-winning [team] over the last 150 years … that wasn’t aggressive,” he added.

The fierce battle with the Lions was good practice for what looms as physical clash with the Hawks after a 10-day break.

“It was a pretty physical contest – it … played out … more like a final than [a regular season] game of footy,” Smith said.

The Cats will be without explosive forward Gary Rohan, who accepted a two-match suspension for striking Brisbane midfielder Lachie Neale, and suspended star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield.

Jeremy Cameron is unlikely to return from injury next Monday, making Geelong’s battle against bitter arch-nemesis Hawthorn even more challenging.

But the Cats have the firepower to get the job done. Geelong by 12 points.