Tom Hawkins will lead Geelong's forward line on Wednesday night. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au
Geelong was one of the standouts of the pre-season Cup competition last year, thanks in part to a very soft draw which allowed the Cats to play their three full-length matches at Simonds Stadium. That resulted in victories over Adelaide, North Melbourne and Wednesday night’s opponent, Collingwood , although the win over the Magpies didn’t towards the overall standings. The Cats only just missed the final with Carlton and Brisbane facing off at Etihad Stadium.
There is no decider for the Cats to shoot for this season, with the new Challenge format giving teams two full practice matches over an 18-day span. Certain minor rule changes are being trialled during the pre-season matches, while the nine-point Super Goal has been retained.
Geelong has named close to a full-strength line-up for the match, although inspirational skipper Joel Selwood (foot) and livewires Steven Motlop (knee) and Allen Christensen (hip) will miss the match due to injury concerns which have hampered their pre-seasons. While there is some emerging talent in the squad, including young guns like George Horlin-Smith, Jesse Stringer and Jordan Schroder who have tasted top level footy, there is no shortage of top tier players. After an injury-interrupted 2013, Tom Hawkins can start afresh at full forward, while veterans Jimmy Bartel, Steve Johnson and Corey Enright are all fit and ready to go.
Collingwood, on the other hand, is going in to the match with more of an experimental focus. Mature-age recruits Jesse White, Taylor Adams and Tony Armstrong all impressed in an intra-squad match-up and can push for premiership season debuts with their new club with a solid outing at Simonds Stadium. Big guns Dane Swan and Ben Reid are being kept on ice, while Jarryd Blair and Nathan Brown will both wait another week for match practice. Ben Sinclair (shoulder), Alan Toovey (knee) and Paul Seedsman (hip) weren’t considered for selection.
The Magpies were impressive, as well, in last year’s Cup, but a loss to eventual premier Brisbane in round three left them out of the race to make the final. Draftees Nathan Freeman, Tom Langdon and Jonathon Marsh will make their first appearance in the black and white stripes.
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