Geelong defender Harry Tayor has praised Jimmy Bartel’s ability to stand tall in the biggest of matches amid suggestions the veteran midfielder could be a shock omission for Friday night’s AFL preliminary final against Sydney.
Provided he has fully recovered from knee surgery, key defender Lachie Henderson is almost certain to return to take on the Swans.
Either Josh Cowan or Tom Ruggles shape as the most likely omission to accommodate the return of Henderson, although Bartel could also be the one to make way.
The veteran of 304 matches is likely to retire at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign.
Overlooking the 32-year-old Bartel – whose long list of honours include the 2007 Brownlow Medal and the 2011 Norm Smith Medal as best afield in the Cats’ most recent premiership triumph – would be a huge call by coach Chris Scott.
“He’s a very, very handy player to have in the big games,” Taylor said on Monday.
“He brings a lot of experience to our footy club on the training track and in games as well.
“His record in finals is very, very good.
“What you do walk taller around is guys who just do their job and Jimmy is one of those guys who does his job every week.”
Taylor expects stoic backman Tom Lonergan to again get first crack at superstar Sydney forward Lance Franklin, who kicked four crucial goals in the semi-final victory over Adelaide.
“That’s more than likely but I can also play on him and (Henderson) can have a go as well,” Taylor said.
“We’ve got a few other different options but I don’t think it’s going to take (only) one person to shut him down.”
Taylor warned of the danger of Geelong becoming too Buddy-centric, with Sydney having plenty of other dangerous forwards.
Tom Papley matched Franklin’s four-goal haul against the Crows and Isaac Heeney was one of the best players on the ground.
Ruck-forward Kurt Tippett is also likely to return from a broken jaw suffered in the opening week of the finals against Greater Western Sydney.
“Worrying about a player (such as Franklin), albeit someone who is a fantastic player, means you forget about five or six or maybe seven other guys that can rotate through there and hit the scoreboard just as well,” Taylor said.
“We need to look at their forward line as a collective, particularly how they all work together.”