They’ve got a dream run home, but complacency looms as Geelong’s biggest obstacle as the AFL club attempts to re-establish itself as a premiership threat.
The Cats became flag favourites following their round-eight win over the Crows at Adelaide Oval, but a string of losses against lowly teams since then have severely hampered their cause and reputation.
Geelong’s rut started with a 24-point loss to Collingwood in round nine, before suffering a shock 19-point loss to Carlton a week later.
Their troubles against minnows continued in round 14 when they lost to St Kilda by three points.
The Cats will start as the hottest of favourites against the injury-crippled Dockers at Domain Stadium on Friday night.
And with Geelong’s run home littered with sides who will miss the finals, the Cats have an excellent chance to lock down a top-two berth – as long as they can avoid slipping up further against minnows.
After hosting tough matches against Adelaide and the Bulldogs in the coming weeks, the Cats end their season with games against last-placed Essendon, Richmond (13th), Brisbane (17th), and Melbourne (10th).
Their quest to climb back into the top-four starts against the Dockers, and Geelong coach Chris Scott has made some big calls on the selection front following last week’s loss to Sydney.
Forward Mitch Clark has been axed after just one game back in the senior side, while Jimmy Bartel has been rested.
Darcy Lang was another to be omitted, with Shane Kersten, Rhys Stanley, and Josh Cowan all brought back.
Clark went goalless against the Swans last round.
And the 28-year-old hit the headlines this week when it was revealed he made an on-field sledge about Geelong teammate Mitch Duncan’s sister when playing VFL footy last month.
The Dockers have been bolstered by the return of Michael Barlow (finger), while Tendai Mzungu has been recalled for his first AFL match since round eight.
Ed Langdon (hamstring) and Darcy Tucker (omitted) drop out.
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says Geelong’s losses against lowly sides has barely rated a mention at the Dockers this week.
“We’ve got our hands full ourselves – really trying to improve our footy,” Lyon said.
“They’re a pretty good team. They’re fighting for top four.”
Geelong’s powerful midfield duo of Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood loom as the biggest obstacle to Fremantle’s hopes of pulling off an upset win.
Barlow has been successfully used in a tagging role during the second half of the season but Lyon feels a team defence approach would be the best way to combat Selwood and Dangerfield, rather than relying on a hard tag.
Cats defender Andrew Mackie will notch his 250-game milestone when he runs out against the Dockers.
GEELONG’S RUN HOME
Rd 17: Fremantle at Domain Stadium
Rd 18: Adelaide at Simonds Stadium
Rd 19: Western Bulldogs at Simonds Stadium
Rd 20: Essendon at Etihad Stadium
Rd 21: Richmond at the MCG
Rd 22: Brisbane at the Gabba
Rd 23: Melbourne at Simonds Stadium