Friday night’s clash between Geelong and Western Bulldogs is a finals-shaping blockbuster.
It’s also a case study in managing the emotion of an AFL season.
Geelong will celebrate their storied milestone men Corey Enright and Jimmy Bartel in front of a capacity Simonds Stadium crowd.
Enright becomes the all-time games record holder for the Cats in his 326th outing while Bartel plays match 300.
For the visitors, there’s a very different feeling.
Coach Luke Beveridge was almost in tears as he discussed the long-term injuries suffered by Mitch Wallis and Jack Redpath in their last-out loss to St Kilda.
Injuries have been a constant refrain in the Bulldogs year, losing captain Bob Murphy and youngster Josh Prudden to ACL ruptures earlier in the season.
They’ve lost more players to injury than any other top eight side this season, allowing Beveridge to name an unchanged side just twice all year.
Hearing the news of two more fallen Dogs, Geelong coach Chris Scott said he wasn’t thinking about them as an opponent coach but “more just as a footy fan”.
“The Bulldogs have some challenges. I’m sure they’ll be wound up,” he said on Wednesday.
“The whole industry feels for individuals when they have devastating injuries and you feel for the club as well.
“We know what it’s like to have emotion-charged injuries. Dan Menzel didn’t play for four years.
“It takes a little bit of a toll. Our heart goes out to them.”
Geelong’s long-serving Cats will be feted on Friday night, and Scott said he was delighted they’d share the limelight.
“It’s been fantastic in a way the two guys are sharing it. They have so much shared experience,” he said.
“For the football world to be able to acknowledge it on the same day is fitting.”
However, he urged some caution for his players.
“I think there is a risk too you get too emotionally wound up,” Scott said.
“The priority for our guys, especially the guys enjoying milestones, is the season maintains momentum.”
Exactly how to keep the momentum gained in last Saturday’s defeat of high-flying Adelaide is a conundrum for Scott.
Zac Smith (managed) and Lachie Henderson (concussion) are expected to be available to play the Bulldogs, but possible exclusions Jed Bews and first-gamer Sam Menegola showed their worth against the Crows.
“In normal circumstances when guys come in and play well you’d like to think they’d hold their spot,” he said.
“But we’ve got really good availability. A couple of guys (are) coming back who have been mainstays of our team.
“It’s been a challenging time trying to pick our best look for this week.”
Josh Caddy (knee) could also make a return after five weeks on the sidelines, whether in the seniors or reserves.