Despite having made no attempt to hide his displeasure at Steve Johnson for missing last weekend’s victory over Sydney due to suspension, Geelong coach Chris Scott reckons there may have been a silver lining.
The triple premiership hero – who is out contract at season’s end – will come straight back into the senior lineup on Saturday, with his 250th game coinciding with the latest instalment of the Cats’ epic modern-day rivalry with Hawthorn.
Eighth-placed Geelong will likely need to win three of their remaining four games to ensure a spot in the finals for a ninth straight season.
“His body is in good shape,” coach Chris Scott said of Johnson on Wednesday.
“We would love to have had him in the team last week, but the positive of him missing is that, physically, we think he will be in better shape for this one.
“He’s a lock and we’re confident he’ll play well.”
Johnson, 32, picked up the one-game ban for striking Brisbane’s Allen Christensen, although he insisted it was not a matter of deliberately targeting a former teammate.
Scott stopped short of saying Johnson owed his teammates a big game against the Hawks, while noting it was only natural for the mercurial utility to feel that way.
“He’s always been a self-starter and I’m really confident in what he can bring to the table,” said Scott.
“It goes without saying that the team was disadvantaged last week because he wasn’t in it so he’s got an opportunity to give a little bit more this week.”
Steven Motlop is another key Cat with an extra point to prove on Saturday, having been dropped following the round-one loss to Hawthorn after several Hawks players sledged him for drinking alcohol at a local match three days earlier.
“He’s been in exceptional form and he’ll present some challenges for the opposition,” said Scott.
“If they choose to go down that path (and again target Motlop) because they think it will give them an advantage, more power to them.
“I’d prefer to focus on the form he’s been in the last couple of weeks – I think that’s a lot more relevant.”
Third-placed Hawthorn will replace West Coast in the top two at the conclusion of round 20 if they can see off Geelong and Fremantle also prevail in the WA derby.