Cats on guard for Magpies attack

Collingwood have been more bad than good in the opening two months of the AFL season, but Geelong have already received fair warning of what the Magpies can offer up when they’re on song.

Back in the opening round of the pre-season competition in late February, Nathan Buckley’s men got up by eight points in a shootout at Simonds Stadium.

At the time, towering American Mason Cox was still pretty much an unknown quantity.

But his two-goal, four-mark cameo that evening was a taste of things to come, with the 211cm Cox now a regular fixture in Collingwood’s best 22, just 15 months after playing his first match of Australian rules football.

Cox has taken the spot of out-of-form spearhead Travis Cloke, who has suffered a further setback after hurting his back in the VFL.

“(Cox) is a big man, a seven-footer and he’s really finding his way in the AFL system although it’s obviously early days for him,” Cats coach Chris Scott said on Thursday.

“He’s quite an unique prospect and not purely because of his height but because he moves so well for a big man.

“But for Collingwood with Cloke not being there makes them a bit different.

“Like a lot of clubs, they’re trying to balance the height in their forward line with the ability to pressure.”

Scott is not reading much into NAB Cup form and even less into the fact that the Magpies have won four of the past six matches between the two sides.

“Those games are a long, long way away,” he said.

“We had a 25 per cent turnover in our list this year, not to mention the new guys we’re playing in our 22, so we’re a lot different and they’re very different as well.”

The second-placed Cats have moved into premiership favouritism with the bookies after winning seven of their opening eight matches.

The Magpies enter Saturday’s clash at the MCG on the back of just their third win of the season, a 78-point trouncing of hapless Brisbane which included a career-best four goals from Cox.

Scott has guaranteed George Horlin-Smith a spot in the Cats’ team on Saturday for the first time in 2016, saying his form at VFL level had made him impossible to overlook.

“George is someone we hold in very high regard and it’s not necessarily by design that he hasn’t played AFL footy this year,” said Scott.

Geelong trained for the first time on Thursday night at the new facility at Deakin University.

The elite sports precinct includes a main oval boasting the same dimensions as the MCG.

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