Geelong’s miserly defence has proven adaptable this AFL season and Harry Taylor expects that to continue in the absence of Lachie Henderson.
Henderson underwent knee surgery earlier this week and it’s unclear when he will be fit to return.
It is a pre-finals blow to the Cats, who have conceded the least number of goals this season with the exception of ladder-leading Sydney.
But it’s far from unchartered territory for Taylor and his fellow backmen, who host Melbourne in a crunch clash on Saturday.
Henderson was knocked out in a round-17 win over Fremantle and missed the following two weeks, while he played forward in last Sunday’s 60-point win over Brisbane.
Geelong’s key-defender stocks were also depleted in a round-eight triumph over the Crows at Adelaide Oval, where Tom Lonergan was concussed in the opening minutes.
“We’ve been able to mix and match and handle losing one of the tall guys pretty well so I’m hopeful that will be the case for this week and however long we don’t have Lach,” Taylor told AAP.
“Last week we adapted pretty well when he was in a different position.
“We’ve got some guys who have been able to help throughout the season and I’m sure they’ll do the same.
“Cameron Guthrie has played a little bit more defence in recent weeks and Tommy Ruggles has played a fair bit there now.”
Taylor noted Henderson, who joined Geelong during last year’s trade period, remains “really confident” he will feature in the finals.
“He’s an ultra professional person who manages his body well .. that gives you a really good chance of coming back quicker,” the veteran said.
The Cats can finish as high as first or low as sixth depending on results in the final round of the season.
Taylor suggested it was an incredibly important match – even if you put the ladder scenarios to one side.
“You don’t want to go into finals battling for form and not really confident about what you’re doing,” the two-time premiership player said.
And the 30-year-old recalls all too well the last time he faced Melbourne, when the visitors ruined Corey Enright’s 300th game with a shock victory in Geelong last year.
“It was a really disappointing loss. It stung for a long time. I’m sure all the guys who’ve played a lot of footy with him (Enright) remember that day and how much it hurt,” he said.
“But we’ve got a really different team now. Melbourne’s team is quite different and the stakes are different too.”