Each of the previous five instalments of the building AFL rivalry between Geelong and Gold Coast has been touted as Gazza versus the Cats.
For the first time, the marketing types are going to have to come up with a different hook for Sunday’s clash at Simonds Stadium as Gary Ablett has been sidelined indefinitely due to recurring issues with his reconstructed shoulder.
His absence also means a change in role for Geelong’s premier run-with midfielder Cam Guthrie, who now wears the No.29 jersey made famous by Ablett during his time with the Cats.
Ablett clearly had the better of the personal match-up when the two teams met on the Gold Coast in round 14 last year, picking up 33 possessions and two Brownlow Medal votes as the Suns beat the Cats for the first time.
“I know a lot has been made of Gary Ablett not playing this week, but we’re taking that in our stride, focusing on their whole team and not just one player,” said Guthrie.
“But they still have some other quality midfielders who on their day can be pretty dangerous.
“I’m not sure what role I will get but I will still be running through the midfield.”
Now into his fifth season at the top level, the 22-year-old Guthrie could not recall the Cats’ onballers being more comprehensively outplayed than in last week’s 44-point home drubbing against Fremantle, when the likes of Nat Fyfe, David Mundy, Michael Barlow and Stephen Hill ran amok.
“They ran all over us, they were just too good,” admitted Guthrie.
“We had a fairly honest meeting with the midfielders during the week, talked about what we expect of each other and what we want going forward.
“Hopefully that will go a long towards us turning it around, this week and the following weeks as well.”
The return of 2007 Brownlow medallist Jimmy Bartel from concussion and Steven Motlop from a one-game club ban should help on that front against a Suns’ engine room where the likes David Swallow, Michael Rischitelli and Harley Bennell will be expected to pick up much of the slack on Ablett’s absence.
Both teams have dropped their opening two matches of the season – a fate that has not befallen the Cats since 2006, the year before they began their era of modern-day dominance which has yielded three premierships.
“This is definitely a big game,” said Guthrie.
“If we ended up 0-3 it would be a terrible start for us.
“You going into every game thinking you’re going to win, but all we can think about this week is getting the win against Gold Coast because we definitely need it.
“We don’t drop many games at home and we need to get back to it being a fortress, to having teams really worried about coming down to Geelong.”