Luckless Geelong forward Daniel Menzel could just provide the boost the Cats need to propel them into this year’s AFL finals series.
Menzel, 23, hasn’t played AFL football since Geelong’s quarterfinal win over Hawthorn in 2011, when he ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament, and has undergone four knee reconstructions since he was a first-round draft pick in 2009.
But he edged closer to a return to the elite level with an impressive three-goal effort in his sixth VFL game back from his last setback on Saturday.
The Cats’ finals hopes were dented by their 36-point loss to Hawthorn and the inclusion of Menzel, a popular figure at the club, could prove a timely inspiration.
“I’m very confident he’ll play AFL football before the end of the season,” coach Chris Scott said.
“What boost will that give to our team? I hope it’s significant. The boys love him, in some ways they’ve been on the rollercoaster with him, so it would be a remarkable story.
“I hope it’s the first game back of many.”
Scott was coy on when exactly Menzel would make his comeback but he said the talented forward would provide more than a psychological lift.
“I like to think we’re a pretty compassionate club but we’re very competitive as well … we wouldn’t have just left him on our list for four years out of compassion,” he said.
“We’ve stuck with him because we truly believe that he can get back to elite level AFL footy.
“It is a remarkable story but our great hope is that it’s just the beginning. He’s been through so much.”
The loss to the Hawks snapped a four-game winning run and leaves Scott’s side in ninth spot with three rounds remaining.
Key rivals Adelaide enjoyed a percentage-boosting win over Essendon on Saturday but Scott remained hopeful Geelong’s finals destiny remained in their own hands.
James Kelly was subbed out of the match with an ankle injury but Scott was unsure of the severity of the issue immediately after the game.