Geelong coach Chris Scott expects Steven Motlop to return to AFL action a better player and a better person having served a one-match club ban.
The star midfielder was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Cats were trounced by Fremantle last weekend after being sanctioned for drinking alcohol three weeks before the season opener against Hawthorn.
The Cats will field a stronger lineup on Sunday against Gold Coast – another team which has started the season with two straight losses – as Motlop returns alongside Brownlow medallist Jimmy Bartel, who has recovered after being concussed against the Hawks.
But big Dawson Simpson is a definite omission as Scott searches for a more mobile ruck division against athletic Sun Zac Smith.
Also out are suspended utility Billie Smedts and star defender Andrew Mackie, who faces several weeks on the sidelines with a quad strain.
Motlop returns after convincing Scott and the Cats coaching staff that his alcohol-based infraction was an isolated incident.
“Steve is quite an unique individual,” Scott said on Thursday.
“We really believe in treating every individual just as that within our footy club,
“He is an outstanding trainer, he’s a fantastic athlete and prepares himself to play AFL football generally extraordinarily well.
In this instance he made a horrible decision that he’s extremely embarrassed about.
“The part that I’m proud of, on Steve’s behalf and also our footy club, is the way it’s been handled and more importantly, the way he’s bounced back.
“He’s stood up, he took responsibility for it, he accepts he let the team down badly.
“I think he’s going to be a better player and a better person because of this issue and I hope it happens really quickly this Sunday.”
The Cats have been outclassed in their opening two encounters against Hawthorn and Fremantle, but Scott was loath to see it as part of a wider malaise.
“We need to improve and improve quickly but the two teams we have played have been pretty hot, they’re going to beat most teams this year I would suspect,” he said.
“We’ll work out way into a position, I hope, where if we get the chance to play them again, we’ll play better.”