Jimmy Bartel’s AFL preliminary final fate remains uncertain, with Geelong coach Chris Scott saying they are yet to settle on their team for Friday night’s clash against Sydney.
Teammate Harry Taylor praised Bartel’s ability to stand tall in the biggest of matches amid suggestions the veteran midfielder could be a shock omission for the match.
While Scott confirmed on Monday night that defender Lachie Henderson is available, he added several other players out of the side had also benefited from Geelong’s weekend off.
Henderson missed the epic qualifying final win over Hawthorn because of knee surgery.
Scott said Nakia Cockatoo, Jed Bews, Shane Kersten and Darcy Lang – who all missed the Hawks game – were better for not playing last weekend.
“We don’t have an answer on our 22 right at the moment, but it’s positive that we do have options,” Scott told AFL360.
“So the week off has helped in that respect.
“I know there’s going to be some conjecture as to whether the extra week off is a good thing or not and even after the game, I don’t think we’ll know for sure.
“But one thing we do know is some of our guys who have had little, niggling injuries are better for it.
“Lachie will be available … we still have a few things to work through.”
Assuming Henderson plays, Josh Cowan or Tom Ruggles will make way.
But there is also speculation Bartel could be dropped.
The veteran of 304 matches is likely to retire after this season.
Overlooking the 32-year-old Bartel – whose long list of honours include the 2007 Brownlow Medal and the 2011 Norm Smith Medal as best afield in the Cats’ most recent premiership triumph – would be a huge call.
“He’s a very, very handy player to have in the big games,” Taylor said on Monday.
“He brings a lot of experience to our footy club on the training track and in games as well.
“His record in finals is very, very good.
Taylor expects stoic backman Tom Lonergan to again get first crack at superstar Sydney forward Lance Franklin, who kicked four crucial goals in the semi-final victory over Adelaide.
“That’s more than likely but I can also play on him and (Henderson) can have a go as well,” Taylor said.
“We’ve got a few other different options but I don’t think it’s going to take (only) one person to shut him down.”
Taylor warned of the danger of Geelong becoming too Buddy-centric, with Sydney having plenty of other dangerous forwards.
Tom Papley matched Franklin’s four-goal haul against the Crows and Isaac Heeney was one of the best players on the ground.
Ruck-forward Kurt Tippett is also likely to return from a broken jaw suffered in the opening week of the finals against Greater Western Sydney.
“We need to look at their forward line as a collective, particularly how they all work together,” Taylor said.