Midfields to do battle in Easter Monday showdown

Tom Mitchell will be key for the Hawks. Picture: AAP
Tom Mitchell will be key for the Hawks. Picture: AAP

GEELONG and Hawthorn are adamant they won't be fixated on each other's star midfielders in the Easter Monday blockbuster at the MCG.

The Cats will run out with its midfield holy trinity of captain Joel Selwood, champion Gary Ablett and Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield for the first time, while Hawks ball magnet Tom Mitchell is in hot form following his record 54 touches in Round 1.

Cats coach Chris Scott said Mitchell would not be the centre of his attention during Geelong's battle at the MCG.

"It's a lot more complicated than it can appear from the outside," Scott said.

Geelong Cats coach Chris Scott. Picture: Alison Wynd
Geelong Cats coach Chris Scott. Picture: Alison Wynd

"There are some plans that might make it a lot harder for him but make it easier for Hawthorn on the whole. They're some of the challenges we're weighing up.

"If he has 50 touches against us, it won't be because we just let him go. But I would contend Collingwood didn't let him go either, they just didn't do what they planned well enough.

"We'll go in with a plan, clearly, but I'm sure Alastair will have the same question put to him."

Scott said the romance of starting Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Ablett and Joel Selwood in the midfield today won't be lost on him.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson maintains he won't go in with a preconceived plan to employ a hard tag on one or more of the midfield prime movers.

"That's been a debate that's been played out in the media throughout the course of the week ... we'll play out those scenarios as we go through," Clarkson said.

Patrick Dangerfield at Cats training. Picture: Alison Wynd
Patrick Dangerfield at Cats training. Picture: Alison Wynd

"The scoreboard will determine a lot of that - what's happening on the scoreboard and how much is any one player or group of players contributing to their ability to get in front.

"It will just be horses for courses and if any one of those players, including (Mitch) Duncan ... if we need to try to nullify their influence we'll probably do it at some point during the game.

"They've all been outstanding players for a long period of time, but I think if we're just trying to focus on three players we're probably going to be in a bit of trouble."

The Hawks have named the same 22 that scored a spirited win over Collingwood last week, but versatile young tall Ryan Burton, who rolled an ankle against the Pies, will need to pass a fitness test.

Jack Henry will debut for the Cats on Easter Monday. Picture: Alison Wynd
Jack Henry will debut for the Cats on Easter Monday. Picture: Alison Wynd

Dangerfield's inclusion was one of three changes the Cats made to the side that scored a thrilling win over Melbourne.

Rhys Stanley and Jack Henry, who will debut, were also included, with Harry Taylor (foot) and Zac Smith and Jordan Murdoch (both omitted) dropping out.

The absence of Taylor from the back half is a significant blow for Geelong, who are already missing Lachie Henderson (knee) having farewelled defensive stalwarts Andrew Mackie and Tom Lonergan, who retired at the end of last season.

"At different stages I think we, and others in the wider football community, might have though that to be the case," Clarkson replied when asked if the Cats' undermanned defence could be exploited.

"But it's got very little to do with the individual players at Geelong - it's more to do with their system.

Joel Selwood at Cats training. Picture: Alison Wynd
Joel Selwood at Cats training. Picture: Alison Wynd

"Even without Taylor they'll find some way to work together to make it difficult for us to score."

Scott said the group had done some more work on its close finishes during the week after overcoming Melbourne late last weekend.

"You should anticipate the games against the Hawks, if we play well, are going to be tight," he said.

"There's a strong history there and they're well coached and well drilled, still have a lot of experience on the field, so they're a challenging team to play when the game is tight.

"We've certainly prepared on that basis but big occasions, when there's a lot of pressure, it's difficult to execute what you've talked about. Whatever happens, it will be a good learning experience for us on the big stage."