Several Cats vying to replace Chapman
In one sense, Paul Chapman is irreplaceable for Geelong in the biggest instalment in the last five years of their fabled rivalry with Hawthorn.
It was Chapman who pledged after the heartbreaking 2008 grand final defeat that he did not ever want to be part of another Cats team which lost to the Hawks.
Three premierships, two All Australian jumpers, a Norm Smith medal and several game-breaking performances against Hawthorn stamp him as the ultimate big-occasion player.
But such is Geelong’s strength in depth – as evidenced by their feeder team’s triumphant march to Sunday’s VFL grand final – that they have a host of potential replacements for the suspended Chapman, even if none of them could be described as like-for-like.
If Geelong make only one personnel change, the favourite is former Gold Coast midfielder Josh Caddy, who has played 17 matches in his first season at the Cattery and has recovered from an ankle injury.
Jordan Murdoch’s best claim on Chapman’s spot is that he was a pivotal figure in the Cats’ round 15 win over Hawthorn with three fourth-quarter goals.
“That does count,” Geelong coach Chris Scott said on Tuesday.
“Particularly late in the game when it opened up a bit, his speed and running power and penetration with his kicking was certainly a factor.
“It’s something we are attracted to and have been for the last couple of weeks but we haven’t been able to squeeze him in.”
Jesse Stringer, George Horlin-Smith and Billie Smedts will also be considered.
And then there’s key forward Shane Kersten, who’s been on the cusp of a senior debut for much of 2013.
“He is a very serious contender for that spot – he will be in our 25 for sure,” said Scott.
“He played extremely well for a half again at VFL level.
“We understand it is a big jump up to AFL level and into a preliminary final is another (level).
“But we have extreme confidence in our program with our young players – we can’t remember a time where we have brought in young enthusiastic players and they have let us down.”
Hawthorn will go into Friday night’s blockbuster as favourites, rested after a week off and strengthened by the return of key duo Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli.
The case for Geelong is more about their 11-0 record against the Hawks dating back to early 2009 and the dominant second half they produced against Port Adelaide in last weekend’s semi-final.
“We don’t think we necessarily have an advantage over them but at the same time I think it is a genuine 50-50 – their football has been exceptional at times this year and it is going to be a challenge for us to take away the style of footy they play,” said Scott.
“They are special occasions because the last five or six years they have been games between two teams at the top of the ladder and at the peak of their powers.”© AAP 2014