Cats lose Johnson for more weeks in AFL

By Roger Vaughan,

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    Knee surgery means Geelong star Steve Johnson’s delayed start to the AFL season is out to three weeks.

    The three-time premiership player was already sidelined for Monday’s Easter Monday blockbuster against Hawthorn because of suspension.

    But Johnson hurt his left knee in a VFL practice match, which he was playing in because of his round-one ban.

    “He just fell on the knee a little bit awkwardly and thought he’d be fine,” Cats coach Chris Scott told Fox Footy’s AFL 360 program.

    “But it hasn’t pulled up all that well at training this week.

    “Only a minor procedure was required, so we decided to do that straight away.

    “The likelihood is he’ll only miss three weeks.”

    Scott said Johnson had enjoyed a strong pre-season before the injury.

    Johnson suffered a dislocated kneecap and damaged ligaments to the same knee in the 2011 preliminary final.

    He needed several painkilling injections to play in the following week’s grand final win over Collingwood.

    While the surgery is a blow, Scott said it was important to fix the problem now.

    “It softens the blow a little bit that he’s unavailable for round one anyway,” the Cats coach said.

    “We’d obviously prefer it was done a month ago or even longer.

    “But it was really an acute issue … if he’s back and at his best from round four onwards, for example, it’s a much better result than having him play the early rounds and be limited for the rest of the season.”

    Meanwhile, the Cats’ No.1 ruckman Trent West might return from a similar injury to play in Monday’s clash.

    West also needed knee surgery in the pre-season and has recovered well enough to be available to face the Hawks.

    But the Cats are weighing up whether they want to select him without having played a pre-season game.

    “He’s some chance but we haven’t made up our minds,” football manager Neil Balme said.

    Geelong on Tuesday upgraded ruck options Mark Blicavs and Josh Walker from their rookie list.

    They are in selection contention, given West is the club’s only other recognised ruckman in the frame to face the Hawks.

    Nathan Vardy (hip), Dawson Simpson (back) and Hamish McIntosh (knee) are all weeks from returning.

    Scott said Blicavs was in their squad of 25, only a year after trying to make the Australian athletics team for the London Olympics as a steeplechase runner.

    “To have said that … 12 months ago on this night at our season launch would have sounded ridiculous,” Scott said.

    “His work ethic and his thirst for knowledge has inspired all of us.”

    © AAP 2018

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