Joel Selwood will miss his fourth match in a row on Friday night but coach Chris Scott is adamant the Cats skipper hasn’t suffered any setbacks with his worrisome knee.
The captain hasn’t played since Round 12, and the club has persistently stated he has been held back as a precautionary move.
Scott said Selwood was running without any trouble on the track yet he wasn’t ready to play against Richmond.
SCROLL DOWN TO SEE THE FIRST ROUND 17 TEAMS
Instead, Geelong will look to bring the midfielder back in Round 18.
“He is training unencumbered and has been for some time,” Scott said.
“(We are being) just really conservative. He has been managing issues over the last couple of years, actually.
“Last year we played him when in retrospect we probably shouldn’t have so we are doubling down on our decision this year.
“We have a plan that we think is going to leave him in the best place to play well in the finals series so that is the extent of the detail I am going to give you right now.”
The Cats have made two changes for their finals preview against the Tigers, recalling Esava Ratugolea and Zach Tuohy.
Josh Jenkins and Zach Guthrie have made way.
Richmond will be bolstered by the return of defender Dylan Grimes and Kane Lambert, while young midfielder Jack Ross has also been named.
They replace Nathan Broad, Jack Higgins and Thomson Dow.
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Despite the lack of form leading into the finals, Scott said there was “no doubt” Selwood will be able to perform when it counts.
“There is no doubt in my mind and no doubt in his mind,” Scott said.
“He has been training really well and if anything we think there’s a fair chance for him to get some extra sessions in and to improve.
“I guess the proof will be in the pudding. I can understand if you didn’t believe me on it but I wouldn’t be speaking so confidently if there was doubt.”
While Selwood will miss the blockbuster meeting with Richmond, Gary Rohan will be fit to play after sitting out the final quarter against Essendon on Sunday.
KEY SAINTS BACK AS NIC NAT RETURNS
St Kilda’s forward line will welcome significant reinforcements with the return of key forwards Tim Membrey and Max King for Thursday night’s clash against West Coast.
Membrey returns to the Saints line-up after missing last weekend’s win over Hawthorn after finger surgery, while first-year tall King was rested from the clash.
King had played every game up until the last round in his debut season, in which he has so far kicked 19 goals from 14 matches.
Fellow forward Nicholas Hind has also been named for the clash against the Eagles at the Gabba as the Saints aim to secure their first finals appearance since 2011.
Ryan Abbott, Jonathan Marsh and Ed Phillips have all been omitted.
The Eagles have made six changes for the clash against the Saints, welcoming back star ruckman Nic Naitanui, captain Shannon Hurn – and the debut of another Brayshaw.
After Sunday’s narrow loss to the Western Bulldogs, the Eagles have lost Dom Sheed (hamstring), Jack Redden (thumb), Lewis Jetta (calf), Mark Hutchings (hamstring) and Brandon Ah Chee (finger) to injury.
Tom Hickey has been omitted for Naitanui, who was rested against the Bulldogs, as the Eagles fight to stay in the top-four frame.
Will Schofield returns after elbow surgery alongside Jarrod Brander, Jack Petruccelle and debutant Hamish Brayshaw, the brother of Demon Angus and Docker Andrew.
KEY TIGERS PAIR SET FOR RETURN
Richmond will get a significant boost for Friday night’s blockbuster clash against Geelong as Dylan Grimes and Kane Lambert return from injury.
Grimes strained his hamstring against West Coast on August 27, then missed the win over Fremantle last week, when Lambert was also sidelined for a one match with a hip issue.
The premiership players have had the extra break because of Richmond’s Round 16 bye and Tigers coach Damien Hardwick confirmed on Wednesday they would return to face the second-placed Cats.
“Dylan will be available … and it was just a management call with Kane,” Hardwick said.
“He’s had a hip complaint over a number of weeks and we just thought we’d take the opportunity with a shortened break to give him a rest but then he had the nine days after so he gets a really extended break to get that hip right for the remainder of the year.”
Richmond enters Friday’s game in fourth spot with a 10-4-1 record, while Geelong is second at 11-4.
The sides are looking to seal their positions in the top four ahead of the final round.
Hardwick said the match would come down to “control versus chaos”.
“They’re a great side and defensively they’re very, very strong,” he said.
“You look at the way they play, time in possession’s a big one for them.
“Geelong are very much a control side, we’re a chaos side.
“Which defence stands up best will be a matter of time.
“We feel our very best is good enough but there’s no doubt Geelong would feel exactly the same.
“It’s going to be a great test, we’re really looking forward to the challenge and they’re in terrific form.”
The game will feature a host of intriguing match-ups and one of them may be emerging fullback Noah Balta on in-form veteran forward Tom Hawkins.
Hardwick said Hawkins was in brilliant form.
“He’s a reason they’re playing so well,” he said.
“If we’re relying on Noah to beat him one out, we’re going to be in a little bit of trouble so we’ve got to make sure we help whoever that player is.”
Balta is helping to hold up a Tigers defence that has missed not only Grimes but fellow key backman David Astbury.
Hardwick expected defender Astbury to play in a scrimmage this week, having returned to full training.
The club was also excited about star midfielder Dion Prestia’s progress from an ankle injury and infection, and was hopeful he would feature in a scrimmage during the pre-finals bye.
ROUND 17 TEAMS
ST KILDA v WEST COAST EAGLES
Thursday September 10, 7.10pm at the Gabba
B: J.Geary, D.Howard, N.Coffield
HB: H.Clark, C.Wilkie, B.Long
C: J.Battle, S.Ross, J.Billings
HF: J.Lonie, R.Marshall, B.Hill
F: M.King, T.Membrey, D.Butler
FOLL: P.Ryder, J.Steele, Z.Jones
I/C: B.Paton, J.Sinclair, D.Kent, N.Hind
EMG: D.Roberton, S.Savage, J.Marsh, J.Carlisle
IN: M.King, T.Membrey, N.Hind
OUT: R.Abbott, J.Marsh, E.Phillips (all omitted)
B: W.Schofield, T.Barrass, B.Sheppard
HB: S.Hurn, J.McGovern, L.Duggan
C: J.Nelson, T.Kelly, J.Waterman
HF: J.Brander, J.Darling, J.Petruccelle
F: O.Allen, J.Kennedy, L.Ryan
FOLL: N.Naitanui, B.Ainsworth, A.Gaff
I/C: H.Brayshaw, X.O’Neill, T.Cole, J.Rotham
EMG: L.Foley, B.Williams, J.Cameron, N.Reid
IN: W.Schofield, S.Hurn, J.Brander, J.Petruccelle, N.Naitanui, H.Brayshaw
OUT: T.Hickey (omitted), L.Jetta (injured), D.Sheed (injured), M.Hutchings (injured), J.Redden (injured), B.Ah Chee (injured)
GEELONG CATS v RICHMOND
Friday September 11, 7:50pm at Metricon Stadium
B: J.Kolodjashnij, L.Henderson, H.Taylor
HB: J.Henry, M.Blicavs T.Stewart
C: Z.Tuohy, P.Dangerfield, S.Menegola
HF: L.Dahlhaus, G.Rohan, T.Atkins
F: J.Bews, T.Hawkins, G.Miers
FOLL: E.Ratugolea, C.Guthrie, B.Parfitt
I/C: M.O’Connor, M.Duncan, L.Fogarty, B.Close
EMER: B.Jarvis, J.Jenkins, Z.Guthrie, Q.Narkle
IN: Z.Tuohy, E.Ratugolea
OUT: J.Jenkins (Omitted), Z.Guthrie (Omitted)
B: B.Houli, D.Grimes, N.Balta
HB: J.Short, N.Vlastuin, O.Markov
C: K.McIntosh, J.Graham, M.Pickett
HF: J.Aarts, K.Lambert, T.Lynch
F: J.Riewoldt, D.Martin, J.Castagna
FOLL: I.Soldo, S.Bolton, T.Cotchin
I/C: L.Baker, T.Nankervis, D.Rioli, J.Ross
EMG: M.Chol, R.Collier-Dawkins, N.Broad, J.Higgins
IN: D.Grimes, K.Lambert, J.Ross
OUT: N.Broad (Omitted), J.Higgins (Omitted), T.Dow (Omitted)
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