ONLY A PRACTICE MATCH
By Mark Heenan. Geelong AFL coach Mark Thompson admits he is treating Saturday nights NAB Cup quarter-final clash in Cairns as a practice match after ruling out marquee Cats' pair Steven King and Brad Ottens.
The Cats opponents, the Kangaroos will also rest up to a dozen players in bid to protect them from the far north Queensland humidity and get them ready for round one.
Its a practice game basically in preparation for round one, (but) were trying to win the game, Thompson said.
Geelong will head into the match as slight favourites having played at Cazaly Stadium in Cairns twice in the past three years with last years AFL semi-finalists expecting cooler temperatures for the knockout match.
Apparently its going to be cooler up there in Cairns, than what it is in Melbourne on the weekend, Thompson said.
They're hard conditions to play in up there and it's a long way to go to play a game of footy."
Thompson indicated he will field a 26-man squad, but has hinted Ottens and King will play at least one match prior to round one.
Its just critical that we just get those blokes (Ottens and King) right for the season proper and thats the reason why theyre not playing, he said.
"They'll probably play the following week - maybe just one of them - so they'll both get maybe one or two games before the start of the season."
Thompson admits key defender Tom Harley is the only concern ahead of the clubs round one fixture against the Brisbane Lions on April 1, but has flagged the return of Steve Johnson and David Wojcinski, who has recovered from a knee reconstruction.
Steve Johnson is almost ready to go now, but we're just not playing him because it's pre-season and Tom Harley is really the only one we've got that's going to struggle to make round one," he said.
"Tom may or may not get to round one.
He's our latest player, he's our biggest concern at the moment."
Geelongs carefree pre-season approach has also caught the attention of Sportingbet Australia, with Adelaide and Fremantle overtaking the Cats as favourites to win the pre-season competition.
The Cats have slipped to third in the betting stakes, Thompson surprised with the clubs sudden fall from grace after last weeks comfortable 28-point victory over Carlton at Telstra Dome.
We were favourites to win last week, I thought we would be still favourite, Thompson said.
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