Saturday, March 1

THE Cats were met by drizzle, 32-degree temperatures and oppressive humidity on their arrival in Cairns yesterday but coach Mark Thompson was in a positive mood.

Geelong will line up against a depleted Brisbane in tonight's Wizard Cup quarter-final without Mitchell White, who was a surprise late withdrawal.

Despite the unexpected departure of White, Thompson praised his young squad ahead of the game.

``We`re young and on the way up,'' Thompson said following the team's inspection of the Bundaberg Rum Stadium yesterday.

``And this side will only get better.

``I don`t think we've beaten Brisbane since 1994.

``Sooner or later we're going to break the ice, it may as well be now.''

Tonight`s game, which begins at 6.40pm, will be Cairns' first opportunity to view the experimental rules for the 2003 pre-season competition in action.

Thompson, whose charges trained in jumpers and tracksuits during the week in preparation for the heat of Cairns, predicted any of his fleet of young, bright-eyed midfielders could shine tonight, with teenager James Kelly a potential standout.

``He played his first game in round six last year against Brisbane and he never got any kicks that night,'' Thompson said.

``I'm sure he`ll have a much better night this time around.''

Brisbane has taken an inexperienced side to Cairns, with 10 dual premiership players set to miss the match and coach Leigh Matthews relying on youngsters.

Thompson said he was not surprised Brisbane was resting key players.