Young Cats step up

Monday, March 17
Geelong Advertiser _ Fiona Welsh

GEELONG'S youth brigade have heeded the words of coach Mark Thompson after being put on notice in the lead-up to the AFL's opening round.

At stake are a limited number of senior spots, with several big names ready to resume after an injury-interrupted pre-season.

After the Cats' five-point win over Essendon at Albury on Friday night, Thompson said David Johnson, Jarad Rooke, Steve Johnson and James Kelly were among those who did no harm to their round one selection chances.

``I told them if they want to play in the opening game they had to put in a good performance tonight,'' Thompson said.

Rooke had the high-profile job of following Essendon champion James Hird, and despite a busy third quarter, the 15-game novice held his own.

Thompson said Rooke's endurance, ability in the air and hardness were factors in the decision to match him up against the Brownlow medallist.

What will play a big part in which of the youngsters is there for round one will be the return of the experienced backmen Ben Graham and Brenton Sanderson, who were rested on Friday night, forwards Cameron Mooney, Kent Kingsley, Aaron Lord and midfielder Cameron Ling.

``Put Kingsley, Mooney, Sanderson, Graham and Ling back in that side and we are pretty close to our best line-up,'' Thompson said.

Also in the mix are James Rahilly, David Wojcinski and Peter Street, who returned to the VFL on Saturday for more game time, and ruckman Paul Chambers.

Chambers changed in the ruck with Steven King against Essendon, allowing the Cats' number one ruckman to spend some time forward.

``We said to Paul if you jump and compete, and give it your best then it gives King a rest. He did exactly what we wanted from a second ruckman. He's done his chances no harm at all,'' Thompson said.

With Geelong's only pre-season blemish a Wizard Cup semi-final loss to Collingwood, Thompson feels confident heading into the round one clash with the Western Bulldogs at Telstra Dome on Sunday, March 30.

The build-up begins on Wednesday with double sessions over three days before the break at the weekend and then regular training next week.