Top 4 up for grabs

Joel Corey at training last night.  
Friday, July 19

TOMORROW night's blockbuster against Essendon at Colonial Stadium is Cats' coach Mark Thompson's best chance of revenge on ex-mentor Kevin Sheedy.

The Geelong coach has not won a regular home-and-away clash against Essendon, the club he played 202 games for, since taking over the Cats.

With a top-four chance beckoning after a remarkable six-game winning streak, that possibility appears very achievable.

But Thompson refuses to accept the ``favourites'' tag as shifted onto his young side by Sheedy.

``Where we are standing at the moment with our form and their form, it probably gives us our best chance,'' Thompson said before an animated and intense training session.

``I think we would be the underdogs, or undercats.''

With Brenton Sanderson ruled out for at least two weeks with strained ankle ligaments and Cameron Ling suspended, the Cats will be missing two influential ball winners.

They last night included Joel Corey, a likely choice for the assignment of shutting down James Hird, and Daniel Foster to the side which conquered Collingwood last round.

As expected the Bombers regained All-Australian backman Dustin Fletcher, omitting Joel Reynolds, grandson of Essendon legend Dick Reynolds.

In typical Sheedy style this week, the Dons' coach predicted Fletcher might play up forward but Thompson saw straight through the four-time premiership coach.

``That's just Sheeds being Sheeds,'' he said.

``Last time we played he (Fletcher) did start there but that's a long time ago.

``He is the best full back in the country . . . . I suspect he'll play back.''

With Ling serving a one- match ban for striking Pies' skipper Nathan Buckley, Thompson conceded he would look to shut down James Hird by running a tag.

``The beauty about this side is we've had players missing all year,'' he said.

``Cameron (Ling) has been good the last month but we never planned on letting him to do it all year.

``The fact he is not there means that Joel Corey might do it, Corey Enright or James Rahilly. David Wojcinksi has also done it a few times this year.''

Thompson still holds strong ties with Windy Hill and was recently seen visiting his former home of 13 years - and was caught out by Bomber officials.

Assistant coach Robert Shaw spotted the club legend purchasing tickets for tomorrow's game at the club only a few days ago.

Thompson was swiftly dragged into Sheedy's office before walking out of Windy Hill with a fistful of tickets for his children.

An Essendon spokesman last night said only 5000 tickets remained for the match which begins at 7.10pm at Colonial Stadium.