Ben a chance for Lance

CLEVER: Big Blue Lance "Subway" Whitnall could be quelled by Cat Ben Graham.  
Thursday, June 6

WHAT a position Geelong finds itself in this week.

The team is coming off its most positive result in more than a month but faces a team in Carlton that, with every loss, is one step closer to a win.

AFL teams, no matter how bad they are playing at any point, have, with the right attitude, the ability to match and beat any side in the competition if they're not paid the respect they deserve.

Emotion will also play a big hand in some results.

Carlton, with its pride and rich history, won't approach this game with anything less than total commitment to getting its second win on the board to ease some of the pressure on its match committee and playing group.

The club is staring at its first wooden spoon and will be fuelled by last year's spiteful Round 22 clash with Geelong at Optus Oval that should create some extra feeling between the two sides on Sunday.

Stephen Silvagni was dealt with vigorously by Darren Milburn and I'm sure that will be put into the mind of the Carlton team just before it takes to the field.

It should create some interesting moments in the opening minutes of the game. The team that handles it best and isn't too affected could get away to a flying start that would be hard to peg back.

These are just some of the mind games that could affect the outcome.

Carlton doesn't have a great win-loss ratio this year but it still has some great players in the side who can take control of a game.

Corey McKernan and Matthew Lappin in the forward line and captain Brett Ratten, Craig Bradley and Scott Camporeale on the ball are all quality players that are hard to match up.

The backline appears the most vulnerable without Silvagni this year, but Andrew McKay provides plenty of drive.

It's important to remember the nucleus of the side was a competitive finalist last year.

But I think the most important player in the side is without doubt centre half-forward Lance Whitnall.

He is one of the smartest footballers going around at the moment and a player who needs to be closely guarded.

I had the opportunity to watch him live against Adelaide two weeks ago and he was an outstanding player despite the side getting a touch up.

He has an innate ability to create scoring chances for himself and others around him but is equally effective filling in the back half to stop a lot of attacking moves.

His forward strategy is generally to lead his opponent under the ball and then double back to take the ball running towards the goal.

It looks to be a set play from Carlton to leave the space between him and the goals free to do this and his opponent needs to be aware of that.

And when the ball is turned over into opposition hands he just charges almost directly to sit in the hole between Carlton's centre half-back and full back to reinforce the defence.

A number of times in the Adelaide game he marked the ball deep in this space to rebound attacking moves.

He's just a very intelligent player who runs hard when the opposition has the ball.

I've seen him do it many times. As much as people say he is overweight and his body shape doesn't look ideal for an endurance player, that is deceiving.

Because he also plays deep in the defensive half I think the best person for the job is Ben Graham, who can then provide Geelong with another scoring option when he follows Whitnall down.

It might sound silly to say Graham can be used as a scoring option from centre half-back but I believe when Whitnall charges into his side's defensive half to block up, Geelong should use Graham as a long goal scoring option.

It's an ideal scenario for the Geelong skipper. He's coming off his best game after being put into the backline last week.

Rather than just kicking the ball long and forward, Geelong's runners should look for a chance to use Graham late by having him run to a flank, not deep into the forward line, just staying on the flank.

It is the perfect chance for Graham to play the role he is most suited to. Last week he would have gained a tremendous amount of confidence.

He loves playing in a team defensive role and the benefit of a confident Graham is that it is relayed through the team.

It provides Geelong with an attacking defender and a real scoring option from outside the 50m arc.