VFL Preview – Round 15

Updated: July 23, 2015
Jordan Cunico looks to handball in Geelong's VFL loss to Footscray. Picture: ARJ GIESE
Jordan Cunico looks to handball in Geelong's VFL loss to Footscray. Picture: ARJ GIESE

Jordan Cunico looks to handball in Geelong’s VFL loss to Footscray. Picture: ARJ GIESE

GEELONG coach Paul Hood hopes the long-awaited return of injured pair Nathan Vardy and Josh Cowan will inspire the Cats’ VFL side to repeat its performance from a fortnight ago when they face Essendon this Saturday.

When Daniel Menzel made his comeback from four knee reconstructions against Werribee earlier this month, Geelong lifted to topple the high-flying Tigers in a thriller at Avalon Airport Oval.

Vardy will make his first appearance in 18 months after recovering from his own knee problems while the injury-riddled Cowan has overcome a hamstring injury suffered while playing at AFL level in early May.

Geelong will also be boosted by the inclusion of experienced midfielder Mathew Stokes and defender Jed Bews after both were omitted from the Cats’ AFL line-up.

Utility Billie Smedts has been promoted after some impressive form over the past month, while one of either Stokes, Bews or Michael Luxford will head to Canberra as the travelling emergency.

Hood said there was an upbeat mood about the VFL squad when told both Vardy and Cowan had got through this week’s main training session and were cleared to play against the Bombers.

“It’s great for the enthusiasm of the group like it was the other week for ‘Menz’ at Werribee and hopefully we can lift and get a similar result,” Hood said.

“The great bonus of having these guys (playing VFL) is they’re great teammates and just fantastic fellas, and as long as they get through and enjoy it, that’s the main part.”

Amazingly, it will be the first time since June 2011 that Menzel, Vardy and Cowan – who were all drafted by the Cats in 2009 – have played in the same side together.

Vardy, who hasn’t played since the opening match of the 2014 pre-season, told the club’s website he was excited about “packing a footy bag for the first time in a while”. The 199cm big man has been named at full-forward.

“I’ll be nervous, excited, probably a little bit scared,” Vardy said.

“There’ll be a fair few emotions running through my body but, all in all, just be pumped to back out on the ground and running around with the boys.

“We (Vardy, Menzel and Cowan) have spent a lot of time in the rehab room together, which hasn’t been ideal. We’ve gone through a lot of hard times together and dealt with a lot of problems and helped each other through them.

“So to be able to actually play together is going to be pretty amazing. Hopefully we can all get a kick and play well and then get a win at the end of the day.”

The Cats are two games outside the eighth in 11th spot on the ladder with the Bombers now sitting fifth thanks to six wins from their last seven matches. That includes a 92-point drubbing of Geelong at Etihad Stadium in their earlier meeting.

Geelong put up a credible showing against reigning premiers Footscray last round which Hood said have him confidence the Cats would produce a similar showing against Essendon.

“On review I thought we were quite good in large parts of the game against the Bulldogs. It was just lapses in the second quarter that cost us,” Hood said.

“So for us it’s just about consistency of effort and trying to minimize our mistakes and capitalise on our opportunities.”

Jackson Hollmer will play his 106th VFL match, becoming the Cats all-time games record holder, passing Trent West.

Hood said co-captain Ryan Williams started running this week as part of his rehab from an ankle/foot/toe problem with an eye on resuming at GFL level for St Joseph’s in the next fortnight.

Meanwhile Werribee have regained key players Scott Sherlock and Jesse Crichton for its crucial clash against ladder leaders Box Hill at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday.

Luke McDonald has been called up by the Tigers’ AFL alignment partner North Melbourne.

Twitter: @GreenBradley

Geelong (11th) vs. Essendon (5th) @ Simonds Stadium, Saturday 11.00am


B Ruggles Robinson Cunico
HB Jansen Hollmer Bews
C Menzel Cockatoo Gore
HF Luxford Read Blease
F Bates Vardy Stokes
R Simpson Horlin-Smith Cowan
Int Paliouras Raidme Maas
Linton Dixon* Sheringham
Gibbs Lucey Farrelly

Werribee (8th) vs. Box Hill Hawks (1st) @ Avalon Airport Oval, Sunday 2.00pm

Werribee Tigers

B Sodomaco Wilson Sherlock
HB Laracy Hansen McMahon
C Speight Hanson Fordham
HF Crichton Porter Munro
F Reid Daw Wood
R Wallace Harper Conway
Int Pickering Wales Maishman
Norris Brett Wales
Ferrari* Iles Robinson

Bendigo Bank