K rock Football

Stewart right, Stanley likely

Geelong defender Tom Stewart. (krockfootball.com.au Image/Marcel Berens)

DEFENDER Tom Stewart will return and ruckman Rhys Stanley should be right as Geelong prepares to take on Hawthorn in a crucial clash ay thew MCG on Saturday.

Both were sidelined for the loss to Richmond, with Stewart suffering a high ankle sprain in the win over Brisbane on July 28 and Stanley a late withdrawal last week due to a calf problem.

Quinton Narkle is also available after missing the meeting with the Tigers to attend a funeral.

However, a question mark remains over Jed Bews after he suffered a shoulder injury late against Richmond.

Stanley’s availability casts some doubt over last week’s debutant Ryan Abbott getting a second game against the Hawks.

“He’s still in the mix. He’ll be in the squad, that’s for sure,” coach Chris Scott said. “It was a good debut.

“It’s one of the unfortunate situations for ruckmen that, depending on team structures, there tends to be only or, at most, two spots in the team.

“If we choose not to play Ryan, it won’t have anything to do with his performance last week.

“We were very happy with that.”

Veteran swingman Harry Taylor looks set to play in the VFL after overcoming his latest foot problem, while Stewart Crameri (groin) and Linc McCarthy (hamstring) are also a chance to play against Essendon on Saturday night, but that pair may have to wait an extra week to return.

A line has now been put through Nakia Cockatoo following knee surgery last month, but the door remains ajar for Esava Ratugolea to make a return from the broken ankle suffered in Round 10, with Scott “mildly confident” the big man will play again in 2018.

“I’m getting more confident the more I watch him,” Scott said. “I’ve got to stop watching him so closely because he looks really good.

“The one thing we will guarantee is just that we won’t be premature with his return. He’s just too important.

“But all the signs are good

Scott says the initial prognosis of Ratugolea returning to play hasn’t changed.

“So now we’re getting a bit closer, we’re even more confident of that,” he said.

“But there are other factors beyond simply his particular injury.

“There’s the match fitness and the stage of the season, how our team’s looking.

“So I’ll try to watch him a little less closely because the more I watch, the more likely I think he is to come in and play with us at some stage.”

Click below to listen to Chris Scott’s media conference.

Twitter: @tom_king79

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