K rock Football

Finals tune-up for Cats

Scott Selwood clears for Geelong in last week’s loss to Williamstown. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

GEELONG coach Shane O’Bree wants his side to fine-tune elements of its game when it takes on top-eight rivals Essendon in its last home-and-away match before the VFL finals series.

The Cats had a four-match winning streak snapped by Williamstown last week and will make at least three changes at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday, with Rhys Stanley recalled to AFL ranks.

Kyle O’Connor and Cooper Jones have been omitted, while Ryan Abbott will return from a week off in Stanley’s absence.

AFL-listed Ben Jarvis, Jamaine Jones, Lachie Fogarty and Nakia Cockatoo were all named in the extended squad on Thursday night.

Geelong will finish the home-and-away campaign in the bottom half of the top eight regardless of Sunday’s result, but O’Bree is eager to regain some momentum ahead of the finals.

“I thought we still played the right way last week in terms of our structures, set-ups and game plan,” O’Bree said.

“It was more our execution that let us down, so this week will be about finishing our work off and really making teams pay when we get the ball in hand by hitting the scoreboard.

“A lot of our players are in good form and we haven’t really changed much about the way we’ve been playing, it’s just implementing it under pressure against better and more physical teams.”

VFLW: DEVELOPMENT FIRST FOR CATS

AFL-listed duo Sam Menegola and Zach Guthrie have been named to play their second successive VFL matches after returning from senior duty and injury respectively.

But doubt remains over Cockatoo, who has now been named for four successive weeks, but has not made an appearance since making his return from a long-term knee injury in Round 18.

Stanley’s promotion to the AFL side leaves Abbott and Zac Smith to share the ruck duties at VFL level.

“Abbott will definitely come back in this week and then it’s just a matter of how we manage the game time in the ruck and wherever else we play them,” O’Bree said.

“We need to get those boys’ confidence up and get them playing good footy.”

Jones returns from a week out through illness and will be looking to build on his strong form in the back half of the season.

He played a starring role with three goals and a dozen tackles in the win over North Melbourne a fortnight ago.

“He’s got through his training sessions this week and hopefully he gets back to the form he was in before he missed last week.

“He’s had a really good six weeks, JJ, probably his back half of the year has been better than his front half.

“He’s a vital cog to our team with his pressure and his finishing touches in the forward half.”

Geelong will be out to exact an element of revenge against fourth-placed Essendon, having been beaten on the big stage in the two sides’ last meeting.

The Bombers ran out comfortable seven-goal winners in the AFL curtain-raiser at the MCG in early May.

“It was probably one of the games that we learnt a lot from earlier in the year playing on the ‘G,” O’Bree said.

“The way Essendon controlled the game was pretty impressive and they’re one of the better kick-and-mark sort of teams from what I’ve seen.

“Our defence will have to be on and it’s another good challenge going into finals.”

Essendon, too, will be hoping to regain form before finals after losing three of its past four matches.

Twitter: @shayne_hope

VFL – ROUND 21

GEELONG (7th) vs. ESSENDON (4th)

GMHBA Stadium

Sunday, August 25, 11:40am