K rock Football

Cats ready for physical final

Geelong ruckman Rhys Stanley competes against Port Adelaide’s Scott Lycett in Round 12 (AFL Photos/Getty Images Image/Matt Roberts)

GEELONG assistant coach Matthew Knights is predicting a physical contest when the Cats clash with Port Adelaide in next Thursday night’s qualifying final.

And Knights expects both clubs to back in their talented midfield groups to get on top in the Adelaide Oval clash.

“But, the reality is, with Robbie Gray, (Ollie) Wines, (Travis) Boak, you have to respect their strengths,” Knights said.

“And that’s what we endeavour to as a midfield group. We back our strengths, but we also respect the strengths of the opposition, and we’ve got to do that because they’ve got some highly-talented players in there.

“And they’ve got (Scott) Lycett and (Pete) Ladhams as two big ruckmen.

“I think it’s going to be a superb battle through the midfield. I think it will be very physical, and you expect that with two physical teams.

“Those contested numbers through the midfield are going to go a long way to winning the game.”

Limiting the influence of gritty Power midfielder Tom Rockliff will be crucial to Geelong taking the direct route to the preliminary final.

The former Brisbane skipper was limited to just 14 disposals in the loss to the Cats in Round 12 but has averaged 28.6 possessions in the five matches since.

“He’s crafty the way he gets around the contest,” Knights said. “He’s either winning the ball himself or that half-a-metre off for that little handball and then he sends the runners on their way.

“I know they’ve got a deep midfield, but he’s one you can’t let fly under the radar because he’s very good at what he does.

“He predominantly uses the ball short by kick and handball, but it’s usually precise.”

Knights confirmed both ruck Rhys Stanley and hard-nosed forward Tom Atkins would be available for selection after impressing at training this week.

Stanley has been sidelined with a groin issue since the comeback win over the Western Bulldogs in Round 14, while Atkins missed the narrow win over Sydney due to a chest issue.

“Rhys was really pivotal through that period where we had a good run,” Knights said.

“He’ll definitely come into the equation at selection, and he’ll definitely be available, so that’s promising for us.

“His last two sessions have been strong. It’ll be great to have Rhys back in the mix.”

“With those two guys up for selection that weren’t in the mix for the previous game (vs. Sydney), it presents the coaching staff with some dilemmas.

“But, it’s really healthy, and it’s great to have all players available this time of year.”

Twitter: @tom_king79