Cats rest star trio in selection gamble for Suns test

Shayne Hope |

Geelong have decided to rest premiership star Tom Hawkins for the game against Gold Coast in Darwin.
Geelong have decided to rest premiership star Tom Hawkins for the game against Gold Coast in Darwin.

Geelong have left out 840 games of AFL experience in a selection gamble for their clash with Gold Coast in Darwin after opting to rest premiership stars Tom Hawkins, Mitch Duncan and Rhys Stanley.

The trio did not travel with the Cats’ squad this week, joining fellow veteran Jeremy Cameron (concussion) on the sidelines as coach Chris Scott attempts to negotiate a six-day break between matches.

Scott’s “complicated” selection call comes with Geelong on a two-match losing skid heading into the Suns encounter at TIO Stadium on Thursday night.

“You can’t satisfy every requirement every single week, but as a guide we try not to get too beholden to the opposition we’re playing,” Scott told reporters on Wednesday.

“We do think a little bit about the length of break and the venue and those sorts of things, but the overwhelming priority is to look at it at the individual level.

“Tom Hawkins, Mitch Duncan and Rhys Stanley, I’m loath to say ‘at their age’ because their age is not necessarily the deciding factor.

“It’s more just how we think about their season overall.”

Scott first publicly flagged a rest for Hawkins in the immediate aftermath of last Friday night’s home defeat to Port Adelaide.

Fellow key forward Cameron was put in concussion protocols the following day after he experienced delayed symptoms from hitting his head in a heavy fall from a marking contest

Scott admitted it prompted a brief reconsideration of the plan to rest Hawkins, who is now poised to break long-time teammate Joel Selwood’s record for games played for Geelong in a home clash with Greater Western Sydney next week.

Six-game forward Shannon Neale, a 203cm prospect, has been recalled to provide a tall target in the Cats’ forward line against Gold Coast after kicking three goals in a win over North Melbourne in his only previous senior appearance this season.

Shannon Neale.
Shannon Neale has been recalled to provide a tall target in the Cats’ forward line. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Three-game ruckman Toby Conway, Jack Bowes and Tanner Bruhn have also been included.

“In the end, our medium-term planning overrode that potential need to get Tom into the team,” Scott said.

“Shannon Neale’s someone we’ve been trying to get into the team for a while.

“He came in against North Melbourne and played really well – well enough to hold his spot – but Hawkins came back the next week.

“So we think we’ve got a good ‘in’ there and it gives us a chance to give a little bit of a different look in the conditions.

“We rarely play in this heat, but we do play in slippery conditions, so that was something that factored into our thinking.”

Gold Coast have also gone down the player management path, resting co-captain Jarrod Witts, Nick Holman, Jed Walter and Jake Rogers.

Veteran midfielder David Swallow and Brayden Fiorini return after a week off, with Sam Day and young ruckman Ned Moyle also recalled.

The Suns have spent the week in Darwin preparing for the Geelong clash after thrashing North Melbourne at TIO Stadium last week.

It was Gold Coast’s fifth game in two years at a venue renowned for its slippery conditions, and wingman Sam Clohesy said that experience would benefit his side.

“It’s definitely an advantage … just being able to run out a full game in this heat,” Clohesy said.

“It’s nothing like playing down in Melbourne or, really, playing on the Gold Coast.

“I think we’re going to use it as an edge against them.”