Leaky Cats aim to fix defence in Hawkins’ milestone

Shayne Hope |

Tom Hawkins (c) will play his 356th game for Geelong when they welcome the Giants to Kardinia Park.
Tom Hawkins (c) will play his 356th game for Geelong when they welcome the Giants to Kardinia Park.

Chris Scott doesn’t want to go early on celebrating Geelong veteran Tom Hawkins’ latest milestone – and with good reason.

The Cats’ coach has more pressing issues as he plots an end to his side’s three-match losing skid in a crunch clash with Greater Western Sydney at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday.

But Scott afforded himself a brief moment of reflection as triple-premiership spearhead Hawkins gets set for his 356th game, passing long-time teammate Joel Selwood’s club-record mark.

“We should avoid playing down a milestone, but we also don’t want to celebrate the game before the surpassing of the record,” Scott told reporters on Friday.

“I suspect (Hawkins) is a little bit happier being right next to Joel (and) he’d feel a little bit uncomfortable passing his great mate.

“And I’m sure that he wouldn’t even think about it in those terms, but it’s a significant moment in Geelong’s history.

“I pinch myself that I’ve had the chance to be a part of that journey and all of our players think the same way.”

Tom Hawkins of Geelong.
Hawkins “will be a little bit uncomfortable” passing Joel Selwood for the Cats’ games-played record. (Julian Smith/AAP PHOTOS)

Jeremy Cameron (concussion), Sam De Koning (hamstring), Mitch Duncan and Hawkins (both managed) are all back to bolster a Geelong side that was battered by Gold Coast in Darwin last week.

The Cats have conceded almost 40 points more per game over the last three rounds compared to the first seven, when they were unbeaten, and have coughed up more than an extra five goals each match from turnover in that period.

Three times in their last four games – including a narrow win over Carlton in round eight – Geelong have given up triple-figure scores.

Scott puts it down to a “lack of cohesion”, which he has made a focus during an extended nine-day break since the Suns clash.

“If you had to prioritise, the most important thing defensively for us is how we go around the contest,” he said.

“That’s not just stoppages but also how we defend our turnovers. Primarily it’s more up the ground than it is D50 defence.”

While Geelong (7-3) have stuttered since winning their opening seven games, sixth-placed GWS (6-4) are also under the pump.

The Giants have lost four of their last five, but coach Adam Kingsley said his side will take confidence from a strong recent record at Kardinia Park.

They have won on their last three trips to the Cats’ home base, including a seven-point upset last season in captain Toby Greene’s 200th game.

No visiting team has won four straight games against Geelong at the venue since the Brisbane Lions in 2003, when Scott was still playing for the club under Leigh Matthews.

“Those sort of stats are theatre, in my opinion, and quirks,” Scott said.

“The last (GWS clash) is probably relevant. That’s close enough, but we tend not to look at games from 2019 to inform the way we think about this one.”

Geelong have lost Gary Rohan (adductor) and Cam Guthrie (achilles), and have dropped Brandan Parfitt and Mark O’Connor for the Giants clash.

GWS also made four changes, including recalling Leek Aleer in place of injured defender Jack Buckley (calf).

The Giants suffered a late blow when experienced on-baller Callan Ward withdrew on Friday because of illness, with dropped midfielder Jacob Wehr earning a selection reprieve as his replacement.

AAP