Mark Blicavs and Gary Ablett share some joy in the round one clash against Melbourne.
Mark Blicavs and Gary Ablett share some joy in the round one clash against Melbourne. JULIAN SMITH

Cats' star three might get to run free against Hawks

GEELONG'S superstar midfielders have hogged the limelight in the lead-up to today's clash with Hawthorn, but the Hawks won't make the mistake of fixating on the Cats' talented trio.

Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett will play together for the first time since Ablett's move from Gold Coast, with Geelong having played it safe with Dangerfield's hamstring injury last week.

Hawks coach Alastair Clark-son maintains he won't go in with a preconceived plan to employ a hard tag on one or more of the midfield prime movers.

"That's been a debate that's been played out in the media throughout the course of the week ... we'll play out those scenarios as we go through,” he said yesterday.

"The scoreboard will determine a lot of that - what's happening on the scoreboard and how much is any one player or group of players contributing to their ability to get in front.

"It will just be horses for courses and if any one of those players, including (Mitch) Duncan ... if we need to try to nullify their influence we'll probably do it at some point during the game.

"They've all been outstanding players for a long period of time, but I think if we're just trying to focus on three players we're probably going to be in a bit of trouble.”

The Hawks have named the same 22 after a spirited win over Collingwood last week, but versatile, young and tall Ryan Burton will need to pass a fitness test after rolling an ankle against the Magpies.

Dangerfield's inclusion was one of three changes the Cats made to the side that scored a thrilling win over Melbourne.

Rhys Stanley and Jack Henry will debut, with Harry Taylor (foot), Zac Smith and Jordan Murdoch (both omitted) dropping out.

The absence of Taylor from the back half is a significant blow for Geelong, which is already missing Lachie Henderson (knee) and no longer has the services of defensive stalwarts Andrew Mackie and Tom Lonergan after their retirements at the end of last season.

"At different stages I think we, and others in the wider football community, might have though that to be the case,” Clarkson replied when asked if the Cats' undermanned defence could be exploited.

"But it's got very little to do with the individual players at Geelong - it's more to do with their system.

"Even without Taylor they'll find some way to work together to make it difficult for us to score.”