Dangerfield firming for opening round start
GEELONG is set to name Patrick Dangerfield in its team for Sunday's blockbuster with Melbourne.
Provided he gets through training unscathed on Wednesday, Dangerfield will be part of the Cats 25-man squad to take on the Demons that will be announced on Thursday.
He remains an outside hope of playing but it is understood Geelong is prepared to give Dangerfield until the eleventh hour to declare his fitness.
It means the chances of boom recruit Gary Ablett, skipper Joel Selwood and Dangerfield lining up together in the season-opener are well and truly alive, but with the Cats' following match on Easter Monday - 22 days after the 2016 Brownlow medallist suffered a minor hamstring strain against Essendon - they will err on the side of caution if there is any doubt over his fitness.
Geelong coach Chris Scott said on Monday Dangerfield wasn't ruling himself out of lining up on Sunday afternoon.
"The short answer is he is still a chance," Scott said.
"I think there are some people at our club, me included, that would like to be definitive now, so I guess it's a good sign in terms of his recovery that we're not in the position where we can say 'look, he's not playing, but we think he might be right next week or the week after'.
"It does fit with the initial diagnosis, which was that it was so minor that it was actually quite hard to work out whether he'd done anything significant or not.
"He's going well and in his mind he doesn't want to rule it out, so I think that is a really good sign for Round 2 and Round 3 in particular. Whether it happens in Round 1, I think more and more clubs are realising that it's best to resist the temptation to see Round 1 as the finishing line."
Ablett will play his first game in blue-and-white hoops since the 2010 preliminary final after impressing at an open training session last Friday.
He will form part of a potent midfield combination alongside Mitch Duncan, Sam Menegola, Selwood - who plays his 250th game on Sunday - and potentially Dangerfield, as well as draftee Tim Kelly, who is all but assured of a Round 1 debut.
Kelly has ticked every box since arriving at GMHBA Stadium for his first AFL pre-season and played a starring role in Geelong's AFLX and JLT Community series matches.
His pace and efficiency by foot have caught the eye of coaches and commentators, with football manager Simon Lloyd saying the 23-year-old had done everything he could to put his hand up for selection.
"We've seen through the JLT why he finished second in the Sandover Medal and had a standout season for South Fremantle," Lloyd said.
"He makes good decisions in congestion, he has speed over short distances and he's skilful, so he's shown us that he can play as an inside midfielder and also as a crumbing, running forward."
Lloyd said forward Stewart Crameri felt he needed more game time in the VFL before making himself available for selection at AFL level, but added he was confident he would be ready to go in the coming weeks.
While he won't play against the Demons, fellow newcomer Lachie Fogarty could be a chance to join Kelly as a Round 1 debutant.
The 19-year-old appears to be in a battle with Cory Gregson for a spot in the starting 22, however with both small forwards did their chances no harm on Friday night during a VFL practice match against Werribee.
Lloyd said AFL-listed players George Horlin-Smith, Jordan Cunico, Esava Ratugolea and Jordan Murdoch were also in the mix to take on Melbourne, while Mark O'Connor - who was upgraded to the senior list on Monday after Quinton Narkle was placed on the long-term injury list - could also earn a senior call-up.
Meanwhile, Nakia Cockatoo did enough on Friday night to suggest he has overcome a calf complaint that dogged the back end of his pre-season.