GEELONG has suffered a major blow ahead of its AFL clash with Essendon, losing captain Joel Selwood as a late omission.
Sunday’s country festival match at the MCG is the first game that the star midfielder will miss since late in the 2017 season.
Brandan Parfitt, sidelined last weekend with a quad injury, will take Selwood’s place.
The Cats made the change on Saturday, citing soreness.
Selwood has spent more time on the wing this season, one of several changes that have marked Geelong’s near-perfect start.
But they also knew not to fix what isn’t broken.
The Cats ended their disappointing season last year boasting the league’s stingiest defence and that’s where they stand again.
One of the features of Sunday will be how the Bombers’ attack goes against a defence that a week ago had strangled reigning premiers West Coast.
The Eagles only managed seven goals against Geelong. The Cats have not conceded more than 100 points in a game since round 17 last season.
Apart from Mark O’Connor’s eye-catching form and Jake Kolodjashnij’s improvement, it is much the same players doing the job in defence, led by Tom Stewart, Harry Taylor and Mark Blicavs.
Zach Tuohy also returned from injury against the Eagles – his first senior game this season. First-year player Jordan Clark is back on Sunday after a week off.
“It’s a good thing – it’s a hard team to pick,” said backline coach Matthew Scarlett.
“It’s hard for the players who think they should be in the team as well, but they’ve handled it really well.
“Their opportunities will open up at some stage.”
Scarlett was asked whether he would take the credit for O’Connor’s outstanding left-foot kick on the run against the Eagles.
“I couldn’t kick 50m on my right, so I definitely didn’t teach him that,” Scarlett said.
“He’s going well. He’s doing some really big jobs for us, as is Kol.”
Scarlett has also praised Taylor and Blicavs for their leadership as key defenders, but is particularly impressed with how Stewart has kicked on from last year’s All-Australian selection.
“He’s just gone from strength to strength – he’s playing better footy than he was last year,” Scarlett said.
“He keeps improving – really good signs.”
© AAP 2019