GEELONG assistant coach Matthew Knights has urged the club’s young crop of midfielders to take the next step and challenge for on-ball time.
The Cats have one of the competition’s most star-studded midfields with the likes of captain Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield, Mitch Duncan, Gary Ablett and Tim Kelly.
However, they were found wanting at times, especially defensively, against the AFL’s best during 2018.
“We’ve thrown it open to see which group of players line-up in the midfield for Round 1,” Knights said.
“So there are no guys pencilled in at this stage; they have to train well over the next three or four months to get a spot in the team.
“I think it’s healthy when you’ve got good competition amongst your ranks, and that’ll be the case this year.
“Opportunities are there if players are willing to work hard and be good at their fundamentals and be selected in the midfield.
“We’re chasing; there’s no question about that. We should have performed better as a midfield group last year.”
Among those pressing for spots will be Brandan Parfitt, who has managed 34 games in his first two seasons mainly as a small forward, and the uncapped Charlie Constable, who is entering his second season at GMHBA Stadium.
“Part of our development of that midfield group is what we’ve got get the likes of Constable, Parfitt, (Lachie) Fogarty in the midfield to give us a bit of a different look,” Knights said.
“There’s no doubt the veterans will play their role as well. Guys like Duncan, Patrick, Joel, Gary will play their part, but we need the younger guys coming through and really taking the game on.”
Knights is particularly taken by what Constable, who at 191cm has been likened to Carlton star Patrick Cripps.
“His ability to win the ball and distribute it to his teammates with beautiful handball is a skill that, I think, is underrated in the modern game,” Knights said.
“You see great players in the past; whether it be a Jobe Watson or a Cameron Ling, or even a Patrick Cripps, the way they win the ball and put the teammates into space, I think that’s one of Charlie’s big parts of his game.
“And also his kicking is very precise. Ninety per cent of the time, if he’s got the ball, he’s going to find a target with his kicking.
“To have someone who can win the ball but also got excellent skills is a really good tonic for us.
“But he’s no guarantee of a spot. He’s still got to work for it and show that he’s capable at AFL level.
“But he’s showing good signs at the moment.”
Geelong, like the other 17 clubs, is preparing for the introduction of the new 6-6-6 rule, which will see 12 players inside both forward 50s and between the arcs at each centre bounce.
“I think it’s going to be quite an exciting concept with six inside 50 at each end, which means there’s going to be a lot of space either side of the contest at times because the congestion’s not going to be there out of that first kick out of the CB (centre bounce),” Knights said.
“It’s going to make for some interesting football, I think, early in the year.”
Click here to listen to the full interview with Matthew Knights