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Cats well served by Ablett, forwards

By John Salvado 22/02/2009 01:23:36 PM Comments (0)

Gary Ablett has started the new year in the same dominant fashion he finished 2008.

Which is terrific - if hardly unexpected - news for Geelong coach Mark Thompson and the Cats fans desperate to go one better than last season's shock AFL grand final loss to Hawthorn.

Ablett torched Adelaide with four goals - including a nine-pointer - and 23 top-quality possessions in the 35-point first-round win over Adelaide in the NAB Cup on Saturday night.

"I can't speak any more highly of him than last year, but I don't think you can lift the bar that much higher," said Thompson.

"We're just pleased that he can do what he can do."

What was just as pleasing was the performance of some lesser lights in attack, especially in the absence of key forward Cameron Mooney, who will resume next week.

Tom Lonergan and Mathew Stokes, who unlike Ablett turned in performances they would rather forget in the 2008 decider, booted three goals apiece against Adelaide.

And the icing on the cake in the 1.17.8 (119) to 2.9.12 (84) win over the Crows was four-goal forward Ryan Gamble, who was somewhat unlucky to be overlooked for last year's grand final team.

"We like Ryan, we've always tried to give him opportunities and we'll do the same this year," said Thompson.

"In past years his body has broken down, he hasn't been able to handle the continuity of playing, but he's a very exciting talent."

Adelaide coach Neil Craig said his nine least experienced players - who had an average of just four senior games between them - would learn plenty from going up against the benchmark side in the competition for the past two seasons.

He was encouraged by the efforts of Jared Petrenko and Jarrhan Jacky, especially as the Crows have been light-on for quality small forwards in recent years.

And the good news story was Trent Hentschel, playing his first game since suffering a serious knee injury in round 21, 2006.

Before breaking down, Hentschel was touted as Adelaide's best key forward prospect since Tony Modra.

The 26-year-old Hentschel's best moment came in the third quarter when he goaled after taking a strong pack mark.

"It's been a long journey for Trent, and the next step is whether he can get selection when we're playing for four points," said Craig.

"But everyone at the club is buoyed by it, because hopefully when he plays for four points it will be a great football story.

"He's worked really hard and he's a talented player.

"I just saw a couple of things... mainly with his movement , his speed will be good enough, his judgement and that mark too, so there's some good signs."

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