Hodge happy to talk up the Cats - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hodge happy to talk up the Cats

By Melissa Woods 23/03/2009 03:39:09 PM Comments (0)

Reigning AFL champions Hawthorn are happy to hand over the title of 2009 competition favourites to Geelong, despite their grand final triumph over the Cats.

Ahead of their much-anticipated round one clash on Friday night at the MCG, Hawks vice-captain Luke Hodge says the Cats continue to be the best side running around, having won 42 of their last 45 games.

"Geelong have been the best team over the last two years and that showed in the pre-season," Hodge said.

"They missed a few players here or there and they still played fantastic football.

"They're rightfully favourites this year because the football they've played has been sensational."

The Hawks' task of toppling the Cats has been made more difficult with a number of stars under injury clouds.

Premiership players Grant Birchall (hamstring), Stephen Gilham (knee) and Campbell Brown (ankle) will be given until game day to prove their fitness.

Hodge said midfielder Jordan Lewis, who like him had off-season shoulder surgery, was still a chance.

"He's probably a little bit behind them but I wouldn't count him out at all, he's a tough little bugger and he'll get up if he's right," Hodge said.

Key defender Trent Croad is still sidelined with a foot problem making the role of regular fullback Gilham even more important.

"There's also Tom Murphy, who played 18 games for us last year and did very well, those two can play that role," said Hodge.

Despite the injury concerns Hodge said the Hawks had prepared well for the season opener.

"On Friday night we're going to play 22 fit blokes, it doesn't matter who the 22 are.

"All the boys had a good pre-season and we're going to be ready to go."

He said his side wasn't treating Friday's blockbuster as a grand final rematch, and had put aside the result of last year's major decider.

"Last year's gone, we're just focused on playing the best team in the comp this week and we have to be switched on because if we're going to beat them we have to be on our game," he said.

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