Cats purring for preliminary final - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cats purring for preliminary final

15/09/2009 07:10:04 PM Comments (0)

Geelong coach Mark Thompson believes the Cats couldn't be better prepared for their AFL preliminary final against Collingwood.

The pending returns of forwards Steve Johnson and Max Rooke will give the Cats their best side of the season on Saturday night at the MCG and Thompson has been delighted with how the longer break has been used.

Thompson was confident Johnson, who underwent hip surgery after round 20, and Rooke, who missed the qualifying-final win over the Western Bulldogs with a quad injury, would both get through training on Wednesday.

If they do, they will play in the battle for a grand final berth.

Thompson said his players were in better shape physically and mentally than they were leading into their preliminary finals in 2007-08.

After struggling at times in those games - the Cats just got over the Pies in 2007 and laboured against the Doggies last year - Geelong changed tack this year and trained hard during the break instead of having time off.

Thompson noticed the club had previously switched off at this time of the year.

"This time we've demanded that everyone just be on the job for two weeks and have a two-week preparation," he said on Tuesday.

"They're switched on, they're really alert and they're really keen to come to the club and sometimes we have to shoo them away out of the place rather than beg them to come."

The good vibes at Skilled Stadium mean Thompson believes Geelong are the best-placed they have been since round 14, when a loss to St Kilda was followed by injuries and patchy form.

"We know the finish line is not far away, so I think our players are in great shape," he said.

"The staff - the footy department - we've gone through some tough times and we're excited about what's ahead and we've done some good work to get the team where it is now."

But that has not stopped others searching for chinks.

Magpies coach Mick Malthouse claimed in a weekend newspaper column the Cats and Thompson were under "excruciating" pressure to win this year's flag after three stand-out seasons (Geelong won the 2007 grand final, but lost last year's decider to Hawthorn).

Thompson admitted there was pressure, but said it was spread across the four preliminary finalists.

"He's a knowledgeable man, he's had a lot of experience and he knows the caper, so he's playing the game," he said of Malthouse.

"(But) if he thinks we're under more pressure than anyone else, than the other three sides, then he's fooling himself because we're not. We're all under the same pressure."

This will be Geelong's fifth preliminary final in six years and Thompson said his players know what to expect.

"We've got a tough opposition in Collingwood, we know that if we lose it's all over," he said.

"But I think it's been a really good year for us because we've been a little bit quiet and people have been knocking us and it's stirred the blood of some of our players up, and last week's game (against the Bulldogs) was just fantastic.

"Bring on Collingwood, bring on a preliminary final and let's see what happens."

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