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Stokes on the prowl for Cats call-up

By John Salvado 21/09/2009 04:46:26 PM Comments (0)

The next few days will be agonising for Mathew Stokes as the small forward waits to discover whether Geelong coach Mark Thompson can find a spot for him in the Cats' AFL grand final team.

Stokes, 24, missed last weekend's preliminary final win over Collingwood after admitting that he was still suffering from groin soreness.

He proved his fitness for Saturday's eagerly-awaited season decider against St Kilda by training on Monday in front of more than 5,000 fans at Skilled Stadium.

But whether the Geelong brains trust wants to change the team that trounced the Magpies by 73 points is another matter altogether.

"It's definitely nerve-wracking, but exciting as well," said Stokes, who played in Geelong's winning grand final side in 2007 and the one which lost last year's decider to Hawthorn.

"It's definitely all about the team and if I find out I don't play, I can live with that.

" ... I'll support the boys completely and whatever the coach decides, I'll stand by it.

"I won't be cracking it or anything."

It's the third year running that Geelong has had to make a tough selection call in grand final week.

In 2007, Steven King - who will be in the opposing camp on Saturday - was favoured over Mark Blake for the second ruck spot.

And last year, pacy defender David Wojcinski missed out.

If the Cats' match committee decide to recall Stokes, then one of Shannon Byrnes, Travis Varcoe or Wojcinski could be omitted.

"It's a good problem to have from the club's point of view," said Geelong captain Tom Harley.

"For the individuals it might be a bit restless, but we've been team-focused all along for the past three years and the team we put out is representing the club, we're not representing individuals at all.

"The coaches will make the right decision on the make-up of the side and the best structures and I'd imagine they'd make the decision as soon as they can.

"It was a really selfless call by (Stokes) on the weekend to say he wasn't 100 per cent right to go.

"He's certainly in the mix I'd imagine."

Harley said a first-ever grand final between the Cats and the Saints had been a long time coming.

Their modern-day rivalry started in a tight home and away clash at Skilled Stadium late in 2003 and ramped up the following year when the Saints won the pre-season cup.

"They were the two young sides coming through," said Harley.

"And if you had asked most footy punters back then, they probably would have tipped a Geelong-St Kilda grand final at some stage.

"It's come down in 2009 when both teams are really at the height of their powers.

"From the AFL's point of view I'm sure they're rapt with the match-up they've got on Saturday."

The decider is between the two stand-out sides of 2009 - and arguably the most intimidating as well.

"I think we've got a side that has real physical presence," said Harley.

"As much for the physical stature of the team but also the games-played experience.

"In big games you've got to play to your strengths and we know that we are a big, strong, physical side that can impose ourselves and so are they.

"It's two clubs that have run a pretty similar path since 2002 or 2003."

The Cats had a light training session on Monday morning.

Steve Johnson, Brad Ottens, Tom Hawkins, Harley and Wojcinski were all absent, although none is in any doubt for the grand final.

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