Thompson urges umps to curb Baker - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Thompson urges umps to curb Baker

By Greg Buckle 30/08/2010 05:36:28 PM Comments (0)

Geelong coach Mark Thompson has ensured the focus will be squarely on St Kilda's Steven Baker in Friday's qualifying final by urging umpires to come down hard on any illegal tactics.

The fiery Baker returns this week from a nine-match AFL ban he received for his treatment of Geelong forward Steve Johnson in their round-13 clash at the MCG.

Saints coach Ross Lyon said on Sunday that any off-the-ball battles between the pair would be a "two-way street" and described Johnson as one of the game's most aggressive forwards.

While Lyon is telling Baker to stand his ground, Thompson has returned fire by demanding the whistle-blowers set the tone early on what is and isn't allowed.

Johnson served a three-match ban after Geelong's four-goal loss to the Saints in round 13 and Thompson says finals are too important to be sidetracked by a similar situation.

"I've read somewhere that he's going to be back and I probably expect him to be on Johnson. It will be interesting to see what happens," Thompson told reporters on Monday.

"I just hope it's good for the umpires to come out and just take control of the match straight-up and that would have saved all the hassle out of last time we played.

"Finals are serious games. There's a lot at stake and the umpires need to take control early."

Geelong captain Cameron Ling said 2007 Norm Smith medallist Johnson would handle the heavy physical attention fine.

"He'll just get on with his game," Ling said.

"He's a pretty competitive bloke Stevie Johnson. He loves to win and loves to help the team win so that's where his focus will be."

Thompson says the defending premiers are in excellent shape with Josh Hunt to return from suspension and last week's three late withdrawals, Joel Selwood, Shannon Byrnes and Corey Enright, all fit to play.

Thompson says this year Geelong are launching their finals campaign from a better starting point than previous seasons.

"We couldn't be really in better shape apart from Maxie Rooke not being fit and Podsy (James Podsiadly) being suspended," Thompson said.

"We're in great shape. We're more experienced.

"We're getting smarter and doing things better every year, on the field plus off the field.

"We're probably in the best shape we've been in any time over the last four years, at this stage."

As Gary Ablett ponders a possible move to Gold Coast next season, Thompson says Travis Varcoe is still developing as a player.

"He's going to end up a midfielder, no question, and he's going to be a great player for Geelong," Thompson said.

Thompson wasn't too interested in comparing his team, potentially premiers three times in four years, with Brisbane's triple premiers of 2001-03.

"Let's win the flag first ... That's all that really matters. I don't care how we get rated compared to any other team," he said.

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