Melbourne will get a huge boost for their top-of-the-ladder blockbuster against Geelong at Kardinia Park on Thursday night, with star ruck duo Max Gawn and Luke Jackson poised to return.
Gawn has missed the last two games due to an ankle injury, while Jackson sat out the demons’ 29-point win over Adelaide last round due to a knee injury.
Their absence against the Crows meant that Melbourne went into the game without a recognized ruckman and then lost the hitout tally 57-13.
“We definitely missed them last week… to get that air presence back into our footy squad will be great,” said Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin.
“They’re ready to go. Both guys were really hitting and getting up and running for last week. Max had an incredibly strong session on Saturday in Adelaide and ‘Jacko’ was comparable in Melbourne.
“They are eager to get out and play. They are a big part of our footy team and to get them both back at the same time is really exciting. †
For the second year in a row, the Demons and Cats are going head to head at Geelong’s home ground as the top two ranked teams in the league, and Goodwin said there was a finals feel about the game.
“Our players are looking forward to it and there is a lot of excitement around the group, a lot of energy this week, so we can’t wait for the challenge ahead,” he said.
“You get a great audit of your game. You get a great audit of where you sit as a football club.”
Melbourne memorably won the minor premiership last year against Geelong at Kardinia Park in round 23 after fighting back from 44 points, scoring a goal after Gawn’s siren secured victory.
A month later, the Demons defeated the Cats by 83 points in the preliminary final at Optus Stadium en route to their drought-breaking premiership.
“The last few times we’ve played we’ve given our squad of players a huge belief in what’s possible and we’ll go after the game the way we want it to look,” Goodwin said.
“Both teams are incredibly confident in their way of working, but what matters is that the team lasts longer.”
Goodwin might have had enough to worry about during the match as Melbourne coach, but he still allowed himself to don his ‘footy purist’ cap and the countless individual duels that are about to happen to take place, to appreciate.
“It is exciting. As a pure footy fan, if you go to the game and you look over the ground and you see some of the fights that will take place in a one-on-two clash, you look at the quality of a ( Tom) Hawkins and a (Jeremy) Cameron v (Steven) May and (Jake) Lever, then you go to midfield and you have (Christian) Petracca and (Clayton) Oliver versus (Joel) Selwood and (Patrick) Dangerfield,” Goodwin said .
“All over the field there are great duels and that’s what you get in these kinds of big clashes.”