Hawkins can play through the pain, says Cats coach

Geelong’s Shane Kersten has been floated by Cats coach Chris Scott as a potential replacement for Tom Hawkins. Photo: Angela Milne Geelong rookie Shane Kersten
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As Geelong weighs up the pros and cons of playing Tom Hawkins, coach Chris Scott says the power forward has shown he can play through the pain of his ailing back injury and still be a match winner.

And one of the more recent times Hawkins performed under significant duress this season, back in round nine, came against Geelong’s opponent in Friday night’s knockout semi-final at the MCG.

Scott revealed that the 25-year-old woke up the morning of the game against Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium with his back ”feeling terrible”, and yet still produced a dominant, six-goal display to front the Cats’ 48-point victory.

”He was touch and go and had a bit of a fitness test before the game before he was actually confirmed in the side an hour or two before the game,” Scott recalled. ”So that’s probably a positive, he has played good footy when he’s felt average at times this year.” The signs are positive, suggesting Hawkins will return to the Cats’ line-up for Friday, but should he fail to get up, Scott declared on Tuesday he would have no hesitation bringing in little-known forward Shane Kersten to make a shock debut.

Scott threw up Kersten’s name as a surprise left-field selection in the event Hawkins’ back problem flared again on game day and forced his withdrawal, as it did last Saturday before Geelong’s qualifying final loss to Fremantle.

The Cats called in Josh Walker last week, but Scott indicated that Kersten, a powerfully built 20-year-old, could be next in line should the same scenario present itself on Friday.

Kersten, the club’s second pick in the 2011 draft, leads the goal-kicking for Geelong’s VFL team and has kicked 24 goals from his past six matches, including four and six in his past two. He would become the first Geelong player in 75 years to make his VFL/AFL debut in a final, with the last being Ted Tuohill in 1938.

The most recent player to make his debut in an AFL final was Andrew Hooper, who played his first senior game for the Western Bulldogs in a 2010 semi-final.

”We’ve got a few options, personally, I wouldn’t have too many issues bringing in a debutant for a big game,” Scott said when asked about back-up plans for Hawkins. ”It would be bold, but I kind of like that. Shane Kersten’s been very solid in the VFL this year, he’s been unfortunate at times to miss with injury when he was on the precipice of senior selection. I’m bringing it up as an option.”

Another choice available to the Cats is playing Harry Taylor as a permanent forward, and then trusting Tom Lonergan and Jared Rivers to hold Jay Schulz and wildcard Justin Westhoff, who might play forward or back.

Hawkins, though, remains the preferred option and both the player and medical staff are hopeful he will be back, with Scott saying the club’s reigning best and fairest had trained strongly the past few days, and ”looks good”.

In any event, it’s likely the Cats will name Hawkins on Thursday and then make the final call on Friday.

”It was a good day [Monday], so we’re hoping it’ll be a good week and most importantly he feels good on Friday. And if that’s the case, he’ll play,” Scott said.

”He can be quite ordinary and not good enough to play, and at other times he feels almost normal.”

On his chances of playing, Hawkins said this week: ”I’m thinking I will be right. It’s just hard to tell how I’m going to be feeling from day to day.”

Two of the games greatest forwards, Wayne Carey and Matthew Lloyd, both agree Geelong should take the risk on Hawkins, even if only at ”50 or 60 per cent”.

Star defender Corey Enright has been ruled out for Friday night with his medial ligament strain, but is hopeful of playing next week if the Cats advance, while Scott said he is ”extremely confident” Josh Caddy and Andrew Mackie will both overcome slight ankle injuries to play against the Power.

Premiership defender Josh Hunt, George Horlin-Smith and Taylor Hunt, who was a late withdrawal against the Dockers with an ankle problem, are among a number of other players in the mix.

Scott confirmed that ruckman Trent West will also come into strong consideration, with the Cats acutely aware of in-form Port big man Matthew Lobbe, who had 59 hitouts against Geelong in round 20.

DEBUTS IN FINALSTHE MOST RECENT2010 Andrew Hooper (WB) 1985 Paul Spargo (NM) 1984 Graham Osborne (Fitzroy) 1982 Dermott Brereton (Haw) 1981 Noel Lovell (Coll) 1980 Scott Howell (Carl) 1975 Michael Cooke (Haw) 1972 Graeme Dunstan (Coll) 1966 Travis Payze (StK) 1965 Len Thompson (Coll)

THE MOST RECENT GEELONG DEBUT IN FINAL1938 Ted Tuohill

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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