GEELONG V WEST COAST EAGLES MATCH PREVIEW - CATS
AFL ROUND 7 2016: GEELONG CATS V WEST COAST EAGLES Geelong will look to continue their dominant start to the 2016 season this afternoon when they take on the visiting West Coast Eagles at Kardinia Park. The Cats have steadily climbed the ladder so far this year and currently sit in second position, just one win behind first-placed North Melbourne. West Coast have also begun the year positively in terms of ladder position sitting in sixth. The Eagles however are yet to recapture the form which saw them play in last year's Grand Final and questions have been raised about their ability to perform away from the west. Yet to win away from Perth this year they could be considered lucky to have four wins at this stage. Geelong have been exceptional on their home turf this season achieving wins against Brisbane and Gold Coast by 69 and 120 points respectively. The Eagles will present a higher calibre of opposition but it should be another comfortable win for Geelong in front of their home crowd.
THIS WEEK IN FOCUS: Geelong finally strung together four quarters last week against the Gold Coast, demoralising the Suns to the tune of 120 points. The focus this round will be to replicate the performance against stronger opposition. Geelong were dominant in the contest last week, winning the clearances 42 to 22. As a result they were unstoppable going forward, with players streaming from the contest to support the forwards. With a seasoned Eagles midfield including Matt Priddis (who debuted the last time West Coast won in Geelong, in 2006) and Luke Shuey Geelong cannot expect such luxuries this week, and will be required to work back a lot harder when West Coast win the ball at the stoppage. Last week's tally of 25 goals 18 would have delighted Chris Scott, but this week should provide a clearer indication on how well the forward line is functioning. Shane Kersten kicked four majors against the Suns but three of these came when the game was over as a contest. His continual inclusion in the side is an ongoing point of conversation among Geelong supporters, and he will be under the microscope this week with a possible match-up on 2015 All-Australian Eric MacKenzie.
The Eagles have managed four wins from six so far in 2016, a tally which looks reasonably formidable at first glance given three of those wins were by over 60 points. However these victories have come against Brisbane, Fremantle, Richmond and Collingwood, all sides who seem destined for the bottom six. They were disappointing in the round two Grand Final rematch against the Hawks, and lacklustre against the Swans in Sydney a fortnight ago. Their inability to travel is not a new issue either; last season saw six wins and a draw away from Perth, a surprisingly low number given they finished second on the ladder. Despite this perceived travel-sickness they possess a midfield as deep as any in the AFL, with arguably the league's best ruckman in Nic Naitanui providing for them. Elliot Yeo's return should lighten the load on ball magnets Luke Shuey and Andrew Gaff, and Josh Kennedy is one of the league's few forwards who can kick an old-school 'bag' on any given day. Jack Redden can also be expected to start performing soon, having now had time to settle into the side after his pre-season move from Brisbane. West Coast should win far more contested ball than the Sun's managed last week, and therefore should be able to challenge Geelong's capability to defend from stoppages. If they can make the most of their forward entries, this is a side more than capable of causing an upset.
TEAM NEWS: Geelong has again made three changes for this clash, with all three of last week's 'outs' returning after a week off. Rhys Stanley has recovered from illness, whilst Tom Ruggles and Andrew Mackie also regain their places. Nathan Vardy and Jed Bews both drop out following their first games for the year against Gold Coast. Jake Kolodjashnij will miss his first game for the year.
West Coast have so far made just one change to the side which comfortably accounted for Collingwood last week, with Elliot Yeo recovering from tonsillitis to be included. Veteran defender Sam Butler is out with a groin injury. Tall defender Jeremy McGovern has been in some doubt this week after rolling his ankle against the Pies, but has been deemed fit to play. Should he pull out, West Coast have defenders Tom Cole and Jackson Nelson in the squad.
PREDICTION: West Coast should win their share of contested footy and hit the scoreboard regularly, but it is tough to see Geelong conceding a winning score at their home ground. West Coast are also coming off a days-less break, and have not managed travel particularly well this year.
Geelong by 45