Tom stands between Cats and straight sets

Sunday, 10 September 2017, 04:17:32 PM. GEELONG finished four spots higher on the ladder and is playing in its home state, but will start as a major underdog against Sydney on Friday night.

WHO PLAYS WHO: FINALS FIXTURE AND TICKETING INFO

In the first week of the finals the Cats lost by 51 points and Sydney won by 65, but Geelong earnt the double chance — can they make the most of it?

See the big burning questions, latest odds and expert tips below.

WHAT: Second Semi-Final

WHO: Geelong v Sydney Swans

WHERE: MCG

WHEN: Friday September 15, 7.50pm

CATS BURNING QUESTIONS

1. Can the Cats handle the heat?

The matchwinning ingredient in Richmond’s game plan on Friday night was clear — pressure. The Cats simply could not handle it. They were not allowed time and space and consequently even the most experienced players were forever fumbling and turning the ball over. The Swans are as good as — if not better than — the Tigers at bringing heat and showed that against Essendon on Saturday. The challenge is there for Geelong, who will now also be feeling the pressure of winning just two of their past nine finals matches.

2. Will Dan Menzel get a recall?

It seemed a strange decision by the Cats to drop their equal-second leading goalkicker for the season for their first final on Friday night. Menzel had booted 38 goals from 17 games, an average of 2.2 a game. Coach Chris Scott said slippery conditions were one of a “whole host of reasons” Menzel was not selected. His lack of pressure has been well documented, too. But with Cam Guthrie (calf) set to go out of the Geelong side, Menzel is a “very real” chance to return.

3. Can Tom Lonergan keep Buddy quiet, again?

Former Melbourne captain Garry Lyon named Lonergan best on ground last time the Cats and Swans clashed at Simonds Stadium, in Round 20. The veteran defender kept Swans star Lance Franklin to just 1.1 from eight disposals for the night, wearing him like a glove. You feel another similar performance will be required from Lonergan if the Cats are any chance on Friday night, for Franklin is in red-hot form with 21 goals from his past four matches.

CASUALTY WARD

Rhys Stanley (calf) available

Cam Guthrie (calf) TBC

Jake Kolodjashnij (calf) TBC

Nakia Cockatoo (hamstring) test

Josh Cowan (Achilles) season

Cory Gregson (foot) season

Lincoln McCarthy (hip) season

tom-stands-between-cats-and-straight-sets photo 1

Tom Longergan will have to repeat his Round 21 job on Lance Franklin for the Cats to have a chance on Friday night. Picture: Colleen PetchSource:News Corp Australia

SWANS BURNING QUESTIONS

1. Can the Swans continue their streaks?

Sydney has been up for so long, but is still showing no signs of slowing down. Ever since its 0-6 start to the season, John Longmire’s side has been playing virtual elimination finals on a weekly basis. The Swans have now won 15 of their past 17 matches, including their past five. They also have an impressive record against the Cats, who they have beaten in five of the past six meetings between the sides.

2. Can the Swans deliver on the MCG?

Sydney’s recent record at the MCG is not bad, but it’s not great, either. The Swans have won just four of their past eight matches at the venue dating back to Round 8 last year. The MCG is 18m longer and 12m wider than the cosy SCG that Sydney is suited to, being a contested-ball winning side without a great deal of speed. However, Geelong is not the quickest side going around, either, so the venue would hold few fears.

3. Will there be any team changes?

Highly unlikely. There were no major injury concerns for the Swans out of Saturday’s clash with Essendon, for which coach John Longmire had almost every player on his list to pick from. The main selection question last week was which of the side’s big men would play of Callum Sinclair, Sam Naismith and Kurt Tippett. The Swans went with Sinclair (three goals) and Naismith (33 hitouts) and it worked. Tippett instead played in the NEAFL grand final and did little to push his case for a recall.

CASUALTY WARD

Darcy Cameron (season)

tom-stands-between-cats-and-straight-sets photo 2

Callum Sinclair kicked three goals against the Bombers. Picture: Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

TAB ODDS

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Geelong $3, Sydney $1.40

MARGINS

Geelong 40+ pts $17

Geelong 1-39 pts $3.50

Draw $41

Sydney 1-39 pts $1.95

Sydney 40+ pts $3.75

FLAG

Geelong $17, Sydney $4.25

FOLLOW THE MONEY

70 per cent of the money with TAB is for Sydney, which opened at $1.50 and is now $1.40 to knock out Geelong (opened $2.60; now $3)

LAST TIME

Round 20, Geelong 8.13 (61) def by Sydney 16.11 (107), Simonds Stadium.

CHRIS SAYS

The Swans are on song and have had the Cats’ measure in recent times. Even the most optimistic Geelong supporters would be thinking their chances of avoiding a straight-sets finals exit are slim.

EARLY CALL

Sydney by 30 points

Originally published as Tom stands between Cats and straight sets

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