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Josh Gibson can trust Brian Lake to cover opposition key forwards this year
I know a day will come when I'll get to play on some blokes my height, and I'll be excited
JOSH Gibson thought he might finally get a break from playing out of his height division this season.
Hawthorn had recruited Brian Lake from the Western Bulldogs, and looked set to pair him with Ryan Schoenmakers on opposition key forwards, leaving the 189cm Gibson to man some players of his own size.
But that all changed when Schoenmakers went down with a season-ending knee injury in round four.
Gibson was once again cast as one of the Hawks' two key defenders, lining up on opponents – in the case of Essendon's Joe Daniher – up to 12cm taller than him.
It was a challenge the former Kangaroo continued to handle with aplomb, earning nomination in the All Australian squad of 40 for a second time.
"If they (Lake and Schoenmakers) were both up and playing, I might have got the third tall, which would have been nice, rather than playing on the super tall guys," Gibson told AFL.com.au this week.
"But unfortunately 'Schoey' went down, so it just meant it was pretty much the same old role – playing on blokes taller than me.
"I've done it for so long now that I'm not really fazed, but definitely leading into the season I thought it might be a little bit different on a week-to-week basis – I was getting my head around playing on some smaller guys who are my height.
"But that's footy – you've got to be prepared for everything, and I do enjoy playing on the big forwards," Gibson admitted.
"It's a great challenge.
"I know a day will come when I'll get to play on some blokes my height, and I'll be excited."
On Friday night against Geelong, Gibson is likely to square off against James Podsiadly.
The Cats veteran has been out of form of late, but has given Hawthorn headaches in the past, having booted a haul of six goals in 2011 and another of five in 2012.
He has also been used to drag Gibson away from fellow big man Tom Hawkins, preventing the Hawks defender from employing his trademark third man up tactics in the air.
Should it happen again, Gibson won't be surprised, nor worried.
"That happens probably most weeks now, where forwards want to take me away from the play," he said.
"I guess having 'Lakey' there, he's such a good one-on-one competitor, so that makes my job easier.
"So if they're going to lead me away, then I'm fully confident that the other defenders can play their role.
"But our ability to man up and drop off at the right times are going to be important."
As a measure of how highly the 29-year-old's teammates have valued his contribution this season, they voted him as one of three Hawthorn nominees in the AFL Players Association most valuable player award – ahead of skipper Luke Hodge.
"It's probably been a little bit more of a consistent season than 2011 and last year," Gibson said.
"From week to week I've felt like I've played at a higher consistency, which has been a real focus.
"Over the last couple of years I'd played some good games, but then dropped off for a few weeks.
"So this year I just wanted to keep a higher level of consistency, and I feel I've done that."