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Adam McNicol  September 20, 2013 9:22 AM

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Cameron Guthrie preparing for the biggest challenge of his career on Hawthorn dynamo Cyril Rioli

GEELONG defender Cameron Guthrie is preparing for the biggest challenge of his career in Friday night's much-anticipated preliminary final clash with Hawthorn at the MCG.

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The 21-year-old is among the players earmarked to pick up Hawks dynamo Cyril Rioli, who will be returning to action after being sidelined for almost a month by a left ankle injury.

"I'd say I'd get a guy like Cyril at some point at least," Guthrie told AFL.com.au.

"I'll plan to play on any small or medium forward who rolls through Hawthorn's forward line, so I'd say I'll get Cyril at times."

Guthrie made his finals debut in the Cats' qualifying final loss to Fremantle at Simonds Stadium two weeks ago.

Having come into the team as a late replacement for Taylor Hunt, he was one of Geelong's shining lights on a disappointing day for the club.

Guthrie looked right at home in the cut and thrust of finals footy, gathering 17 disposals, taking eight marks and doing his best to curtail the influence of Freo's small forwards.

"I suppose finals are different in a way," he reflected. "There's a bit more on the line, so you make sure you get yourself up for it.

"But once the game starts it's back to business. You go with the flow and just play the footy you know how to."

Guthrie held his own against Port Adelaide last weekend.

Since then, he's been preparing for his first preliminary final.

"I'm excited," he said. "It should be a really good game.

"The Hawks are a great opponent, so we're looking forward to getting out there and giving it a go."

Given five-time All Australian half-back Corey Enight has been ruled out with a knee injury, Guthrie will have to assume more responsibility than usual.

And with Hawthorn boasting the most potent attack in the competition, he and his fellow defenders are going to need to hold their nerve.

"The Hawks are just hard workers," he said. "They use the ball well, and their delivery is very good from their midfield, so you just have to watch them at all times.

"They don't kick too long. They usually try to spot up blokes on the lead.

 "You've just got to focus and concentrate on be on your game for the whole time."

Twitter: @AFL_AdamMcNicol