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Three key Cats struck down with injury

Jennifer Phelan  January 15, 2015 8:31 PM

AFL 2014 Training - Geelong 161214

Mitch Clark will be on a modified program after straining his calf

GEELONG has been dealt a triple blow with star recruit Mitch Clark, key tall Nathan Vardy and veteran Steve Johnson all suffering injuries.

Clark has had his training load reduced after suffering a calf strain, with the Cats acting conservatively with former Demon.

The 27-year-old, who joined the Cats in last year's trade period after changing his mind on his April retirement, is on a modified program after sustaining the injury.

Just a week ago, coach Chris Scott said he was confident Clark – who has battled foot problems in the past few years – would be fit to play in round one against Hawthorn on April 6.

The Cats remain optimistic regarding his fitness, with the latest setback not expected to drag on and described by football manager Steve Hocking as "very, very minor"

"Mitch has been training incredibly well so far and whilst this injury is unfortunate we don't believe it will be something that will hamper his build up to the start of the season," football manager Steve Hocking told the club's website.

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Clark became a Cat in October last year after retiring from Melbourne because he felt he could no longer cope with football's demands, due to his battle with depression.

He moved into a better space throughout last year and was buoyed by the prospect of continuing his 97-game AFL career at a new club.

Hocking said Clark was expected to get back into training next week.

"He just experienced a little bit of tightness last week and he's missed some of the main sessions this week," he told 3AW.

"He's been doing some rehab work and it's a minor disruption as far as he goes."

In further bad news for the club, Johnson and Vardy have also suffered interruptions to their pre-seasons.

Johnson, 31, has been sent away for an early break after developing soreness in his foot – the same one he's had problems with in the past

Hocking said it was expected Johnson's foot would settle down during his break and he would get back into his program when he returned.

"The big thing is with Steve, he knows his body and we need to be guided by that," he said.

"He's done a lot of work and has a lot of pre-season under his belt so a bit of down time right now won't hurt him at all."

Vardy, who had his right knee reconstructed in February last year, will have surgery next week to remove scar tissue, which is a common procedure following the rebuild of the joint's ligament.

The 23-year-old hurt the knee when he fainted before Christmas and fell awkwardly but had continued to train since.

However, swelling led to an appointment with his surgeon that revealed the scar tissue build up.

"We view Nathan with an eye to the future so we are nipping this one in the bud before it can cause any problems down the track," Hocking said.

Hocking added there would be no rushing the young ruckman back into playing.

"With an ACL, everyone works on the proviso it's 12 months but the reality is, depending on how they're training and whether they have any setbacks through that, it's really hard to put a definitive time on when he'll be available," he said.

"He's a long-term prospect for us so it's pretty important to get him right."

Given Clark and Vardy both failed to play any football at all in 2014, the Cats are keen on maintaining a conservative approach with both big men.

The Cats open their NAB Challenge campaign against Gold Coast on March 1 in Townsville.