GEELONG coach Chris Scott has declared Joel Selwood a risk-free starter in Easter Monday's blockbuster against Hawthorn, with the Cats captain primed to partner boom recruit Patrick Dangerfield in a dream midfield pairing for the first time.
Selwood battled plantar fasciitis over the pre-season but confirmed he would be a round one starter after a 34-disposal, two-goal performance in his only pre-season hit-out, a VFL practice match on March 18.
Despite limited match simulation, Selwood has had a strong workload to gear up for round one and Scott said the skipper isn't at risk of his foot issue reoccurring.
"No risk at all according to our medical staff. We trust the experts on that one. We're really clear that if there was a risk, then we wouldn't be taking it," Scott said.
"His preparation has been different in that he hasn't played many minutes of competitive match practice against other teams but he's had a really strong running and conditioning preparation.
"Even from two weeks out we were very, very confident that he was going to play and everything that's happened in the meantime has only strengthened our position."
Scott kept his cards close to his chest about whether the Cats would play Daniel Menzel and Nathan Vardy, although both players – overdue for some luck on the injury front – are available.
The Geelong coach denied Vardy's selection relied on dry conditions on Monday, with the Cats considering stretching the Hawks' backline with Tom Hawkins, Rhys Stanley, Mark Blicavs and Zac Smith also rotating through attack.
Scott predicted a trimmed-down Hawkins would find his best form now that the home-and-away season has begun, while he was certain Dangerfield would be eager to stamp himself on the next chapter in the fabled Geelong-Hawthorn rivalry.
"Yeah, I think so, but he's not on his own there. All of our guys relish the big opportunity on the big stage and it doesn't come much bigger than the Hawks on the MCG on Easter Monday," he said.
"It has the added bit of spice that Hawthorn are clearly the best team in the competition at the moment, so it's a big challenge – one we're ready to attack."
The Hawks have had the edge in the past four clashes – after losing 12 of the previous 13 – but Alastair Clarkson's men could be vulnerable with six of last year's premiership team out of the round one side.
Hawthorn has to find replacements for injured spearhead Jarryd Roughead (knee), Liam Shiels (wrist) and Bradley Hill (wrist), while Brian Lake and David Hale have retired and Matt Suckling will play his first game for the Western Bulldogs on Sunday.
"We've analysed the 25 or 26 guys that may well play for them. It's (Hawthorn's outs) clearly been a consideration for us," Scott said.
"We are still a team – even though we've got new personnel – who concentrate more on what we do than the opposition.
"But particularly when you play the best team in the competition you've got to be across their strengths, mainly, and any slight weaknesses they may have. It's pretty hard to find those."