Mark Blicavs celebrates a goal during Geelong's win over Essendon in round 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

WHEN Mark Blicavs arrived at Geelong, the one-time Olympic running hopeful couldn't play AFL at all, according to his coach Chris Scott.

But Scott is glad to have been proven wrong, rating Blicavs' looming 250-game milestone as "one of more extraordinary stories" of the modern AFL.

Riding high from a 36-point win against Hawthorn in celebration of Tom Hawkins' 350th game, the Cats are aiming for another milestone party when they take on the Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.

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The versatile midfielder-defender will spearhead the undefeated Cats across the ground with powerhouses Patrick Dangerfield and Cam Guthrie out with injuries.

Looking back on the 12 years since the club took a gamble on the now 33-year-old, Scott admits Blicavs' chances of playing one game – let alone 250 – were slim.

"This sounds terrible (but) we went in with low expectations," Scott said on Thursday.

"I had serious doubts from the start because he was coming from so far back, but we knew that. It was the accelerating improvement that gave us so much hope.

"It was one season and then after that, he was away and basically never out of the team.

"That was so hard to foresee when we brought him in because he couldn't play at all.

"In my mind, all things considered, it's one of the most extraordinary stories of the modern era."

Mark Blicavs in action during his first game, Geelong v Hawthorn, in round one, 2013. Picture: AFL Photos

Blicavs was a middle-distance runner chasing an Olympic dream before Geelong came knocking on his door.

It was Guthrie's father Andrew who brought up Blicavs' name, having coached him as an under-11s player.

Drafted in the 2012 rookie draft and debuting in the opening round of the 2013 season, Blicavs has since taken out two club best-and-fairests, an All-Australian nod and the 2022 premiership.

"It was just an offhand comment (from Andrew Guthrie). The way it was relayed to me: 'The best player in our team back in the under-11s was this guy who is now 198 centimetres and he's trying to run middle distance at the Olympics. If he ever went back to footy, I reckon he'd be OK'," Scott recalled.

"That's one of the hallmarks of the way Stephen Wells (Geelong recruiting manager) has approached his job over the years – the one in a million is worth pursuing."

Cam Guthrie and Mark Blicavs wave to fans after winning the match simulation between Geelong and Hawthorn at GMHBA Stadium on February 23, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Blicavs said the transition from athletics back to football had several challenges, not least getting used to the at-times brutal nature of a contact sport.

"When I first got to the club, I remember Maxy Rooke telling me 'this is the best you'll ever feel in your football career. You'll be sore all the time'," he said.

"Early days I got a corkie in my leg and I think I was out for three weeks.

"That was sort of the big challenge, coming from a non-contact sport, and from then I just wanted to try and make sure I'm healthy, I'm available and when it is my turn to step up and play, I'm there to do it. I think I've done that quite well over my time."

Chris Scott and Mark Blicavs celebrate Geelong's win in the 2022 AFL Grand Final against Sydney at the MCG on September 24, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

With Dangerfield out for at least one more week with a minor hamstring injury, young gun Tanner Bruhn is expected to retain his midfield spot after posting a career-high 27 disposals and nine clearances against the Hawks.

The Cats will still be without fellow midfielder Guthrie (quad) and forward Gary Rohan (back).

Meanwhile, half-back Ed Richards is expected to return to the Bulldogs side after missing out last round due to a concussion he suffered in round two while livewire forward Cody Weightman has been cleared of a serious elbow injury.