GEELONG is set to err on the side of caution with captain Joel Selwood ahead of Saturday night's pivotal clash with West Coast, as the Cats midfielder continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Selwood has done all he can to prove his fitness ahead of the blockbuster encounter at Optus Stadium, but with Geelong preparing for four games in 14 days the Cats are likely to favour short-term pain for long-term gain.
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West Coast has won its last four straight matches, with a star-studded midfield being led by the return to form of ex-Geelong onballer Tim Kelly. However, Selwood now appears unlikely to renew acquaintances with his former teammate.
"My suspicion is that he will be available," Geelong coach Chris Scott said.
"(But) whether he plays or not is a separate question.
"In a situation where we have a normal season with normal breaks, then my suspicion would be that he would be available to play. But it's a lot more complicated this time. We just need to take the extra 24 hours before we make that decision.
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"I wouldn't have said that I suspect he'll be available unless I was very confident in the training that I've seen him do. But if there was ever a time to be cautious, it's now.
"You only need to look at our fixture over the next four games to work out why it's a bit more complicated for us. I think I'm prepared to say it – and Joel might not like it – but I think we're leaning on the conservative side.
"If the mistake is that he misses one game in the short-term to play an extra one later in the season, then I think that would be a good error to make."
Jack Steven is also unlikely to feature against West Coast as he continues to be managed through the season, despite the star recruit playing just one match in the last 28 days.
Geelong has put together a strategic plan for Steven's comeback, which Scott believes can be amended and adjusted at any stage, though the Cats are unlikely to tinker with his road map to a return this weekend.
"He's in the frame out of necessity," Scott said.
"Our plan is not to play him. With our macro-planning … we reserve the right to change that, as circumstances and as the evidence changes. But right at the moment, we're thinking that we'd hold Jack back for a little bit more and get more training under his belt.
"That's one where the long-term planning is trumping the short-term imperative."
Fellow recruit Josh Jenkins is also set to be made to continue his wait for a club debut, with Geelong unlikely to bring the ex-Adelaide forward into its lineup despite its injury issues in the ruck.
Scott conceded he was "nervous" about the prospect of facing Nic Naitanui this weekend, while the Cats also face Todd Goldstein and North Melbourne just four days later, but Jenkins' ability to pinch-hit in the ruck will not yet be called upon.
"Rhys Stanley (returning from a knee injury) is looking like he'll be available somewhere in that period as well," Scott said.
"Again, we'll have a couple of guys that we think will be available in terms of their health. The question will be a little bit more around their preparation. It's going to be impossible to get the requisite match practice into them. It's going to be a balancing act.
"I don't think too many of our players who aren't in the senior team at the moment are unique in their circumstances. We'll be considering the fixture over the course of the season, as opposed to rushing any guys in.
"Just because West Coast have a strong ruckman … I think we'll forego the short-term nervousness – and it's nervousness with good reason – for the betterment of our health over the course of the season."