GEELONG is optimistic that Travis Varcoe's return from a foot injury will continue against Sydney on Saturday and into the finals, despite the forward sitting out most of yesterday's win over the Western Bulldogs.
Varcoe, playing his first senior game for the year, was subbed out at quarter-time in the Cats' 34-point win at Simonds Stadium, after his foot twisted underneath him while laying a tackle.
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Our footy experts review all the action from round 22 of the AFL season, including Carlton's disappointing loss to the Gold Coast Suns.
Coach Chris Scott conceded that managing the forward's return would be a problem if he was unable to play this week, but said the club's medical staff expected he would be fine.
''He looks like he's just stretched the joint in his foot near his ankle. They don't think it's too serious but certainly there was no point risking it given we took a bit of a risk to play him anyway,'' Scott said.
''We were prepared to play him, so we don't think he's too far off. We would have preferred somewhere in the order of 80 minutes as opposed to the 16 or 17 he played, but it's a minor setback,'' he said.
''If he plays next week I don't think it will be a huge issue; if he misses next week, it's going to make it a bit more difficult.
''He's had a stress fracture in his foot, and this is a completely different joint, different area of the foot. I can understand his hesitancy when he felt some pain in that area, but he and the medical staff are confident this is different, unrelated and much more minor.''
The Cats expect captain Joel Selwood, rested yesterday, to return against the Swans.
Late omissions Matthew Scarlett, who has been playing with ankle soreness, and Taylor Hunt, who has been managing groin problems, are also expected to play. Billie Smedts, who broke a finger against the Dogs, won't.
Geelong thrashed Collingwood in its final-round game last year and went on to win the premiership, but Scott said his side would need to start the game better than the last time they played Sydney. In the round-13 match at the SCG, Sydney kicked seven goals to one in the first quarter and held on to win by six points.
''My only experience of this time of year is last year, and we played a good side in the last round of the home-and-away series and played well. You would think there's going to be a little bit at stake for them as well, so we'll be expecting their best, which should make for a good game,'' Scott said.
''We were really poor in the first quarter against them last time … and we played really well for the last three quarters. I think we hit the lead with not long to go and were much better around the ball.
''I think we'll come away [from today] thinking we've got a chance to work on a few things and have still got a bit of room for improvement.''
The Bulldogs lost Brian Lake, who has been battling foot and knee problems, before the game, but Adam Cooney notched 28 possessions in his second match back from a six-week lay-off.
''He looked lively,'' said coach Brendan McCartney. ''He helped us link up and created a bit of nice play for us … His knee was very sore when he went out for five or six weeks but, to his credit, he's got himself as fit as he can possibly be without actually running on it too much.
''It would be nice to have him 100 per cent and we may get him even fitter and more polished next year.''