Hawthorn's Luke Hodge battles with Geelong's Josh Caddy back in round 15. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
It appears clutch performances against Hawthorn last time have helped catapult young duo Jordan Murdoch and Josh Caddy into Geelong's team for Friday night's blockbuster at the MCG.
Coach Chris Scott indicated earlier in the week that those who had stepped up when it counted against the Hawks in round 15 would be given special consideration for the preliminary final rematch, and it seems the Cats coach has delivered on that word. Young speedster Jed Anderson and utility Matt Spangher were the necessary hard luck stories for the Hawks, making way for star duo Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli to return.
Taylor Hunt has also been dropped for Geelong, opening up two spots alongside suspended star Paul Chapman, while Corey Enright was ruled out on Wednesday with his knee injury. Murdoch's three-goal performance against the Hawks last time, and brilliant VFL form, have been enough to elevate him above a group of worthy candidates, such as Billie Smedts, Shane Kersten and Jesse Stringer (who also played well that night).
Young blood: Jordan Murdoch. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Murdoch booted three crucial goals in the last quarter, including the final goal of the game to secure a 16-point win. The 21-year-old runner has played 10 games this season, including both matches against the Hawks, however he has featured only once in the last two months - the club's round-21 victory against West Coast. His impact at VFL level has been significant, with the second-year goal-sneak featuring in the team's best players in four out of his last five matches and averaging two goals each outing.
It was put to Scott that Murdoch's standout effort against the Hawks could count in his favour, and Scott agreed: ''It does,'' the premiership coach said this week. ''Particularly late in the game when it opened up a little bit, his speed and running power and penetration with his kicking is certainly a factor.''
Caddy lost his spot in the team after getting injured in the qualifying final against Fremantle, but the former Gold Coast player has recovered from the ankle injury in time to be picked.
The 20-year-old also came through for Geelong against the Hawks, slotting a match-winning set-shot from the boundary at the 23-minute mark of the last quarter.
Rarely has a team been so fortunate to recall two players such as Franklin and Rioli.
Chris Fagan, Hawthorn's head of coaching and development, said it was a tough call on Spangher and Anderson.
''They both played pretty important roles in our qualifying final win against the Swans,'' Fagan said. ''It would be fair to say that they are extremely unlucky because they did a great job on that night but we are lucky to have to champs of the club back in the team,'' he said.
With Jesse Hogan