Gee­long’s trio of stars pre­dicted to thrive in AFLX de­but

Geelong Advertiser - - SPORT X - LACHIE YOUNG

ONE of Gee­long’s key mid­field­ers for tonight’s in­au­gu­ral AFLX se­ries says the an­tic­i­pated speed of the game should pro­vide co­pi­ous amounts of space for stars Mitch Dun­can and Tom Hawkins to thrive.

The Cats take on Port Ade­laide and Fre­man­tle on a rec­tan­gu­lar field at Hind­marsh Sta­dium in Ade­laide, with matches played over 10-minute halves.

The club has sent a rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced side across the bor­der for the se­ries, with Dun­can and Hawkins clearly the most sea­soned of the 18-man squad.

That duo will be cru­cial to Gee­long’s hopes of suc­ceed­ing tonight but Sam Mene­gola — who will form the nu­cleus of the Cats’ on-ball brigade with Dun­can, Mark Bli­cavs, and debu­tant Tim Kelly — be­lieves his team will be well suited to the AFLX for­mat.

“We’d def­i­nitely like to win, and be­cause it’s a dif­fer­ent game you do have to de­velop some strat­egy for it,” Mene­gola said.

“The na­ture of it is there is go­ing to be a lot less con­ges­tion around the footy and that changes a mas­sive amount about how the game is played.

“We’ve had to sit down and have a look how we want to play, and hope­fully we’ve come up with a good plan but we’ll find out. We’re un­sure how it is go­ing to play out but it would be nice for Hawk if he had a lit­tle bit more space than usual.

“It is go­ing to be a pretty quick game and whether it will be up and back the whole time I’m not sure.”

“There will def­i­nitely be fewer con­tests and less con­ges­tion, so it will prob­a­bly be more about how we move the footy.”

Mene­gola, who has been rated as elite by Cham­pion Data in the mid-for­ward cat­e­gory, has been fly­ing dur­ing pre-sea­son and will again be a vi­tal cog in Gee­long’s en­gine room in 2018.

The 25-year-old said he was look­ing for­ward to fi­nally get­ting back to play­ing footy again af­ter a lengthy sum­mer train­ing pro­gram, and added he was ea­ger to see how the Cats’ draftees would fare on the AFL stage.

“It’s good for us older guys who have played a lit­tle bit more to get back into the swing of things and to have a trip like this in the pre-sea­son,” he said.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to get­ting back into some com­pet­i­tive footy again against other clubs, but it will be ex­cit­ing for the young guys too. They’ve all had re­ally strong sum­mers so they’ll bring their own bits and pieces to the side.

“There is a lit­tle bit of the un­known (with AFLX) be­cause you don’t know what other teams are go­ing to throw at you. We’ve played and got a look at what our teams did against each other but one of the re­ally in­ter­est­ing sub­plots of the games will be how dif­fer­ent teams get the game on their terms.

“It will be in­ter­est­ing as a player but also for the spec­ta­tors watch­ing.”

Pic­ture: DIG­I­TAL IM­AGE

X FAC­TOR: AFLX kicks off tonight with a Gee­long team star­ring Tom Hawkins (Wolver­ine), Mitch Dun­can (Pro­fes­sor X) and Sam Mene­gola (Mag­neto).

VI­TAL: Sam Mene­gola.

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