The Power did not wield the ax after their late capitulation to Adelaide, naming defender Tom Clurey for the injured Sam Skinner as the only change to their starting line-up.
Geelong captain Joel Selwood will be rested from the Friday night blockbuster against Brisbane as part of the Cats’ rotation policy.
The move is designed to ensure the Cats, who have the oldest list in the competition, keep their veterans fresh for the business end of the season in search of an elusive second flag under coach Chris Scott.
Shaun Higgins was left out of the side for the loss to the Swans, and this time it is Selwood’s turn against a Lions side Scott rates as the best in the league. It comes a week after Selwood inspired his team to victory in a game that took him past Carlton great Stephen Kernahan for most games as captain.
“It’s something that’s been earmarked over a number of weeks now,” Scott said.
“We’ve got some guys that we are going to be proactive with and they’re not going to play games even when they’re in good health.
“We want to have them at their best deep into the season and we think we’ve got a broad group of players that can all contribute, and we want to use them.
“We don’t want to get stuck with the same 22 every week.”
The Cats deployed a similar method in Scott’s first season in charge in their 2011 premiership season when no player lined up in every game.
Forward Gary Rohan will not play until the midway point of the season as he builds conditioning after a preseason disrupted by a hip and back issue.
The Cats and Lions have formed a strong rivalry in the past two years, having played off in a preliminary final and a spicy game last year in Geelong when Scott and Chris Fagan had an angry exchange of words.
“I’ve always been of this view, even way back in the dark ages when I played, that it’s a privilege to be part of a rivalry. Because they’re real rivalries when you get two contenders, not the fake rivalries that ‘it doesn’t matter where we are in the ladder, it’s always a big game,’ that’s not really true,” Scott said.
“You only get the privilege to be part of a genuine rivalry when both teams have been contenders and that’s kind of the core of the matter for us, but even then, when you get to that stage, it’s a great occasion for everyone.
“I think it’s just fantastic for our fans that have been deprived of live footy to get back to a sellout at GMHBA [Stadium] on Friday night against probably the best team in the comp at the moment. So that’s the great occasion.
“But when you boil it down, when you’re playing the best teams, it actually has a bit more of an impact than every other game because it’s a competition. You’re not only trying to win your game but you’re trying to take one away from the other so that always adds a bit more spice to the genuine rivalries.”
Big man Esava Ratugolea was still a chance to play despite being subbed off with an ankle injury last week. Goal sneak Gryan Miers and tagger Mark O’Connor will make their 2022 debuts, the latter not necessarily in to shadow Lions star Lachie Neale.
North Melbourne will welcome back youngster Luke Davies-Uniacke after he missed the heavy loss to Brisbane due to concussion protocols.
Youngsters Flynn Perez, Miller Bergman and Kyron Hayden and former Richmond ruck/forward Callum Coleman-Jones were among five or six players who coach David Noble said were in contention to face Sydney. Wingman Jared Polec is in doubt after not taking part in a robust training session on Wednesday.
But Noble said there would not necessarily be wholesale changes despite flagging there would be consequences after the drubbing in Brisbane.
“I think you’ve also got to give those guys that were in that game the opportunity to respond,” Noble said. “So there’s an element of that we’ll back those guys into delivering a better outcome this week.”
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