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Abbott to provide a genuine contest

Captain & Coach press conference Joel Selwood and Chris Scott speak to media ahead of Geelong's Elimination Final against Melbourne on Friday night
Ryan Abbott looks set to be Geelong's starting ruck on Friday night - Geelong Cats,Ryan Abbott,Chris Scott,Joel Selwood
Ryan Abbott looks set to be Geelong's starting ruck on Friday night

Geelong isn't expecting miracles from three-game ruckman Ryan Abbott as he prepares for the biggest challenge in his career on Friday night – Melbourne's Max Gawn.

Despite holding six months over Gawn on the birth certificate, 27-year-old Abbott will give up eight centimetres and 93 games of experience to the two-time All Australian No.1.

Barring a surprise return from injury from Rhys Stanley or a recall for Zac Smith, Abbott will be handed the starting role in the Cats' do-or-die encounter at the MCG.

"If he plays, we expect what we've got the last couple of weeks which is a really good, genuine contest," coach Chris Scott said on Monday.

"He's different to the other ruck options we've used this year in that he's mobile, our other guys are mobile as well, but he has some tricks with his ruck craft.

"He's not a straight up and down ruckman. He'll present something different at most stoppages to the opposition ruckman.

"(He's) probably has had to develop his craft a little bit because he's not as big as some of the monsters like Gawn (208cm).

"We're certainly not putting pressure on Ryan to slaughter Max Gawn … we expect that he won't get his hand to the ball as much as Max, (but) he can challenge him in other ways."

Stanley missed the final two matches of the season with a calf complaint that he re-injured in his first game back against Hawthorn in round 21.

While he will train in Wednesday's main session, Scott concedes it is unlikely he'll be called upon to face the Demons.

"It won't be a do-or-die session for him on Wednesday," Scott said.

"I'll suspect the more likely scenario is that he'll get through OK, then we'll have to make an informed decision if there's any risk there.

"It's a risk going into any game, it's a bigger risk taking a player who's got a slight injury query into a final and an even bigger risk going in against Max Gawn.

"If you listen to that, the odds are probably against him."

Captain Joel Selwood, who joined Scott for the pre-finals press conference, said he was anticipating Melbourne stopper James Harmes to head his way on Friday night.

In the club's last outing at GMHBA Stadium, Harmes spent most of the evening following the Geelong skipper to hold him to 16 disposals, his lowest count for the season.

Harmes said on Monday he was relishing the prospect of facing Selwood again.

"At some point I do (expect to face Harmes), definitely," Selwood said.

"Either myself, (he'll) probably go through Paddy (Dangerfield) a little bit, Gaz (Ablett), Tim Kelly, Mitch Duncan, he can have a go at all of us."

Scott said last week Ablett was "craving" his first finals match since 2010 and Selwood sensed the champion would rise to the occasion.

"I know he's definitely excited about the opportunity he gets again," Selwood said.

"There was a probably a period for Gaz that he didn't think that it was going to come for him.

"He's here now, it's really what he came back for to be honest. He wanted to come back to play finals footy. He gets the opportunity and he'll be ready."

Scott said it was "unlikely" Esava Ratugolea would be thrown into the senior side off two VFL matches with the 20-year-old set for at least one more week in the reserves.

He will be joined by one of the coach's favourties Lincoln McCarthy, who will play his third game back off a long-term hamstring. 

"Yes, I like Lincoln, I do have a bit of a bias towards him. Joel should back that up a little bit," Scott said with a smile.

"The team that we've played probably the last month have been pretty consistent.

"I think it's more likely that Lincoln will get another game at VFL level this week and at least give us something to think about.

"The plan all along was to hope that we could go deep into finals and that he might be able to feature. It's probably just a little bit too soon for Lincoln."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs