EMERGING midfielder Cameron Guthrie is set to become a much more attacking weapon in Geelong's midfield set-up this season.
Having started his career as a defender, Guthrie became the Cats' No. 1 tagger last year.
Now the 22-year-old, who has played 64 AFL games since debuting in 2011, is likely to have opposition players chasing him.
"We think he's developing into a really good ball-winner for us in the midfield," assistant coach Dale Amos told geelongcats.com.au.
"He might play that run-with role at times, but he'll play as a pure midfielder at times as well.
"He'll get the chance to hunt the footy a little bit more and be slightly less opponent-conscious than he has been in the past.
"His fitness has gone to a much higher level this year, which is going to give him an even better chance to be successful in the midfield.
"He's going to be a really important component for us."
Geelong's midfield mix this season will include a range of young and experienced players, with Jimmy Bartel and James Kelly expected to spent more time in the middle of the ground than they did last year.
"Often it's the younger players who get pumped up in pre-season, with people saying, 'He's set for a breakout year,' and things like that," Guthrie said.
"But I reckon guys like Jimmy Bartel and James Kelly haven't missed a beat at all this pre-season. They've put together some really solid sessions.
"Although we have some exciting youngsters coming through, they've been really impressive with the way they've gone about their training, which is great for our club."
Still, Guthrie and the other third-, fourth- and fifth-year players know they need to step up again if the Cats are to again finish near the top of the ladder.
"We are a group that can be a deciding factor in terms of how far we go this year," Guthrie said.
"Guys like Mitch Duncan and Josh Caddy had great years last year, but I think we can all step up again and have a big impact on the way the team performs."
Guthrie and his teammates are counting down the days until they begin their NAB Challenge campaign with a tough assignment against Gold Coast in Townsville.
The match will be Rodney Eade's first at the helm of the Suns.
"It will be interesting," Guthrie said. "We've had a few hot days here and there to train in, but the humidity up there makes it tough.
"Gold Coast is probably used to those humid conditions, and they've started to put a pretty good team together, so we'll see how we go."