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Danger is back, declares coach

AFL Rd 16 - Geelong v Essendon
Geelong coach Chris Scott says the win over Essendon signalled an important return to form for captain Patrick Dangerfield after a frustrating season. Picture: Josh Chadwick / Getty Images

Chris Scott could continue using premiership defenders Tom Stewart and Sam De Koning as on-ballers after he conceded Geelong’s midfield was “nude” during its 1-6 slump.

The Geelong coach said the positional changes had helped the Cats correct their course along with Patrick Dangerfield’s return to form after a frustrating run with injury.

The Brownlow medallist only managed one clearance but had 22 disposals (12 contested) as a revamped midfield and forward line fired in a 10-goal second half.

“The competition’s so tight, even Dangerfield coming back – last week was a sighter after missing a fair bit of footy – he looked like himself, which is a really good sign for us,” Scott said after Saturday night’s 45-point win over Essendon.

“I thought he was probably symptomatic of where we’re trying to get to. We’ve got some good guys who have just been a little bit off.

AFL Rd 16 - Geelong v Essendon
Chris Scott says Geelong captain Patrick Dangerfield ‘looks himself’ again after missing months this season due to hamstring injuries. Picture: Graham Denholm / Getty Images

“I don’t think we ever say hand on heart we got sucked into thinking we were going that badly, but again, it’s our job to look a little bit deeper than just the win-loss.”

Scott suggested the 204cm De Koning should be thought of as a genuine No. 1 ruck option and said he would persist with the move after the 23-year-old struggled in defence during the Cats’ form slump.

He said Tom Stewart’s move into a full-time midfield role against the Bombers had a positive influence on the match after he attended a team-high 24 centre bounces.

“The move makes sense to me. I hold (Stewart) in such high regard. I’ve joked with him if we decided to play him as a small forward, he’d probably be the best small forward in the comp in my opinion,” Scott said.

“He’s just got great attributes and a great attitude to his footy – I don’t think he’s been shooting the lights out, but I think he’s been going much better than people think he’s been going.

“We’ve probably just been a little nude in the midfield compared to other parts of the ground the last month or two.”

AFL Rd 16 - Geelong v Essendon
Mature-age recruit Lawson Humphries slotted in nicely across halfback with 15 disposals on his AFL debut for Geelong. Picture: Josh Chadwick / Getty Images

Scott was thrilled with how Lawson Humphries worked his way into his AFL debut at halfback and called him and fellow inclusion Mitch Knevitt “impactful”.

Knevitt, who took eight marks, laid five tackles and kicked an impressive late goal, still faces a fight to hold his spot against Hawthorn next Saturday as Scott said he was “almost certain” Ollie Henry would return from injury.

The Geelong coach said he was confident Tom Hawkins would be available to play again before the end of the season as he battles a foot injury.

“Tom’s been in the club every day, he’s already started his rehab. It seems to be pretty positive. It’s hard to get these things perfect … the silver lining is sometimes you can get guys in really good shape for a small part of the season,” Scott said.

“It’s really hard to be up for 26, 27 weeks the way the season is structured. If you’re good enough to qualify in a decent enough position, getting some players back towards the end of the year can be a real positive.

“It sounds like a long time out, six to eight (weeks), but I reckon that gets him back with at least a few weeks before the finals if we’re good enough, and everyone’s confident that he’ll be at least in good shape.”