Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield is among four prime inclusions the Cats have made for Thursday night’s blockbuster against Port Adelaide but they will be without hard-running midfielder Cam Guthrie.
Dangerfield has recovered from a syndesmosis tear in his right ankle that required surgery, having hurt himself against North Melbourne in round five.
The prognosis for the eight-time All Australian had been that he would miss two months but he has returned slightly early.
Mitch Duncan (concussion), Mark Blicavs (calf) and Irish defender Mark O’Connor (hamstring) will also return, while Dangerfield will add more flexibility up forward and through the midfield.
“The bye probably came at a good time for him [Dangerfield]. It probably would have been a hard decision to play him if we had a game last week,” coach Chris Scott said.
“I suspect he would have come up for that one but the fact he had an extra week of training under his belt with his teammates as well is important because bringing new players back into the team does potentially cause some disruption.”
Scott said there would be no minutes restrictions on Dangerfield, and if that had been the case he would have resumed in the VFL.
The return of four key figures means Quinton Narkle has been squeezed from the 22, despite a breakout 34 touches against the Gold Coast and 25 against Collingwood leading into the bye. However, he could yet be used as the medical substitute.