As Geelong prepare to face Hawthorn to open the AFL finals series, midfielder James Kelly says the Cats can beat anyone.
Geelong midfielder James Kelly believes the Cats deserve to be AFL premiership favourites.
The Cats are preparing to welcome back Steve Johnson into their side for their qualifying final with Hawthorn, a match which will go a long way to determining their premiership credentials.
And Kelly believes Geelong will prove their worth.
“We’re as good a chance as anyone,” he said.
“Our best footy stands up in big games and we’ve always believed that right from 10 years ago.
“All year we’ve talked about our best footy being good enough … the downside to that is we haven’t played our best footy consistently enough.”
That inconsistency sees Geelong behind Sydney, Hawthorn and Fremantle in flag favouritism despite equalling the league leaders’ 17-5 win-loss record in third place.
The ace in the sleeve is Johnson, who made it through training on Wednesday after missing three rounds with a right foot injury.
While Kelly said spending that length of time out of the side would normally set a player back, their mercurial midfielder was an exception.
“Stevie lives for September and he really prides himself on playing his best footy at this time of year,” he said.
“He’s got too big of an ego not to play well.”
And while appearances can decieve with Johnson, Kelly backed him to make an impact on Friday night.
“He’s trained all week … you don’t know a lot of the time with Stevie, you look at him and sometimes you think he looks terrible and he comes out and has 30 possessions,” Kelly said.
“He’s ticking all the boxes, he’s doing everything that’s been asked of him this week, he’ll be fine I’d say.”
Johnson’s recovery is timely, as history suggests a loss on Friday night will make it very hard to challenge for the flag.
West Coast were the last side to recover from a first-week finals loss to lift the premiership trophy, back in 2006.
But rather than contemplating the worst, Kelly said the match-up with the Hawks was “a chance to do something special”.
Geelong were bettered by the Hawks in their last meeting a fortnight ago, but Kelly was disregarding the result.
“I dare say both sides held a little bit back last time in terms of structures and tactics,” he said.
“It’s no holds barred on the weekend, we just go out and have a crack.”
Kelly said his body was holding up well after his fly for a big mark in the Cats’ last round win over Brisbane saw him land awkwardly on his ankle.
He said he was “not bad for an old bloke at this time of the year” and his ankle had settled down.
“I should just stay on the ground like I have for the last 250 games,” he said.
“Lesson learnt on that one.”