Sandilands casts shadow over Cat
Left-field Geelong draftee Orren Stephenson is on track for a daunting debut against Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands at Patersons Stadium next month.
Stephenson, who will turn 30 in July, ignited his chances of claiming a spot in the premiers’ team to play the Dockers in the season opener on March 31 with eye- catching performances against Sydney and St Kilda in Friday’s NAB Cup games at Etihad Stadium.
With premiership ruckmen Brad Ottens and Mark Blake having retired and Nathan Vardy (hip) and Dawson Simpson (back) battling injury problems, Cats coach Chris Scott said Stephenson was a chance to partner Trent West in what will be coach Ross Lyon’s first match in charge of Fremantle.
The 200cm Cat was surprise draft pick No.78 last year after playing in three VFL premierships for North Ballarat.
He has a teenage daughter who has just started high school.
Scott said playing first-up against the massive Sandilands would be a particularly tall order for Stephenson. But he had shown against the Swans and Saints that he was well equipped to handle the rigours of the elite level.
Stephenson had 16 hit-outs in the two matches and displayed the aggression required to have an impact against the Dockers’ match winner.
“Orren Stephenson was really good. He’s probably not our future, but he looks pretty good for the present,” Scott said.
“We drafted him because we thought he was capable of playing AFL footy, but we haven’t decided exactly what our ruck set-up will look like.
“On the evidence, he looks capable of holding down a position in the ruck for at least half a game against reasonable opposition. I think he took a few small steps forward.
“It’s a big step (to play against Sandilands), but it’s possible. He’s a long way from being a certainty for round one, but he is a chance.”
Scott said injured trio Vardy, Travis Varcoe (foot) and Daniel Menzel (knee) were likely to be the only first-choice players unavailable to take on Fremantle. He doused hype surrounding youngsters Billie Smedts and Steven Motlop.
The pair were just two of an impressive batch of youngsters who showed on Friday night that the club’s future appears bright despite the retirements of captain Cameron Ling, Cameron Mooney, Darren Milburn and Ottens.
Scott admitted Smedts was an exciting prospect but refused to reveal his expectations for five-gamer Motlop this season.
“That’s a bit private,” he said. “We think he can be a good player and on the evidence, you can probably see the talent he’s got.
“But in terms of our expectations of him this year, that’s something I’ll wait to elaborate on until he’s played a bit more.”