Cats to focus on ensuring Eagles’ kicks aren’t free

Big man, big job: Orren Stephenson at training yesterday.GEELONG coach Chris Scott has warned his team to lift its discipline and stop giving away ”clumsy” free kicks, fearing West Coast’s knack of being paid free kicks could cost the Cats victory at Patersons Stadium on Friday night.

Scott yesterday said Perth was the toughest trip in the AFL and the Cats could not afford ill-discipline.

The Eagles are No. 1 in the competition for receiving frees, having been awarded 405 for the season so far, 99 more than they have given away. The Cats are the worst in the league, conceding 55 more free kicks than they have earned, with 326 received to 381 against.

Scott said frees were unavoidable, but he said his team was sloppy in several areas and needed to iron out those weaknesses if it hoped to conquer fifth-placed West Coast on its home ground.

”The really lazy free kicks, like falling into someone’s back or just going that little bit high in a tackle, is the stuff that we need to fix up and it will be a huge factor in the contested ball numbers [against West Coast],” Scott said.

”Frees for and against count as contested possessions, so you have got the best in the comp against the worst in the comp. If that continues, that is really going to put us behind the eight ball, so we’ve got to make sure our discipline is at a really high level and we are conscious of the way some of their players play and we react accordingly.”

West Coast has attracted criticism from rival clubs and commentators for the number of free kicks it receives at Patersons Stadium.

Carlton players Marc Murphy, Jarrad Waite and Jeremy Laidler were fined $7500 when they criticised umpiring decisions in the Blues’ 10-point loss to West Coast in round 12 on social media. Even coach Brett Ratten tried to be diplomatic but could not hide his true feelings in his post-game media conference.

”What can you say? You come here knowing that that’s the lay of the land,” he said. ”They only cost you goals those little incidental free kicks.”

But Scott said there would be no excuses on Friday night. ”We haven’t put too much work into why the Eagles are getting that many free kicks, with the possible exception that they do get a lot of free kicks for high contact,” Scott said. ”That’s been well documented.

”We have spent a lot of time on the fact that we are No. 1 in the comp for frees against. There is a little bit of an issue with discipline there, although I sort of use that term loosely. It’s more about the attention to detail with our technique and making sure we don’t give away clumsy free kicks.”

The Cats will again be without their No. 1 ruckman, Trent West, who injured his knee in the Cats’ 27-point triumph over Adelaide two weeks ago.

Scott lashed out at newspaper reports that said West could be out for the rest of the season.

”It’s just completely untrue,” he said. ”Someone just made that up. The initial prognosis was probably two weeks, and that’s where he is at the moment. He is no guarantee to come back for the St Kilda game, but he’s a very good chance.”

West’s absence in Perth where the Eagles’ formidable ruck duo Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox rule the roost means mature recruit Orren Stephenson and 19-year-old forward Josh Walker are likely to share ruck duties. Scott said he was happy with their work against the Hawks last week.

”You can assume that Naitanui and Cox will get their hands to the ball more often than our ruckmen, so in some respects that makes it a little bit more predictable. You are sort of setting up for a worst-case scenario to an extent. But we don’t want to be completely reactive to them,” he said.

”We have got some pretty good ground-level players and while we need to be aware of [Daniel] Kerr and [Matthew] Priddis, [Andrew] Gaff, [Luke] Shuey and those types, we have got to make sure that we’re proactive in there, and even though we might not get our hands first to the ball in ruck contests, we’ve got to work hard to make sure we get first possession from the stoppage.”

Veteran defender Josh Hunt is unlikely to play after he injured a quadricep against the Hawks.

”We haven’t ruled him out, but if I had to be specific … I’d say he’d be more unlikely than likely,” Scott said.

David Wojcinski could fill Hunt’s spot as he will return from a hamstring niggle. ”He played significant game time in the VFL [last week] and has pulled up quite well,” Scott said.

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