Cracks in Cats castle: Tom Harley rumoured out for 2009 with degenerative knee condition

The rumour is flying that the Geelong skipper could miss the season with a degenerative knee condition.

Yesterday morning on radio SEN, former player and current player manager Liam Pickering aired the rumour that Tom Harley, who has been having a public struggle to be fit for round 1 after off-season surgery to mend a knee cartilage injury, actually has a degenerative problem with the knee that could put him out for the entire 2009 season. I stress that this is only a rumour, there has been no confirmation from the club and very little in the way of chatter on fan boards about this. Pickering, a former Geelong player who remains close with many at the club, has been right on these sorts of rumours before, so his words have to be treated with a modicum of respect.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that this unsubstantiated claim is factual. What would be the implications for the Geelong backline, limited as it is by the indefinite foot problems suffered by Matthew Egan? The three starting key position defenders at the top of the depth chart would then be Matthew Scarlett, Harry Taylor and Darren Milburn. Milburn, who turns 32 in April, was supposed to be playing his last year and eventually giving way for youth, if the natural order of things was to go as planned. If Harley is cactus, the Cats would probably have to rely on Milburn more, especially early in the season. Milburn’s own fitness is not guaranteed, of course, as he has a history of hamstring issues.

If the match committee decides Milburn can’t be relied upon, then the Cats may look to youth – arguably the most prudent course of action given that Scarlett turns 30 this year as well, though the decision may be made more with an eye to the fast-closing premiership window than the long term. Then again, Taylor playing 18 games last year didn’t stop them reaching the last Saturday in September. So who could be this year’s Taylor?

Of the most recent crop of youngsters, the obvious candidates are early draft picks Tom Gillies and Mitch Brown, with both players able to play at either end of the ground, though Gillies is probably aiming back and Brown forward at this stage. However, a name that you might not have heard much before who could sneak through on the inside rail is Dan McKenna, a 2007 draftee who was one of two players nominated by Harley in this article as likely to be given the chance to show their wares in the NAB Cup – the other being rookie-listed Jeremy Laidler, who is well down the pecking order. McKenna is yet another tall who hasn’t decided which end of the ground he’s best suited for. Fan opinion is that McKenna’s VFL form last year wasn’t great, but he’s looking better in preseason training – but then again, so is Laidler.

The other long-shot structural move that the Geelong hierarchy might be considering is shifting Tom Lonergan back to his original spot in defence, which would have the added bonus of solving the problem of how to deal with the return of Tom Hawkins to the Cats’ starting 22. Sounds like a nice fit, the main problem with that being Hawkins’ own fitness, as his chronically injured foot is kept in the softest of soft cotton wool.

The Cats’ intra-club match is on this Friday, so I’ll toodle down to take a look at this story unfolding. That is, unless I’m frogmarched out by security. 😀

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