Geelong coach Chris Scott says he, the AFL club’s medical staff and Steve Johnson are all confident the star will return in week one of the finals.
Steve Johnson is running, with confidence rampant at Geelong that the game-breaking star will return against Hawthorn on Friday night.
Johnson has missed three AFL games due to a foot injury.
That stretch includes the Cats’ loss to Hawthorn in round 22, with coach Chris Scott expecting he’ll be able to unleash the trump card in week one of the finals.
“There’s the potential that things could change, but right as it stands at the moment – all of our people including Steve are very confident,” Scott said on Monday.
“We know a little bit more now than we did four or five days ago,” he added, saying Wednesday’s training session will be Johnson’s deadline to prove he’s ready.
Many players would struggle to adjust to the intensity of an AFL final in their first game back, but Scott said Johnson wasn’t one of them.
“I don’t think confidence will be his problem,” he said.
“He’s proven it before.
“He knows he’ll need to (perform somewhere near his best).”
Johnson ran well on Monday, the first time the 31-year-old has hit the track since starting to experience pain in his right foot after the Cats’ win over Fremantle on August 9.
Johnson, renowned for his effervescence on and off the field, has been on crutches and no doubt bored during his time on the sidelines.
But Cats captain Joel Selwood suggested the crafty playmaker has always remained upbeat.
“He’s worked with our physios and doctors through it and always been eyeing off that first final,” Selwood said.
Scott said first-choice ruckman Hamish McIntosh and speedsters Steven Motlop and Allen Christensen should all return for the qualifying final after being rested.
Shane Kersten (hamstring) is also expected to be fit, leaving Scott with a difficult decision on his forward line.
Josh Walker and Mitch Brown both laid claims to be Tom Hawkins’ sidekick in the side’s last-start win over Brisbane, a role Kersten had performed prior to his injury.
“We’ve got options. That’s better than being stuck,” Scott said.
Hawkins came of age in the 2011 grand final, snatching seven contested marks and leading the Cats to victory after James Podsiadly suffered a shoulder injury.
The 26-year-old’s goal-kicking has since become more clinical, while he is playing with more confidence and aggression.
“Sky’s the limit, isn’t it,” Scott said of what Hawkins might be capable of in the finals series.
“At his best he’s as dominant a key forward as there is.
“But we also think we play a style of game that doesn’t depend on him absolutely dominating.”