Mooney's chance

Cat veteran's fightback from brink of injury-enforced retirement almost complete.

Cat veteran's fightback from brink of injury-enforced retirement almost complete.

CAMERON Mooney's fightback from the brink of injury-enforced retirement is almost complete.

The key forward, who has seemed hopelessly hampered by injury for most of Geelong coach Chris Scott's nine-month tenure, has recovered strongly enough to be included by the Cats as early as Saturday's match against Melbourne.

Mooney, 31, has not been seen at AFL level since round seven, the point at which Scott and the Cats' selection committee conceded that the key forward was a liability for the team due to his lack of athleticism.

The demotion of Mooney to the VFL seemed a similar situation to that of veteran Essendon key forward Scott Lucas in 2009, who retired after he was dropped to the VFL for a second time.

Mooney, however, has overcome a slow start to kick at least four goals in each of his past four matches for the Cats' VFL team.

While that monthly tally of 17 goals has aided Mooney's claims for a recall - yesterday he jokingly asked reporters, ''Am I in?'' as they emerged from a briefing with the coach - Scott said the importance of those hauls were secondary to Mooney's improvement in fitness and mobility during his VFL stint.

''He's much, much better. It's hard to put a [percentage] on it,'' the coach said yesterday.

''We've got to keep it in perspective. It wouldn't have been a surprise to anyone if Cam had've said in December that he can't play on. He was in terrible shape, was fighting really hard to do the training requirements. He was just incapable of doing it. When he started playing early in the season it was a little bit the same.

''Everyone at the club has nothing but admiration for the way he's approached this because it's been very difficult for him. He's been a fantastic player over a long period of time and he's fought tooth and nail to get back. Fortunately for us, it looks like he's got himself in the position where he can test himself again at the highest level, which is a credit to him.''

Scott revealed that Mooney was in his unofficial squad for Saturday's home match against the Demons and said that if he did not make the cut this week he was almost certain to return a week later against Gold Coast.

''I don't think the [VFL] goals are a factor,'' he said.

''I've said all along it was more his physical condition. I'm supremely confident that when he's in his best shape and playing close to his best footy that he's in our best 22 - there's no doubt about that.

''The question was whether he can get back to somewhere near his best shape. He's moving really well. It's not a foregone conclusion but he's done enough to suggest to us that he needs to test it at the top level.

''The time's about right [for him to return]. I always said ? August and September were the key times for him. We're not guaranteeing it will be this week but, all things going well, it's this week or next week.''

The return of Mooney would bolster Geelong's attacking options. As well as Coleman Medal contender James Podsiadly, who is being monitored after a heavy knock received on Sunday against Richmond, maligned Tom Hawkins has kicked six goals in his past two matches - exceeding his return from his first nine matches of the season.

Scott's conservative approach to players with niggling injuries is likely to rule out Shannon Byrnes (calf) and Nathan Vardy (hamstring) for Saturday's match.

The Cats will hardly be restricted in selection though, with Cameron Ling (general soreness), Steve Johnson (buttock) and Brad Ottens (knee) all rated by Scott as likely to be available - and therefore selected due to their status.

Scott insisted the second-placed Cats believed the 11th-placed Demons, whose record at Skilled Stadium over the past two decades has been awful, would pose a threat to them this weekend if left unchecked.

''If the game's on their terms they can be an exceptional attacking team, they've really dominated sides at times this year. They'd be a little bit disappointed that they seem to either win by a lot or lose by a lot,'' he said.

Small forward Mathew Stokes is also being monitored after a heavy clash against the Tigers. He trained yesterday, as did Podsiadly, Ling, Johnson and Ottens.

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