THE WAIT IS OVER: Hamish McIntosh set for Cats debut

Click or flick across for more photos of Hamish in action over the past five years. 

GEELONG ruckman Hamish McIntosh will finally make his long-awaited return to football tonight after being named to play for the Cats in their season opener against Adelaide at Simonds Stadium.

The former Lavington junior, drafted at No. 9 by North Melbourne in 2002, played 107 games for the Roos before crossing to Geelong at the end of 2012.

He hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury playing for North in round 7, 2012, with separate injuries cruelling his first season at Geelong.

McIntosh, who has been named to start in the ruck, won selection ahead of Dawson Simpson, who is an emergency, with athletic ruck/forward Mark Blicavs on the bench.

The Cats also took a punt on captain Joel Selwood, despite having played less than one quarter of football throughout the pre-season.

Selwood suffered a minor hamstring complaint during the first term of Geelong’s pre-season clash with Melbourne in Alice Springs on February 28 and was rested for the trial match against North Melbourne on March 7.

But Cats’ coach Chris Scott is confident Geelong’s high-intensity training has given Selwood a solid preparation despite his lack of match conditioning.

Brownlow Medallist Jimmy Bartel will become the 12th Geelong player to reach the 

250-match milestone tonight.

Bartel, a midfielder who was used in defence in 2013, is set for a new forward role this season and has been named on the wing.

With both teams facing heavy injury tolls in pre-season, the Cats have also named 177-centimetre small forward Lincoln McCarthy for his second game — and first since 2012.

Ex-Cat James Podsiadly and former Blue Eddie Betts have been included on Adelaide’s half-forward line alongside superstar Patrick Dangerfield.

Geelong 2011 premiership player Podsiadly, who ventures back to the Cattery as the enemy for the first time, will be an important marking target for the Crows with Taylor Walker (knee) still out of action.

“It will be a bit strange, seeing big Podra running around for the Crows,” Bartel said.

“He was a big part of our 2011 premiership, so I hope he goes well, but not this Thursday.”

Geelong are missing Steven Motlop and Allen Christensen, ruck/forward Nathan Vardy, plus Billie Smedts, Daniel Menzel, Shane Kersten and George Burbury.

The Crows are without skipper Nathan van Berlo, former club champion Richard Douglas and key forwards Tom Lynch and Walker, while Andy Otten, Ricky Henderson and Rory Laird are also unavailable.

Brad Crouch has been passed fit to play, while brother Matt and forward Josh Jenkins have been listed as emergencies.

Adelaide, 11th in 2013, will start as underdogs against last year’s preliminary finalists.

The Crows have had a difficult build-up to the game although coach Brenton Sanderson says he’s confident the players are in a good “head space” following assistant coach Dean Bailey’s death.

Sanderson has ruled out using Bailey’s passing as extra motivation, saying he would leave it up to the players to use their own inspiration.

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