A refreshed Patrick Dangerfield is confident his body will allow him to produce his scintillating best for an extended period of the AFL season.
The Geelong superstar was in fine form after returning from two weeks out with a calf injury in the round-eight thrashing of GWS, registering 28 disposals and five clearances.
He looms as a potential game-breaker in Saturday’s crunch clash with St Kilda at Marvel Stadium as both sides attempt to force their way back into the top four.
“I feel really good, barring a few little hiccups here and there, but (last) weekend I felt fresh,” Dangerfield said on Friday.
“It’s one of the things that you can’t fake.
“This competition is ruthless and the speed and intensity is unique, and you’ve got to be up for that fight.”
Geelong have been open about their plans to rest players throughout the home-and-away season, in particular their more seasoned campaigners.
Dangerfield, a veteran of 291 games, missed rounds six and seven after copping a cork to a calf muscle that caused bleeding in the same spot he strained in round four.
“I think I’ve clocked (my rest) in now, so ideally I’d play right through (the season), but I think it’s important to make those mature decisions if a player isn’t right to go,” Dangerfield said.
Fifth-placed Geelong welcome back captain Joel Selwood (corked quad) and ruckman Rhys Stanley (ankle) against St Kilda, who sit seventh.
Both sides have 5-3 records, one win behind Carlton in fourth spot.
Versatile tall Mark Blicavs rucked well in Stanley’s absence against GWS, but the Cats will welcome back their No.1 ruckman for a crucial battle with Saints duo Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall.
“They’re an outstanding combination,” Dangerfield said.
“Paddy Ryder in the centre bounce is just about as good as it gets at the moment.
“He can put it pretty much anywhere, so we’re very cognisant of what he can do, and around the ground they work quite well in tandem.
“Our guys are going to have to be up for the fight there.”
Saints star Jack Billings will play his first AFL game of the season after recovering from hamstring problems.
He is among several players now available, adding to their depth
“Sometimes you have a year when it’s not about the quantity of games, it’s the quality of games – that’s what we’re looking at for Jack,” coach Brett Ratten said.
“It’s been challenging at match committee, with how many players we have available or coming back … what is our right mix?”
The Saints are coming off two losses and Ratten said Geelong, who mauled GWS last week, will be another stern test.
“Their ability to move the ball from their back end and score and the talent they have across all three lines – they’re in good form,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to these opportunities, to see where we’re really at.”