Cats' Brandan Parfitt firing ahead of Top End return

Tough midfielder Brandan Parfitt is reaping the benefits of a strong summer preparation and extended run at AFL level without injury, Geelong coach Chris Scott says.

Parfitt has endured a series of setbacks throughout his 128-game career, including a serious hamstring injury during his 2017 debut season and a broken thumb in the 2020 grand-final loss to Richmond.

He was struck down by further injuries and illness last year but the 26-year-old, who featured as the medi-sub in Geelong's 2022 premiership side, has put together a more consistent 2024 campaign.

Parfitt ranks second at the club for both tackles and clearances and fourth for contested possessions, and will be key to the Cats' chances when he plays his first AFL game in his home town of Darwin, against Gold Coast on Thursday night.

"He's had some challenges along the way and his last pre-season was clearly his best," Scott said.

"(It was) uninterrupted and he is in as good a physical shape as he's ever been, so he's giving himself a chance to let that talent flow through.

"It's a bit underrated these days how even really talented players can be limited by their preparation or little niggly injuries.

"More than anything what we've seen from Brandan is just an opportunity for him to play at his best without these limitations."

Amid a focus on declining numbers of Indigenous draftees entering the AFL system, Scott is hopeful players like Parfitt featuring in the league's annual Sir Doug Nicholls Round can inspire more Aboriginal kids to chase their dreams.

"I wouldn't like to suggest that because we have rounds like these that it solves all the problems," Scott said.

"But maybe there is a case to be made that a young Indigenous boy watching the Cats play in Sir Doug Nicholls Round and seeing a bit more of Brandan Parfitt's story, or the other Indigenous players around the competition, might inspire them to think, 'well, if it's possible for them, it's possible for me'," Scott said.

"If that's something little that happens from it then I think it is something that's well worth doing."

Parfitt will line up in a rejigged Geelong engine room against Gold Coast, with inexperienced ruckman Toby Conway, Jack Bowes and Tanner Bruhn all recalled.

Six-game tall forward Shannon Neale is also back after Geelong opted to rest premiership stars Tom Hawkins, Rhys Stanley and Mitch Duncan.

Jeremy Cameron is unavailable while in concussion protocols.

Gold Coast have also gone down the player management path, resting co-captain Jarrod Witts, Nick Holman, Jed Walter and Jake Rogers.

Veteran midfielder David Swallow and Brayden Fiorini return after a week off, with Sam Day and young ruckman Ned Moyle also recalled.

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