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Opposition Analysis: Johnson could return

GEELONG are almost certain to be boosted by the inclusion of triple premiership star Steve Johnson for Friday night’s Qualifying Final against Hawthorn.

Johnson, who hasn’t played for three weeks due to a foot injury, has stepped up his training this week in a bid to be fit for the first final.

He trained strongly with his teammates on Wednesday in their main training session at Simonds Stadium.

"It's feeling all right. I had a light run this morning, which is the first time I've been on my feet in about three weeks. Felt fine, and hopefully I'll build up throughout the week," Johnson told Geelong's website on Monday.

"It's a big possibility (that I will play). I'm really hopeful that I'll be right by Friday night after today's session.

“We'll just have to wait and see how I feel after the main training session on Wednesday so all things going well I'll get through that, pull up well on Thursday and be selected to play Friday night."

Geelong Coach Chris Scott is confident he’ll be selecting the star midfielder/forward for the Qualifying Final when the teams are announced on Thursday night.

There are no concerns over his fitness either according to Scott, who says Johnson will be fresh to make an impact in the finals.

"The information I've got from our medical staff, who I rate really highly and have a lot of confidence in, is that he's had such a big body of work through the season that this period of time off is not going to greatly affect his fitness,” he said.

"If anything it will have him a little bit fresher.”

Scott also revealed if the star does play, he won’t be managed through the game but rather expected to play his usual role as a midfielder who pushes forward.

"I would expect him to play mainly his normal role, but he's an outstanding forward 50 player as well so it's nice to have that up our sleeve."

Johnson has averaged more disposals than any other Cat this year with 26.3 and is the most damaging Cat heading inside 50, ranked number one for forward 50 entries.

He is also ranked second behind skipper Joel Selwood for clearances and centre clearances and surprisingly, ranked equal third for tackles (5.4 average).

He’s also kicked 16 goals in 17 matches this season.

Johnson didn’t play in the Round 22 meeting between the Hawks and Cats but wreaked havoc in Round 5, picking up 34 disposals and booting three goals in his side’s win over the Hawks on Easter Monday.

That performance continued a trend for Johnson, who seems to save some of his best football for matches against the Hawks.

In last year’s Preliminary Final, Johnson finished with 32 disposals and four goals, this time inflicting most of the damage in a brilliant first half.

In fact, Johnson averages more disposals against the Hawks than any other team outside expansion clubs Gold Coast and GWS.

Johnson averages 21.75 disposals against the Hawks and has booted 21 goals in 16 matches against them. He does most of his damage on the outside against Hawthorn, with 14 of his 21.75 disposals uncontested on average.