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From Geelong Advertiser
Reported by Nick Wade
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THE winds of change that howled through Geelong's AFL team have continued down to the Cats' VFL side.

The VFL Cats are in the midst of a changing of the guard as they look for Troy Selwood's replacement as captain and someone to step into the midfield role vacated by best-and-fairest winner Mark Corrigan.

But the expectation for next year is very much the same and the Cats believe they will be around the mark again as they chase a third straight grand final appearance.

"It's going to be a different team in many ways, but that's not a bad thing,'' VFL coach Matthew Knights said.

"We've got some familiar faces back again, which is great, but we're under no illusion as to the challenge we've got with Troy Selwood retiring and Mark Corrigan shifting into the coaching side of things.

"It's hard to replace those players from a leadership point of view and also from a talent point of view. We should never lose sight of how talented Mark and Troy were as footballers.

"But it's exciting for some of the younger players in the group and they're going to get more game time and more opportunity.''

Pre-season training also has a different look.

While the Cats in the past invited up to 70 players for the early stages of training, they have narrowed their focus to a small squad of about 40.

Delisted St Kilda ruckman Jay Lever is training with the squad, along with Geelong Falcon Fraser Fort, who was overlooked in both drafts last month.

But under VFL rules, due to the Geelong Falcons' alignment with Werribee, the Cats must pay the Tigers $3000 for any Falcons player they put on their final VFL list.

Gun Colac midfielder James Linton is committed for next season in a bid to accelerate his draft currency after a breakout year at local level. Matt Sully and Ben Raidme, who both made the VFL team of the year, are also back, as is VFL stalwart Jack Hollmer.

Knights said Raidme was one of the contenders to take Selwood's reins as captain.

"Ben's going to push really hard and he's going to be a potential leadership candidate, whether it's this year or in the future,'' Knights said.

"I think he's heading in the right direction. Mitch Herbison, Dan Measures, Tom Maas, these guys, we've already had talks to them about providing more from a leadership point of view.

"It seems like only yesterday they were the new rookies, now all of a sudden they're the ones with experience - that's the changing face of our list.''

Knights said another successful season was possible.

"We'd aspire to develop all the players - VFL and AFL - during the week so that come match day we think we're going to be pretty competitive with anyone we play most weeks,'' he said.

"But it's a growing competition. Richmond and the Western Bulldogs are putting together good lists, as did Essendon this year, so we're going to have to be in very good shape to keep up with the standards of previous seasons.''