Pavlich hype biting Freo
Pavlich hype biting Freo

Geelong football manager Neil Balme expects an emotionally-charged Fremantle to lift tonight in honour of Matthew Pavlich's 300th game, but has warned the hype surrounding the milestone match could just as easily play into the Cats' hands.

The Dockers and the Cats have forged one of the fiercest rivalries in the game over the past two seasons, with close margins and match review panel scrutiny becoming hallmarks of the at-times spiteful clashes.

The nature of their previous encounters means all eyes will be on Patersons Stadium tonight, with Pavlich's milestone taking the game into the realms of a genuine blockbuster.

Speaking after the Cats' final training run yesterday, Balme said it would be foolish to underestimate the desire of the Dockers to reward their captain with four points on his big night.

"I would have rather it be last week or next week for us, because a bloke who's played as magnificently as he has for so long, I'm sure there'll be something for him in it," he said.

"Certainly, and I can only speak from our blokes' point of view, the coach will always make mention of it and our blokes always do find something for the great players and make sure it's a good day for them.

"They'll give a bit more I'm sure.

"You can't (counter it), you just play the way you play and hope it doesn't work for them.

"We're hoping the pressure will get to them, but they're a terrific side, they've played really well at important times so we're not thinking it's going to be easy at all."

Geelong will field a side with 26 premiership medallions, two Norm Smith medals and a Brownlow's worth of experience tonight, and Balme said that history meant they were also a good chance to produce their best football under the spotlight.

"I think our blokes really love playing the big games, and this will be a big game," he said.

"The fact that it's Pav's 300th only adds to it, so I suppose you hope that works for you rather than against you.

"That's really why we play this game, for the really big games and the really important games.

"They're every week but this is probably a bit more significant than most."

Fremantle goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne has been one of the major figures in the rivalry between the two sides.

He was punched by former Cats defender Matthew Scarlett in 2012, and Balme said they were planning for Ballantyne to play despite having surgery on his cheekbone this week.

"He's a really courageous little player so if there's any chance that he'll play I'm sure he'll take the chance," he said.

"They're a really tough, hard at it, scrambling team and they need the little sparks and he's one of their very important sparks.

"He's a really hard runner, runs up the ground, finds the footy for them.

"I suppose in lots of ways you want to play against the best, so it's probably better that he does play."

The West Australian

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