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Does Boomer hold the key? Four burning questions ahead of the 2014 semi-finals

Ben Stratton of the Hawks and Tom Hawkins of the Cats wrestle during the 2014 AFL Second Qualifying Final match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Geelong Cats at the MCG, Melbourne on September 05, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
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1. Should Cats fans be sweating on the Match Review Panel?

Tom Hawkins could find himself in hot water for this jumper punch on Hawthorn defender Ben Stratton, with Geelong premiership skipper Tom Harley believing the "untidy" incident would be scrutinised by the MRP.

WATCH: Is Hawkins in hot water?
It's debatable whether there was enough force in the punch to warrant a suspension, but if the Cats lost their spearhead for a week it could throw their forward structure into disarray for Friday night's semi-final against North Melbourne. Despite the heroics of inspirational skipper Joel Selwood (three goals) and Jimmy Bartel (two), the Cats only booted 10 majors against the Hawks with their big key forward held to a solitary six-pointer by Brian Lake. Injury concerns to Steve Johnson (foot), Steven Motlop (bruised ankle) and Allen Christensen (back soreness) increase Hawkins' importance and the wounded Cats will be nervously awaiting the MRP's findings on Monday. – Travis King

2. What's changed for Port and Freo since round 23?

In their onslaught against a hapless Richmond on Sunday, the Power were as brutal in their attack on the ball against Richmond as they have been all season. Such pressure will be doubly important on the narrow confines of Patersons Stadium on Saturday, where time and space is so often a rare luxury.

WATCH: Where the Power won Sunday's elimination final
Only a fortnight ago, Port couldn't match the Dockers at the same venue. Freo proved how damaging they can be when they piled on nine unanswered goals to seal the game. Although the absence of defender Michael Johnson will hurt the home side, the presence of star Nat Fyfe will be a huge bonus. Fyfe missed round 23 through suspension but was back to his best on Saturday with 29 possessions against the Swans. History is on Fremantle's side, too; not since 2007 has a team gone out in straight sets, and it's only happened twice since the current top eight format was introduced in 2000. – Harry Thring

3. Will Boomer's return make the difference against the Cats?

North Melbourne has lost relatively comfortably to Geelong twice this year, but will veteran Brent Harvey's return from suspension this Friday night make it third time lucky for Roos? More precisely, will the fact that North will face the Cats with Harvey and Daniel Wells in its team for the first time this year make a difference? Wells was missing with a foot injury when the Roos lost to the Cats by 20 points in round 10 and again when they lost by 32 points in round 19. But since returning in round 21 against the Western Bulldogs, Wells has quickly found form and was North's best four-quarter performer against Essendon on Saturday night. Given the Cats' legion of speedsters led by Steven Motlop, Allen Christensen and Mathew Stokes have gotten hold of North at times this year, having both Wells and Harvey at their disposal will help the Roos try to match the Cats' outside run. But you suspect all of that will be academic if the Roos have a first-half lapse like they did against Essendon. Geelong took five-goal leads into half-time in both rounds 10 and 19 and was never headed. For all that's been made of Geelong's poor record in second halves this year, the Cats know how to get the job done in September and the Roos won't want to rely on another comeback from the clouds on Friday night. – Nick Bowen

WATCH: Where the Roos won Saturday night's MCG thriller

4. How important is Hayden Ballantyne to Fremantle's chances?

Reputations are forged in September, and right now Ballantyne has a reputation for going missing on the big stage. Such is his importance, however, Fremantle will be hoping he isn't missing altogether in Saturday's cut-throat semi-final against Port Adelaide. The Fremantle small forward, who suffered a broken jaw against the Sydney Swans and will undergo surgery, has enjoyed a superb 2014 season, kicking 49 goals to earn selection in the 40-man All Australian squad. He is crucial to the Dockers' premiership chances and that is why there is a microscope on him and he needs to respond against Port if passed fit. Ballantyne booted three goals in his first final, against Geelong in 2012, but he has since kicked just three goals in five finals. He was held goalless in last year's Grand Final loss to Hawthorn and Saturday's qualifying final against the Sydney Swans was a chance to rebound almost 12 months on. It's important to note that a goalless Ballantyne was not alone against the Swans. Sidekick Michael Walters kicked just one goal, midfielder Danyle Pearce played another poor final and was substituted, Stephen Hill was tagged out of the contest and ruckman Zac Clarke had little influence. All face big tests in Saturday's home semi-final. But everything Ballantyne is involved in is amplified given the passion he provokes among all supporters. Fairly or unfairly, the tag of failing in big games would stick to him more than others. – Nathan Schmook