PATRICK Dangerfield has defended Geelong's contentious decision to drop ruckman Rhys Stanley for its qualifying final, saying responsibility for the loss lay with the midfield as a collective.
Stanley was a late withdrawal against Collingwood, with Brodie Grundy turning in a dominant performance against Mark Blicavs and Esava Ratugolea as the Magpies won by 10 points.
"Hindsight's a wonderful thing. If you had have said to me after the game we'd be plus-six in the centre bounce, I'd say 'whatever it takes to be that, absolutely'," Dangerfield told reporters on Monday.
"So it's up to us as midfielders to make sure that the service and the quality that we get from those clearances is up to standard.
"The area we let ourselves down with around the ball was scores from stoppages - that wasn't Brodie Grundy kicking goals, that was the balance we had around the stoppage. So I'm not sure where it sits this week but it's always a collective."
Geelong has struggled to settle on a consistent first-choice ruckman in the latter part of the season, and Dangerfield says he wasn't shocked by the late decision to withdraw Stanley in place of tall midfielder Sam Menegola.
Collingwood won the hitouts 48-27 and while Geelong was competitive in the clearances, the Magpies were far more effective around the ground.
"It didn't come as a shock given the sort of different selections we've had through the year," Dangerfield said.
"And if you look at the numbers, centre bounce and how critical they are to winning games of footy, we were really proficient in that area over the weekend."
Given the Eagles' tall forward line - plus the presence of both Nic Naitanui and Tom Hickey - Stanley is a near-certainty to be recalled for Friday night's semi-final, allowing Blicavs to return to a key defensive post.
But Dangerfield was coy on the Cats' ruck plans for Friday night, emphasising the importance of better efficiency around the stoppages.
"We've just got to make sure that we control the ball better and that starts with our ruck contests," he said.
"I'm not sure where that will sit with our selection this week, that hasn't been decided yet and that's for the coaches to decide.
"But we've got to get better bang for our buck with the stoppages that we did win because we were pretty decent in that area."