UNLESS Geelong can pull off a miracle at the AFL Tribunal on Monday night, it will enter a preliminary final against Richmond without Tom Hawkins.
The Virgin Australia AFL All Australian forward, its focal point in attack and the man responsible for 56 goals this year – or one in every five Cats majors.
With all signs pointing to the Cats rolling the dice to get Hawkins off his ban, a failed attempt will leave coach Chris Scott with four days of headaches around the make-up of his front half.
Massive responsibility would then fall on the shoulders of 27-game power forward Esava Ratugolea, who kicked a career-high three goals against West Coast on Friday night.
And while he also impressed with two goals in the 67-point against the Tigers win back in round 12 before injuring his hamstring, the Cats will need more firepower to challenge this time.
FINALS PREDICTOR Who will win the 2019 premiership?
These are the six options the Cats can turn to:
1. Patrick Dangerfield
Think back to a four-goal semi-final against Sydney in 2017 playing out of the goalsquare. Or a day with 5.6 just eight weeks earlier against Hawthorn. Has been playing bruised and was challenged with his hip at times on Friday night. Been clocking more midfield minutes in recent weeks but again showed that he can take a clunk in attack with the game on the line against the Eagles. You'd be robbing Peter to pay Paul by taking him out of the centre square, but the midfield depth is there with Charlie Constable, Scott Selwood and James Parsons waiting in the wings.
2. Gary Rohan
Could barely get out of second gear at training last week as he battles an ongoing knee complaint he re-injured in the qualifying final. After a blistering start to the year playing out of the goalsquare, the former Swan has kicked just five goals from his last 10 matches. Could they go smaller in attack and recall a player not at full fitness who has his fair share of quiet Septembers to his name?
3. Recalling Zac Smith or Ryan Abbott
And have Rhys Stanley become predominantly forward. Richmond played two rucks in its qualifying final win and could well do the same on Friday night. Smith and Abbott haven't played since August 31 in the VFL and played only a combined four AFL games this year. But having either take the load in the middle and releasing Stanley in attack would also allow Ratugolea to focus on being a sole forward.
Could Zac Smith come in for Tomahawk?
4. Darcy Fort or Wylie Buzza
Standing 204cm, Fort has been playing full-forward in a VFL team stacked with giants. Booted 13 goals in the final five VFL matches, but his last of three AFL matches came back in round 14. Buzza hasn't been sighted since 2018 at senior level, but has proven he can take a contested mark at VFL level this year. A return for Fort or Buzza would also relieve Ratugolea of his duties as back-up ruck, allowing him to play fully in attack.
'The Fortress' loves a goal.
5. Lachie Henderson
Hasn't kicked an AFL goal since the preliminary final against Adelaide in 2017. And he was thrown forward with no effect in the same game against Sydney in 2016. Surely the Cats couldn't try it again. Or could they? Has played five games this year – all in defence – but would provide an aerial contest and could play a role limiting the impact of Tigers interceptor Dylan Grimes.
Lachie Henderson hasn't kicked a major in exactly two years.
6. Harry Taylor or Jack Henry
Taylor's previous final as a forward against Richmond in 2017 delivered little, while Henry was lost in attack in last year's elimination final against Melbourne. Despite both looking far more natural in defence, could the Cats go back to the well again and use either as a forward? If one was to move out of defence, Mark Blicavs could be rolled back from the wing or Lachie Henderson recalled.
Harry Taylor is a swingman for Chris Scott.