CHRIS Scott has been in this situation before.
Approaching September after a strong home and away season, maneuvering personnel is once again Geelong's biggest challenge before next Friday night's date with Collingwood.
In previous years the Cats coach has often stuck true with first-choice players, even playing them out of position to squeeze them in for finals at the expense of more inexperienced types.
Now it's like Groundhog Day, as he faces similar calls on his No.1 ruckman, rebounding defender Zach Tuohy and key backman Lachie Henderson, among others.
It leaves the Cats as the most fascinating of all teams come the selection announcement at 6.20pm AEST next Thursday.
Provided part-time ruckman Mark Blicavs remains in defence like he did in the final round against Carlton, the Cats will be forced to split the other six defensive spots across eight.
Against the Blues, Blicavs partnered Henderson, Jack Henry, Tom Stewart, Mark O'Connor, Jed Bews and Harry Taylor in the Cats' traditional system of seven defenders – a starting six with one on the bench.
One change will be needed in order to find room for Jake Kolodjashnij to return from a hip complaint and renew his battle with Jordan De Goey.
Jake Kolodjashnij is expected to return and man up on Jordan De Goey. Picture: AFL Photos
The other man in question for defence is Tuohy, who spent the last fortnight of the season playing as a forward.
With Henderson the most likely to fall out for Kolodjashnij, yet another tough call would need to be made on Bews or Henry to find room for Tuohy.
It's a position that will be debated at length inside GMHBA Stadium for the next seven days.
That's unless Scott keeps Tuohy in the reckoning as a forward.
Will Tuohy keep his spot in the team? Picture: AFL Photos
Then he would find himself in a fight with first-year rookie Tom Atkins, who comes back into the selection frame after missing the win over the Blues with a hand injury.
Gary Ablett, Gryan Miers and Luke Dahlhaus are locks, with Quinton Narkle and Brandan Parfitt also impressing as forward/midfielders in recent weeks.
It would leave only one spot for Atkins or Tuohy to work at the feet of Tom Hawkins and Esava Ratugolea.
A 23-year-old in Atkins who has been played as a pressure forward all season and ranked No.2 for tackles at the Cats.
Or a star rebounding defender in Tuohy who has suffered injuries who this year and found his way out of the best defensive unit and played nine quarters in his life as a forward.
It looms as one of Scott's biggest selection calls of the year – but Atkins must have the inside running having played the role all year.
The coach, who is 3-9 in finals since the 2011 premiership, has lived it before.
Last year he flipped Scott Selwood to attack for the final two matches of the year, including the elimination final on a night Geelong laid just one forward-50 tackle compared to Melbourne's 16 in the opening half.
It was a similar case with Kolodjashnij who couldn't crack a berth in defence in back-to-back seasons in 2017 and 2018 and found himself on a wing for September.
Henderson is another who knows it all too well, playing 98 per cent of 2016 as a defender up to round 21 before he was thrust forward late in the year.
With Jordan Clark's magnet also back on the whiteboard as he returns from an elbow injury, the Cats have a full list to pick from.
Now it's time to put the magnets where they belong.
MITCH CLEARY'S MOCK TEAM FOR THE QUALIFYING FINAL
B: Jed Bews, Mark Blicavs, Jack Henry
HB: Mark O'Connor, Harry Taylor, Tom Stewart
C: Mitch Duncan, Cameron Guthrie, Joel Selwood
HF: Luke Dahlhaus, Esava Ratugolea, Gryan Miers
F: Gary Ablett, Tom Hawkins, Gary Rohan
Foll: Rhys Stanley, Patrick Dangerfield, Tim Kelly
I/C: Brandan Parfitt, Quinton Narkle, Jake Kolodjashnij, Tom Atkins
Emerg: Sam Menegola, Zach Tuohy, Zac Smith, Jordan Clark
In: Jake Kolodjashnij, Tom Atkins
Out: Lachie Henderson (omitted), Zach Tuohy (omitted)
CHRIS SCOTT'S BIG FINALS SELECTION CALLS
2018 elimination final v Melbourne @ MCG – Lost by 29 points
- Scott Selwood played as a forward for a third consecutive week after spending just eight per cent of matches in attack prior to round 22. Small forwards Quinton Narkle and Lachie Fogarty were overlooked.
- Jake Kolodjashnij played as a wingman for just the second week. Prior to round 23 he had played only one per cent of matches out of defence.
2017 qualifying final v Richmond @ MCG – Lost by 51 points
- Dropped Daniel Menzel after 38 goals in 17 matches and Wylie Buzza after he had featured in four of the final five home and away matches of the season. With Harry Taylor starting forward with Tom Hawkins, the Cats kicked just five goals for the night.
The Harry Taylor experiment up forward failed in 2017. Picture: AFL Photos
2017 preliminary final v Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval – Lost by 61 points
- Nakia Cockatoo recalled six weeks after doing his third hamstring of the season and plays 62 per cent of game time, a team-low.
2016 preliminary final v Sydney @ MCG – Lost by 37 points
- Lachie Henderson recalled 32 days after injuring his knee in round 22 – a match in which he played forward. In the first 21 weeks of the season, Henderson had played 98 per cent of game time in defence.