HAWTHORN captain Luke Hodge says his one-week rest has given him a timely freshen up before Friday night's qualifying final against Geelong, helping heal a 'grumbly' knee.
Hodge was rested for the Hawks' round 23 win over Collingwood, while midfielder Brad Hill was a late withdrawal with a corked quad and defender Ben Stratton missed with a corked calf.
With Matt Suckling also pushing to return from a minor knee injury, the Hawks could be boosted by up to four key inclusions, but coach Alastair Clarkson was tight-lipped on Monday morning.
Hodge, however, is certain to return and said he would be better for the week off.
"I was obviously disappointed not to play last week, but I copped a hit on the knee a few weeks ago and it was just a little bit grumbly," he said.
"Did I want to play? Yes. But am I little bit better off now? I am, so I'm just looking forward to Friday night."
Key defender Brian Lake was substituted out of Friday night's win over Collingwood with a corked hip, but Hodge said he had recovered well.
The Norm Smith medallist will be a key player as the Hawks confront in-form Cats forward Tom Hawkins, who booted seven goals against the Brisbane Lions on Saturday night.
"I saw Lakey yesterday and he was moving around quite freely," Hodge said.
"No doubt (Hawkins) has been a big player for them the last few years in finals, but whether it's Lakey or Gibbo (Josh Gibson), we rely on all defenders to work as a unit.
"It's not one person that's going to be able to stop Hawkins."
Clarkson said the Hawks had learned a valuable lesson against the Cats when they last met in round 22, with anything less than their best unlikely to be enough to win.
He said facing the same opponent two weeks later was not an issue.
"That's the way that it's dealt. Last year we played Sydney in the last home and away game and again the following week," he said.
"That was even more peculiar than what we're going to face this time.
"We saw contrasting halves in that game (two weeks ago), and if you don't bring your best footy against any of these sides in September you're going to really battle.
"It was a hard lesson to learn, but we responded really well after half-time ... if we don't play some of our best football we won't continue to progress."
Clarkson said the Hawks would be planning for Geelong's best team, which would include star midfielder Steve Johnson, who has missed three matches with a hot spot in his foot.
The Cats have said Johnson will return this week if he is able to train, with Clarkson saying, "We'd expect that Stevie J will probably be there."
At Hawthorn there is selection intrigue in the ruck, with Jonathon Ceglar favoured as the No.1 big man alongside David Hale instead of high-profile recruit Ben McEvoy for the past two matches.
Clarkson said the club didn't need a settled ruck combination through the finals and its best pairing could change depending on match-ups.
"We've been in the fortunate position to have three guys who have all been playing good football'" he said.
"Ben's last two weeks in the Box Hill side, he's played some really good football. Cegs and Haley have been playing some good footy at senior level too.
"It'll depend on their form ... it'll also depend on match-ups and what opposition are doing and also the balance of our own side.
"We'll make those decisions as we need through the finals series."