VICTORIOUS Geelong coach Chris Scott has revealed how close former Hawk Isaac Smith came to missing the clash against his old team on Easter Monday.
Smith was among the Cats' best in the five-point victory over Hawthorn at the MCG, with the 32-year-old picking up 15 disposals and six marks in another polished performance for his new club.
But the three-time premiership player, who crossed to the Cats during last year's trade period, was almost forced to miss the match due to illness.
"I don't normally divulge these things and I don't want anyone to feel sorry for him, but he only just made it to the line," Scott said.
"He was ill in the last couple of days and that added to the pressure a bit for him.
"He couldn't come to training yesterday ... so clearly he was affected, but I thought he was good for us and it was good for him to see the other side of the fence.
"He seemed like he handled it pretty well. He is a confident sort of guy and I thought our players really supported him.
"We brought him in for a reason and he has really delivered on that in spades to his point."
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While Scott was more than happy to bank the four points, he said his team must find a way to move the ball quicker and score more heavily if it wants to maintain its position at the pointy end of the ladder.
"I think if you miss the paradigm shift, you can be left behind very, very quickly," Scott said.
"Let's use Sydney as an example, the game has changed and those teams (at the top) look sharp.
"We have got to find a way through and when we find our way through this little patch at the moment we have got to find a way to be a whole lot better to be able to compete with some of those teams."
The absence of key players hasn't helped the Cats so far this campaign, with key forward Jeremy Cameron yet to feature and star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield serving a three-match suspension.
Two new injuries were added to the Cats' casualty list on Monday, with off-season recruit Shaun Higgins (hamstring) and fellow forward Francis Evans (syndesmosis) set for stints on the sidelines after being unable to play out the match.
"It's always a challenge when you lose a cluster of players from that part of the ground," Scott said.
"The team we were looking at five weeks ago is different to the one we put out last week and today, but the good teams find a way through."
While disappointed to fall agonisingly short, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson saw plenty of positives in the way his young team went about its business.
"We made plenty of blues across the game, but our spirit, our endeavour and our intent was commendable," Clarkson said.
"Our polish with the ball and our capacity to execute and hurt the Geelong side wasn't at the level we needed to be, but we grow with every experience.
"The last two weeks we have played the Grand Finalists from last year so it is a tough start to the year.
"We have shown in both those games that there has been passages of play when we move the ball well and our intent is strong we are right in games of footy.
"We just let ourselves down at different stages. That will get better with more time and more games under their belt, but it will take a bit of time and take a bit of hurt like losing a game of footy like today."
The Hawks have just six days to lick their wounds and gear up for the trip across the Nullarbor to tackle Fremantle at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
Clarkson knows the trip west will be a tough one for his charges but is confident his team is on the improve.
"I am sure the supporters out there are proud of the efforts of our boys today," he said.
"We play Freo in Perth next week and the challenges don't get any easier. that is the nature of our game.
"We will see if we can bit by bit master this very difficult game."