ALIIR Aliir's first-quarter domination against Geelong last week had far-reaching consequences beyond just the Power's qualifying final win.  

It resulted in the biggest shift at the Cats' match committee ahead of their semi-final against Greater Western Sydney. 

Aliir's four intercept marks in the opening 30 minutes directly led to two Power goals and set up a crushing win against the Cats. 

And Chris Scott wasn't about to see a repeat performance from a Giant again. Enter Esava Ratugolea. 

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Highlights: Geelong v GWS

The Cats and Giants clash in the Semi Finals

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Replacing Luke Dahlhaus in the Cats' forward structure, Ratugolea collected just five disposals but was able to engage another Giants tall defender (Phil Davis came in as a late inclusion to add to height in defence) and open up one-on-one opportunities for his high-profile teammates. 

Last week Scott lamented a lack of forward 50 tackling intensity, so dropping pressure forward Dahlhaus was a tricky call at selection. But equally as important was the Cats' tall forwards' ability to bring the ball to ground and challenge the Giants' interceptors. 

Geelong's social media accounts praised the 'Tom and Jerry Show' on Friday night as Hawkins (five goals) and Cameron (two) starred in front of the big sticks. But it may not have been as easy without Ratugolea in the support role. 

"I thought our players ahead of the ball looked much more dangerous and challenged the opposition a lot more," Scott said following the 35-point win over the Giants. 

"I thought he (Ratugolea) was really strong, I'm happy to say now Esava was a little bit sore a couple of weeks ago and was unavailable. Now that he's available, we think that's a really viable option. I was pleased with what he gave tonight."

Soreness or not, it was a clear shift from Geelong at the selection table. 

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For just the third time this year, the Cats played Ratugolea in the same side as ruckman Rhys Stanley and forwards Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron. Of the other two games – explosive forward Gary Rohan missed one and ruck/defender Mark Blicavs sat out the other. 

The move on Friday night allowed Stanley to run Shane Mumford off his legs around the ground and have Ratugolea as a pinch-hit option when required, all while leaving Blicavs permanently in defence. 

It came after young gun Sam Taylor produced a game for the ages as an intercept defender opposed to Hawkins in the Giants' upset win against Geelong in round 21. 

Cameron also missed that night, so his return against his former side provided a massive headache. But this time with Nick Haynes playing as the interceptor, it didn't have the same effect with three tall forwards to consider. 

Speaking to Channel Seven post-match, Hawkins was quick to highlight the ball use of the midfielders in having a major bearing on the Cats' ability to hit the scoreboard. 

However, it became an easier passage to goal without an interceptor standing in their way like Aliir did last week that forced the Cats to re-jig their ball movement at Adelaide Oval. Last week the Cats scored from 38 per cent of inside 50 entries. Against the Giants that efficiency jumped to 59 per cent. 

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The Cats will have plenty to consider at selection again next week ahead of a preliminary final date with Melbourne. Quinton Narkle looms as the best like-for-like replacement as a stoppage specialist for the hamstrung Brandan Parfitt. 

But Ratugolea appears to have done enough to retain his spot. 

Along with Aliir's performance last week, Jake Lever's seven intercept possessions in the second half of the Demons' round 23 come-from-behind win in Geelong will be fresh in the Cats' minds. 

Esava Ratugolea celebrates a goal in Geelong's win over GWS in a semi-final on September 3, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Ratugolea's involvement would ensure the Demons have to use Lever to cover one of the Cats' three talls and not just use Harrison Petty and Steven May as their only lockdown defenders. 

If the Cats' ball use is quick enough then Max Gawn won't be able to push back in front of his back six as much as he would like, and Joel Smith appears undersized to take one of the Cats' big three. 

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Geelong is 12-2 in games Ratugolea has played this season and 5-5 without him. 

But the most telling stat at selection this week might be the fact they're 1-0 with Ratugolea playing in the same side as Hawkins, Cameron, Stanley, Rohan and Blicavs together.