NOW THAT Geelong is assured of a top-two spot and a resultant home qualifying final, the Cats face the challenge of finally burying their post-bye curse.
Geelong has a dreadful record the week after a bye, losing their past nine games immediately following a mid-season break, and also succumbing after their past two pre-finals byes.
The Cats' only victory in this 12-game sequence over the past eight years came after the inaugural pre-finals bye in 2016, when they pipped Hawthorn by two points in a qualifying final.
Geelong coach Chris Scott has tried various things in an effort to improve his team's performance after a rest, but he remains philosophical about an issue that has Cats fans more than a little anxious about how their team will play in their first final against an as yet undetermined opponent.
"We've got a plan in place. The pre-finals bye is very different to the mid-season bye – there's different priorities in your preparation. They are significantly different," Scott told reporters after the Cats thumped Carlton by 68 points at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.
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"I think it's fair to say – this might sound self-serving – we don't set up our season to make sure that our best game of the year is the game post the mid-season bye. But we do set it up so that we're in pretty good shape coming into the first week of the finals.
"That doesn't mean you're always going to deliver. Not many teams have great finals records out there – you tend to (either) be the best team or you lose in finals."
Scott reiterated his concerns about the MCG hosting the Grand Final until 2057, saying "the system is wrong".
"I'm going to take it away from the Geelong thing, because anyone that's not a Geelong supporter just considers it whingeing," Scott said.
"The one thing I will say is that most normal people know the system is wrong. There can be no doubting that it's wrong. But it is what it is. West Coast and Brisbane, GWS for that matter, maybe the Crows or Port, have to come and win a Grand Final, probably at their opposition's home ground as well. The system's bizarre. So you need to be that little bit better, which West Coast were last year.
"Are we confident we're that? We're hopeful. We've had a good preparation. We've given ourselves every chance. Now whether we can go and beat teams that play 15 games at the MCG every year, including probably 10 or 12 in a row, is yet to be seen. But we're up for the challenge."
Scott was particularly pleased with his team's efforts in the first half against the Blues when it engineered an impregnable lead.
Although the Cats had been expected to win comfortably, the coach believed it was "good preparation for what we're going to be up against hopefully in the next month".
"We think we've prepared really well – in some ways you prefer not to have the week off. We think we're ready to go now," he said.
"We'll go into a finals series pretty confident that we're playing good enough footy to get the job done."
The extra week might enable a few players to enter the selection mix.
Scott was "very confident" defender Jake Kolodjashnij (hip) would be fit for the first final but wasn't as bullish about young runner Jordan Clark (elbow). Meanwhile, pressure forward Tom Atkins (hand) could play in the VFL next week before returning in a qualifying final.
With players such as Quinton Narkle performing strongly, Scott forecast some selection "headaches" in trying to fit players into the team.
In Atkins' absence, the coach was happy with Zach Tuohy's two-goal effort after being swung forward.
Geelong's ruck dilemma appears to have been solved with Rhys Stanley making a positive return to the side, beating experienced Blues big man Matthew Kreuzer.
"I thought he played well, right from the first centre bounce of the game, against a good opponent," Scott said.
In another positive development for the Cats, midfielder Mitch Duncan has been given the all clear after battling a left shoulder issue throughout the game.
Scott was also full of praise for superstar midfielder Patrick Dangerfield, who was best-on-ground with 34 possessions (18 contested), 12 clearances, six tackles and 4.3.
"I'm biased but I think he's the best player in the comp ... I think he's in a rare patch of form, even for him," Scott said.