It’ll be 15 days between games once the Cats run out onto Optus Stadium on Saturday, but as Chris Scott said earlier this week, Geelong expects to face a very different West Coast outfit to the one we’ve seen in the early part of the season.
It's been a challenging year of the Eagles, but this week, they’ll welcome back a host of prime movers, including premiership stars Jeremy McGovern, Willie Rioli, Elliot Yeo and Dom Sheed.
In that context, the standard, ‘where is it won or lost’ question got a somewhat different response from the Cats' senior coach this week:
“We need to take away their strengths to an extent,” he said.
But then this:
“We generally tend to be a team that focuses on what we do, but this week warrants just a little bit more depth of research into the distant history with the names they’ve got coming back.”
"It wasn't long ago that they were one of the top teams in the competition and the most obvious change since then is a lack of continuity with personnel. And that seems to be back.
"It's hard to know exactly whether they're going to be the same as they were back then. But I think it's more likely that there will be the sort of 2018 version or 2019 version rather than the 2022 version."
It’s unique but warranted; this week’s Eagles will not look like the one currently sitting in last place on the AFL ladder with a percentage of 50.7%, and the Cats are planning accordingly.
So how that plays out, we’ll find out soon
Here are a couple of things to look out for once the ball is bounced at 4.35pm:
The Geelong Defence
Tom Stewart has been cleared to return after copping a head knock against the Bulldogs a fortnight ago, a gap that was more than ably filled by the rapidly improving Zach Guthrie.
But Stewart is arguably the best defender in the game, and if you add in a returning Jake Kolodjashni, the home team's ability score becomes much harder.
In Round 12 they went forward 44 times, which was five up on their season average of 39 inside 50s. For context, most teams are getting into their strike zone somewhere between 50 and 58 times per game this season.
Another Tomahawk Milestone
At the other end of the ground, Geelong forward Tom Hawkins will be sitting on 698 career goals when the ball is bounced on Saturday.
As selfless a player as we know the big Hawk is, he would have seen Jeremy Cameron snag his 500th against the Bulldogs two weeks ago and will be very hungry for his own slice of the pie.
No one wants to be a key defender when the big forwards are eyeing off milestones like that, no matter who you play for.
This will be just the third time in four years Geelong has played West Coast at Optus Stadium, for two, albeit tight, losses. Overall, they’re three wins from eight games since the stadium opened in 2018. Not bad, but not great either.
It’s shorter and wider than GMHBA Stadium back in Geelong, but with the Cats also training at the much bigger Deakin University Elite Sports Precinct in Waurn Ponds, the Cats are as well prepared a club as there is.
In short, when the Cats are at their best, they’re a tough match-up, whatever the postcode.