A host of in-form players has Geelong’s back half in great touch as they prepare for a tough challenge against Essendon this weekend.

Despite losing the first three games of the season, the Cats boast the second-most miserly defence in the league, having conceded an average of just 76.5 points a game, behind only ladder-leaders St Kilda (59.5).

But it is the flexibility of Geelong’s defenders that has come to the fore in recent weeks, and will come into play again with Jack Henry and Jed Bews still to come back into the team.

Discussing the looming selection dilemma for the Cats on this week’s To the Final Bell podcast, hosts Cameron Ling and Meghan McDonald said the flexibility of Geelong’s defenders gives them options, although it would be a squeeze.

“It’s great to be back in a position where you’re thinking, ‘How are people going to fit into the 22?’,” McDonald said.

With Ling labelling Sam De Koning and Tom Stewart as “locks”, he said there was probably room for one more genuine tall defender, with Esava Ratugolea’s form coming along nicely in his new role.

“I think Jack Henry’s flexibility means he’s not just a tall defender,” Ling said.

“And Kola’s (Jake Kolodjashnij’s) form at the moment is just outstanding.

“He’s always been a really solid defender, but also to get involved in the attacking side of the game (has been fantastic).

“So if Kola is a lock, you need the smaller-type defenders. Now, Jed Bews will come back in at some stage, and he’s obviously a really important player.

“You’ve (also) got the really flexible players of Mitch Duncan, Zach Tuohy, Mark O’Connor – those sorts of players that can come through there, through the middle, through the wing.

“Jack Bowes is in that group as well. His ability to go back there, but also play through the wing, play the middle, (and he’s) a good kicker of the ball.”

De Koning joined the group of defenders with multiple strings to their bow on Saturday night, showing against Sydney that he is more than capable of stepping into the ruck when required, as he offered great support to stand-in ruck Mark Blicavs.

“He (De Koning) handled it beautifully and ‘Blitz’ handled it beautifully. There was no drop off, there was no disadvantage in the hit-outs where the Cats’ midfielders were forced to be on the back foot,” Ling said.

McDonald agreed, pointing out that it wasn’t the first time De Koning had shown attributes that are handy for the Cats’ on-ball brigade.

“I love DK’s handballing – I think his ability to release teammates into space is pretty special,” she said.

“I remember noticing it for the first time in that great Collingwood game last year – Round 3 in the fourth quarter. To see him around the ball is really exciting. To think that he’s in a position where he’s got the back stuff sorted and down-pat so he can move around is exciting as well, because he’s still a young player.”

Sam De Koning competes in the ruck against Sydney in Round 6. Photo: AFL Photos

McDonald also lauded the stabilising effect Kolodjashnij has had behind the ball since returning in Round 4.

Ling said Zach Guthrie had also well and truly laid claim to a spot in Geelong’s back six, with McDonald agreeing he had been one of the Cats’ most consistent performers across the opening six rounds.

“Zach Guthrie, for me, the way he is playing right now, he’s locked away,” Ling said.

“Talk about confidence in one-on-one … I love his story. We’ve spoken about it before on the podcast, but … some people’s development takes multiple years, others like Nick Daicos can, day-one, just be phenomenal.

“Zach Guthrie has taken those years, but is now a crucial part of that backline. He’s not going anywhere.”