GEELONG is preparing to enter another finals series with an unsettled ruck set-up as Rhys Stanley’s recovery from injury takes longer than expected.
The Cats will regain Joel Selwood (knee) and Gary Ablett (quarantine) for Sunday’s date with Sydney, however Stanley is set to miss a third consecutive game with a groin complaint.
THE FULL INJURY LIST Who is racing the clock?
Without Stanley in the past two games, the Cats have used a combination of Mark Blicavs, Esava Ratugolea and Josh Jenkins in the ruck.
Stanley was injured in the dying stages of the round 14 win over the Western Bulldogs and was limited at training the following week.
Despite surprisingly being named to face Essendon, the Cats’ No.1 ruckman was a late withdrawal and replaced by Jenkins for his first game for the club.
Stanley again missed the Cats’ loss to Richmond on Friday night and failed to train alongside teammates on Tuesday in a worrying sign his injury is worse than first feared.
LADDER PREDICTOR Where will your team finish?
It is likely to leave Blicavs to shoulder the bulk of the ruck responsibility against the Swans on Sunday, with assistance from Ratguolea, should the young forward again be selected.
Picked for only his second game in eight weeks, Ratugolea took a career-high five contested marks against the Tigers and attended 13 ruck contests behind Mark Blicavs (36).
The form of talls Harry Taylor, Lachie Henderson, Jack Henry and Jake Kolodjashnij has eased the reliance on Blicavs in defence this season.
Darcy Fort is also waiting in the wings should the Cats turn to a traditional big man with the second-year ruckman enjoying a solid fortnight of scratch matches off a foot injury.
Last year the Cats used Blicavs in the No.1 ruck role for rounds 21 and 22 and reverted to Stanley in round 23.
DEFENDER, WING, RUCK Where is Blicavs’ best position?
They then dropped Stanley and flipped back to Blicavs for the qualifying final against Collingwood before recalling Stanley for finals against West Coast and Richmond.
Meantime, the Cats are also sweating on the fitness of Gary Rohan who was a late withdrawal against the Tigers with a glute injury.
The explosive forward failed to train fully on Tuesday and was reduced to individual running away from his teammates.
Midfield recruit Jack Steven is also in doubt for his third consecutive game due to a jaw injury.
GEELONG RUCK CONTESTS
R14 v Western Bulldogs
35 – Mark Blicavs
32 – Rhys Stanley
12 – Tom Hawkins
R16 v Essendon
28 – Josh Jenkins
28 – Mark Blicavs
7 – Tom Hawkins
R17 v Richmond
36 – Mark Blicavs
13 – Esava Ratugolea
6 – Tom Hawkins