Hawthorn has never had a better opportunity to break its five-year run of losses to Geelong than Friday night's preliminary final. The Hawks have better form. They have enjoyed a rest the Cats haven't. And significantly, they have a selection problem Geelong wouldn't mind.
While Geelong ponders the potential replacements for the perhaps irreplaceable Paul Chapman (suspended), continues to try to make do without defensive maestro Corey Enright, and once again works out what ruck combination to go with, Hawthorn's only issue when it names its 22 will be who to leave out.
The ins for the Hawks don't come any better than Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli. But given how well Hawthorn has coped without Rioli for the past two games and "Buddy" for the qualifying final win over Sydney, there's two Hawks who are going to be unlucky to miss out.
Matt Spangher appears an obvious omission for Franklin, despite having played forward and shouldered some of the ruck burden for the absent Max Bailey against Sydney in round 23, then helped out in attack in Franklin's absence in the first week of finals.
Jed Anderson appears the likely “out” for Rioli, but has also shown a bit in the past two games, coming off the substitute bench, kicking a goal in both games and looking dangerous with his pace.
Geelong, presuming it accepts Chapman's one-game penalty, loses both a goalkicking forward and a potential midfield number. Given how critical his four goals were against Port Adelaide, it's a sizeable blow, though there are at least several selection options.
Josh Caddy has the front-running, given it was only an ankle injury that forced him out of the semi-final. But Geelong might also consider Jesse Stringer or Jordan Murdoch, who both had an impact in the win over Hawthorn in round 15.
It was Murdoch's three last-quarter goals that helped give Geelong a big enough buffer to withstand a late Hawthorn charge, while Stringer came off the subs' bench to kick a goal and set up another.
The Cats will also have what is becoming a weekly debate about their ruck situation. Nathan Vardy and Mark Blicavs were taken to the cleaners by Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands and Zac Clarke, but were a lot more competitive against Port Adelaide youngster Matthew Lobbe last Friday night.
But the more experienced premiership ruckman Trent West is pushing hard, despite having played just two senior games since round 11. West racked up 66 hitouts in Geelong's VFL win against Williamstown on Saturday.
Vardy and Blicavs have it all over West for mobility and versatility, but West averages more hitouts to advantage.
Whichever way they decide to go, the Cats will be taking in a combination that hasn't previously faced up to Hawthorn's Bailey and David Hale. West and Blicavs were smashed by the Hawk pair in round one, and the injured Dawson Simpson and Blicavs were more competitive against the same Hawks in round 15.
It's a structural issue the Cats haven't really resolved all season. Needless to say, with a grand final spot on the line, they've left it pretty late to do so.