Geelong will attack Saturday's elimination final against Essendon with a double-edged sword, as they look to get some game time into Nakia Cockatoo and Jed Bews in the lead-up to next Friday night's qualifying final against Hawthorn at the MCG.
Cockatoo, having only recently made a return through the VFL from surgery to his right knee, will be one to watch, as the livewire attempts to hit form on the eve of the AFL finals.
Nakia Cockatoo of the Cats celebrates a goal against Essendon last month. Photo: Getty Images
AFL Victoria has allowed players who played in round 23 in the AFL to play in the VFL finals, as long as they had played more than six VFL matches this season.
Bews is one of those. The crafty defender is considered a strong chance to return to the AFL line-up against the Hawks, given that he has performed admirably in the past on Cyril Rioli.
The Cats' depth will be on show with George Horlin-Smith, Nathan Vardy, Shane Kersten, Darcy Lang, Cam Delaney and Billie Smedts also pushing for a senior recall. Horlin-Smith and Smedts came off 30-plus-disposal performances last week.
Cats VFL coach Shane O'Bree said this week that he believed the Cats could win the flag from outside of the top four. They are in form after an impressive win over Port Melbourne last weekend.
The Cats have won VFL flags in 2007 and 2012. They were trendsetters in producing AFL stand-alone teams in the VFL; a trend that now includes their rivals Essendon, premiership fancy Collingwood, Footscray and Richmond.
The Western Bulldogs opted to leave Jake Stringer out of Footscray's qualifying final against Casey, citing a five-day break would not be enough to allow Stringer to return in Thursday night's AFL qualifying final against West Coast at Domain Stadium.
Bulldogs VFL coach Ash Hansen believes Stringer has shown enough in his performances in the VFL over the past two weeks.
"We know Jake Stringer, at his best, is very good and he's certainly going to complement our AFL side," Hansen said.
Will Minson, who did feature in round 23 of the AFL season, has been named to play for Footscray, which raises doubt as to whether he will be selected for the elimination final against the Eagles.
While the Bulldogs received their request of a Saturday VFL final, they would undoubtedly liked to have played their AFL final next Saturday – which would have given them the chance of playing more senior-listed players in the VFL.
Instead, they have named a young squad to take on the Scorpions, which will make them significant underdogs at Casey Fields.
Geelong and the Western Bulldogs are the only AFL finals participants with teams in the VFL finals.
Collingwood, meanwhile, have named Alan Toovey, Marley Williams, Jarrod Witts and Brent Macaffer for their qualifying final clash against Williamstown.
Williamstown premiership midfielder Cameron Lockwood this week declared this to be his last hurrah, as he hangs up the boots after the finals.
Sunday's elimination final – Port Melbourne v Sandringham – shapes as one to watch given both teams have shown plenty of promise at different stages of the season. It could be Paul Hudson's last game as Zebras coach, after announcing last week that he will be departing from St Kilda.
VFL FINALS WEEK 1 (with tips in capitals)
1st qualifying final: CASEY SCORPIONS v Footscray, Casey Fields, 2pm
2nd qualifying final: Collingwood v WILLIAMSTOWN, IKON Park, 2pm
1st elimination final: GEELONG v Essendon, North Port Oval, 2.40pm
2nd elimination final: PORT MELBOURNE v Sandringham, North Port Oval, 2.40pm