Geelong coach Chris Scott knows the clock is ticking as his AFL side attempt to rediscover the form that earned them the tag of premiership favourites.
The seventh-placed Cats host second-placed Adelaide on Saturday in a crunch clash, with just one game and half a percentage point separating them on the ladder.
Geelong are coming off a scrappy win over Fremantle in round 17, having slipped down the ladder this month.
Losses to Sydney and St Kilda hit the club’s top-four hopes and tarnished their premiership credentials.
“The highest priority is playing our best football at the end of the year. We need to start building now, because clearly for a number of weeks we’ve been off that,” Scott said on Thursday.
“Given the way Adelaide are playing, you’d think they won’t lose too many.
“So to isolate it to the two teams, if we’re looking to displace them (in the top four) it’s obviously a really important game.
“We need to play better than we did last week because Adelaide are the most attacking and best-scoring team in the competition … if we let them score the way they have been, we won’t win.”
Scott has dealt with a diverse range of concerns this week.
The list includes slow ball movement, spearhead Tom Hawkins’ form and defender Lachie Henderson’s cognitive state.
Henderson was stretchered off Domain Stadium in a neck brace last Friday night, having been knocked out in a collision with Fremantle’s Chris Mayne.
Henderson remains in doubt for the clash with Adelaide but Scott noted the club is “still giving him a chance” of playing.
The 2011 premiership coach has a simple approach to concussion, one of AFL’s most complicated issues.
“I just talk to the doctors. Even to the point where I don’t even ask Lachie how he is. Because I don’t think it makes much difference, it’s what the doctors think,” Scott said.
“Lachie can say he’s fine and the doctors may well overrule him and that’s the way it should be.”
Scott is taking a more hands-on approach in Hawkins’ battle to return to his game-breaking best, which has been rarely sighted this season.
“Tom and I, as coach and key player, spend a lot of time talking about his game. We’re optimistic he’s going to improve quickly,” Scott said.
“Tom, by his own admission, hasn’t played the way he aspires to over the last 18 months.”
Meanwhile, 2007 Brownlow medallist Jimmy Bartel will return against the Crows after being rested from the trip west.