Interested rival clubs can expect Geelong to set a high price for defender Esava Ratugolea come the 2023 trade period, with Cats coach Chris Scott labelling the off-contract tall "a very valuable player" to the club.

Scott is hopeful Ratugolea sees out the rest of his AFL career at Kardinia Park, however a queue of clubs is forming for the off-contract 25-year-old.

Port Adelaide are among the sides showing some level of interest in the forward-turned-backman, with the Power having narrowly missed out on securing Ratugolea's signature last year despite mutual interest.

Geelong stood firm in trade negotiations last year and held Ratugolea to his contract, with the Griffith-born Cat enjoying arguably his best year in the hoops in a new role in Scott's backline.

With his contract coming to an end this year, coupled with his promising transition into defence, Ratugolea has gained more suitors this season, with the likes of Hawthorn, Essendon and Sydney potentially joining the Power in showing some interest through the off-season.

But any bidding war will likely lead to a decent return for the Cats if Ratugolea is to depart the club that recruited him in 2016, with Scott a significant admirer of the 197cm swingman.

Geelong and Ratugolea's party have held recent discussions, with Scott stating he'll be "fighting very, very hard" to retain him.

"As time's gone on I've tried to be clearer about how we actually work, again we're not an open book in this respect, there's some things we do that we're not going to explain in great detail to everyone else," Scott told media on Friday.

"Suffice to say, I don't make list management calls, I'm involved in them, and I've been really clear how highly I rate Esava.

"I'm looking forward to him playing out the rest of his career at the Cats. He's a very valuable player and I think he's only just started to show the type of player he can be.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: Esava Ratugolea of the Cats and Marlion Pickett of the Tigers in action during the 2021 AFL Round 08 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Geelong Cats at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 07, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

"I'll be fighting very, very hard to keep him at the Cats... It is a competition, you just don't give those guys away, they're very high value."

Ratugolea may have played his last game for the Cats after injuring his hamstring in last week's defeat to St Kilda - a loss that has since seen Geelong's finals chances dashed.

After a busy off-season last year that looked to have buoyed the reigning premiers flag chances for 2023, the Cats will head back to the drawing board earlier this off-season to assess what voids they can fill through trade, free agency and draft avenues.

When asked if there were areas of focus for recruitment, Scott flagged further midfield and forward depth would be ideal, but understands the difficulty in adding top-line talent.

"There is (areas we'd like to add to), but I think it's the same as most clubs," Scott said. "It's also sort of hard to do.

"We'd love a gun inside mid and the best young key forward in the comp. But then you sort of work back from there.

"Our list management team has done a really good job over the last four or five years to slowly build out what we needed to do. That process started before 2022. I didn't quite expect Sam De Koning to have the year he had last year, and Tyson Stengle up the other end of the ground (too).

"We're optimistic that we've been rebuilding by stealth over the last four or five years. We feel like we've got a nucleus of young guys who can go on to be really high-level players."

Among Geelong's potential targets to fill a void in midfield are Essendon free agent Darcy Parishg and contracted Western Bulldogs youngster Bailey Smith, with Scott questioned on the club's reported interest in the latter.

Bailey Smith during the 2022 AFL Round 1 match between Melbourne and Western Bulldogs (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

Scott said any club would be open to adding a player like Smith, but almost every side would face hurdles in wanting to acquire a player of his standard.

"I'm not really across the situation there, I've heard it brought up a few times," Scott said of the rumours lining Smith to Geelong.

"He kind of fits into that category of a young sort of inside mid and those sort of guys. If anyone is being honest, go to 17 other clubs and say 'would you like that caibre of player?' The short answer is yes, the longer answer is that it kind of depends, they're hard to get, as they should be.

"If you want something, like the Ratugolea example, then it's really costly. You've got to weigh that up."

Geelong's first pick at the National Draft currently sits at Pick 8, however that selection could fall anywhere between sixth and 10th in the draft order by the end of this weekend.