A Round 13 bye will land in a timely window for Chris Scott as the Geelong senior coach looks to welcome back an array of star talent.
On Friday night the Cats staved off a surging Bulldogs outfit to hold a 13-point lead at the final siren, battling with the 2021 grand finalists without star defender Tom Stewart for the final three-quarters of the match.
Stewart was subbed out of the match with a head/jaw complaint, with the Cats' medical staff putting the All-Australian backman under concussion tests before ruling him out for the remainder of the evening.
While Stewart was feeling fine post-match, a decision was made to substitute the 29-year-old after analysing footage of an incident that left him grounded in the opening term.
"He's adamant that he's fine," Scott said post-match. "Apparently the vision was the nail in his coffin.
"The good news is, as far as he was concerned, and everyone else, he's pretty much symptom free."
Stewart's early absence further depleted the Cats' tall defensive stocks, with Jake Kolodjashniji ruled out hours prior to the opening bounce under AFL health and safety protocols.
With young gun Jack Henry remaining sidelined since Round 5 with a foot injury, young tall Sam De Koning was the only key-backman left on the field for Geelong against the Bulldogs.
The 21-year-old flourished in his matchup with high-flying Dogs star Aaron Naughton, a performance that gained heavy praise from teammate Zach Tuohy.
“[De Koning] is a super special player,” he told 3AW Football after the game.
“Honestly, he’s playing like one of the best key backs in the game right now, much less one of the best young players in the game and I hope he gets the recognition he deserves when they’re handing out some of those young player awards, he was unbelievable tonight."
While De Koning was able to take on the bulk of the workload, he won't have to do so for much longer.
A bye next week will give the Cats time to potentially welcome the likes of Henry, Stewart and Kolodjashnij back into their 22.
Scott highlighted that while injuries have stunted his side's chances across the past 12 months, they've also acted as an opportunity to accelerate the development of others.
"When Kolodjashnij went out, we didn't have an option to bring in a key defender, we don't have one. The bye's come at a good time, we'll get half a dozen back after the bye," Scott said.
"Last year when Tom went down before the finals, it didn't work out well for us at the end of the year.
"But there's an argument to say it was good for Kolodjashnij and good for Jack Henry to do that without Tom.
"When we get Henry back, Stewart back, Mitch Duncan's playing in defence a little bit, we're optimistic around the improvement that's still left in that group."
Geelong will also welcome superstar midfielder Patrick Dangerfield back after the break as the veteran Cat works through a training block across the next week in his recovery from a calf complaint.
Scott expressed his delight in his midfield's ability to hold off the Bulldogs' contingent of stars in the centre without the likes of Dangerfield at his disposal.
"Dangerfield will come back after the break, that'll make a big difference, but the guys in there were up for the challenge," Scott added.
"I don't like to individualise, but Tom Atkins going in there has really given us a lift. It's often the case when you are a little undermanned you find out some things you wouldn't otherwise, like Tom Stewart going down (last year) helps Jack Henry. Dangerfield going out, Tom Atkins gets his chance."
The Cats are scheduled to face West Coast at Optus Stadium at 4:35pm (AEST) on Saturday, June 18 in their return from the bye before matches against Richmond, North Melbourne and Melbourne in the succeeding weeks.