GEELONG will continue handling injury-prone ruckmen Hamish McIntosh and Dawson Simpson with extreme care when the squad returns to pre-season training in the New Year.
McIntosh (knee) and Simpson (back) underwent surgery late last season and watched from the sidelines as the Cats were forced to play without a genuine ruckman in their semi-final loss to North Melbourne.
The big men – and ruck/forward Nathan Vardy, who is on the comeback from a knee reconstruction – have made steady progress this pre-season and will remain on light duties when the build up to round one intensifies in January.
"This time of year virtually everyone is on an individualised plan," Cats coach Chris Scott told News Ltd.
"Dawson has had three lots of back surgery, so it's pretty serious stuff he's coming back from … we need to be thorough there.
"Hamish is on a similar path to Jared Rivers, really, in that they're carrying long-term issues that pre-existed their time at Geelong and they're going through a really gradual pre-season program.
"They're not doing much with the full group, but we anticipate that this slow burn will have them in good shape for the three-month period prior to round one."
Geelong was aggressive in its bid to address its size shortfall during the off-season – picking up ex-Demon Mitch Clark and former Saint Rhys Stanley in the NAB AFL Trade Period.
The Cats then secured developing South Australian ruck prospect Tom Read with their first pick in the rookie draft, swooped on ex-Kangaroos key defender Cam Delaney and recruited 203cm Irish project player Padraig Lucey.
But there remains plenty of intrigue among the crop of new big men.
Clark (foot) and Delaney (toe) came to the Cattery under long-term injury clouds, Read is expected to take time and Stanley will be under pressure to perform after Geelong coughed up pick No.21 to St Kilda in a trade.
"You either have too many ruckmen or not enough," Scott said. "Hopefully we've got a lot competing for not many spots.
"But with a few exceptions, we think all those guys can play multiple positions. Certainly the two big guys we brought in — Stanley and Clark — can play various positions.
"But we are hoping there will be some competition there.
"We've got specific plans for a few of them, but we're not locked into them, so it will be based on performance."