IF THE Sydney Swans are to defend their premiership this year, it is becoming increasingly likely it will have to be without their superstar veteran Adam Goodes.
Goodes hasn't played since round 13 after undergoing knee surgery and is still listed as one to two weeks away from returning to fitness, with just two games remaining in the home-and-away season.
While the perception from the outside has been Goodes will slot back into the team just before or even during the finals, Swans coach John Longmire admitted on Thursday that time was running out for the dual Brownlow medallist.
The 33-year-old is still getting pain from his knee and if he doesn't show significant improvement in the coming week, it is likely his 2013 campaign will be over.
"Hopefully (Lewis) Jetta and (Sam) Reid will be able to do some training this week with the team, probably on Saturday with our reserves team that aren't playing," Longmire said of some other injured Swans.
"We're hoping to get those boys into that mode.
"Goodesy's behind that and the next few days are pretty important for Adam whether he gets an opportunity to play this year or not.
"We'll sit down with the doctor today and talk, he ran yesterday and was still a little bit sore, he's due to run again tomorrow.
"It would be fair to say time is pushing it now and he needs for things to go well pretty quickly from here."
Goodes himself only remains "hopeful" of returning and the club's games record-holder knows he is firmly under the pump if he wants to be part of another September campaign.
Longmire clearly wants him back, but is also focusing on the players that are able to help him in the short-term, starting with the Cats in Geelong on Saturday.
"He's been out for nine weeks and fortunately we've won eight of that nine," Longmire said.
"So he feels confident in the group being able to perform without him.
"He's not confident, he's hopeful.
"He hasn't had too many wins in his rehab, to use his own words this morning, so he's hoping for a couple of wins pretty quickly.
"I understand everyone else's focus on Adam Goodes. I'm worried about the blokes that can help me this week.
"The 22 this week to face Geelong in Geelong, that's what we're banking on."
One of those set to take on the Cats is Gary Rohan, who will feature in his second straight game following his long layoff with his broken leg.
Longmire said the fleet-footed youngster is a chance to be part of his starting 21, rather than spending another week in the substitute's vest.
"We'd like to get some more game time into him this week if we could," Longmire said.
"We thought the introduction of 30 minutes of football last week against St Kilda was a really good start for him.
"He's got some particular qualities that we really enjoy, obviously his pace and his tackle and his chasing ability is critical, and we'd like to see if we can get him into the 21 this week."
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs