They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and the statement is true in the case of James Kelly.
Despite spending the last two seasons of his playing career with Essendon and another three on the Bombers’ coaching panel, he still bleeds blue and white.
“I love the place. I still live in Geelong and I’m a Geelong person and feel like I always have been,” he says.
“Even being at another club, I’ve always had an eye on what’s been happening down here.”
“I drive past and still have fond memories of what we achieved here.
“It’s such a wonderful place and there are so many fond memories and I genuinely love Geelong and love this footy club, so coming back here is always going to bring positive feelings and emotions.”
Kelly is back in an official capacity for the first time since 2015, fronting the media on the GMHBA Stadium turf in his first press conference as a Cats assistant coach.
He believes his time away from the club makes him a stronger person and coach today.
Despite a long and proud history with the Cats, he re-joins the club with a freshness that comes from having stepped away and seen things from a different perspective.
“It was a really good thing to spend some time away from the Cats and learn how other clubs do things,” he says
“For me personally it’s been a really great way to broaden my knowledge of the game.
“I’m a real believer in that you learn a bit off everyone and I spent some good years at the Bombers learning off some really good people.”
Kelly stepped away from coaching at the beginning of last season, keen to care for his sons in the midst of the Covid pandemic.
The lure of open coaching positions in Geelong proved too strong for him to stay away from the game for long.
“In the back of my mind, I always wanted to get back into coaching, whether that was going to be this year or the next,” he says.
“There are still a lot of really, really good people here and the opportunity to be a part of it again was something I wasn’t going to let go past.”
When Scarlett, Knights and Enright stepped away after the 2021 season, Kelly didn't need an invitation.
“I was certainly on the phone to my manger pretty quick," he says.
“We made the call and just asked, would there be a job available, and if so could we throw our hat in the ring.”
Kelly played five seasons under Chris Scott’s leadership in Geelong and says the established relationship should help him to hit the ground running.
“We understand each other,” he says.
“We spent an enormous amount of time together when I was playing and Scotty’s one person that I’ve worked with that I learnt and enormous amount from.
“I’m really excited to continue learning from him and he’s a good person and a good coach and me spending time around him is only going to be a good thing.