Even from across the border in Adelaide, James Rahilly never took his eyes off the Cats.
At the end of the 2020 season, Rahilly, who had been at Kardinia Park in a variety of off-field roles dating back to 2009, made the shift to South Australia to broaden his coaching horizons.
But the Cats were never far from his mind. He said he watched ‘ a lot of Geelong games to see how they were tracking’, but returns to the club he played 90 games for between 1998-2005 a more well-rounded coach.
“I suppose at Geelong we're always looking to evolve, and going to Adelaide, which was a complete rebuild, and looking after some very young players, who definitely improved in those three years, I learned a lot from that,” he told geelongcats.com.au.
“Working with a more experienced group for so long and then working with the youngest group in the competition, I definitely learned a lot and hopefully I can instill that here.”
After three years away, and returning to the place that he spent so much of his adult life at, Rahilly said it felt a bit like coming home.
“I’m very grateful to be back after a few years and see a few old faces but then see some new faces and start to work with some new staff and really connect with the players,” he said.
“It’s a bit weird after three years, but I had some great experiences away from here and looking forward to bringing them now that I'm back.”
Rahilly is part of a new look coaching group that also now includes former captain Steven King, also returning to the club after long stints at the Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast Suns respectively.
On Monday the club’s five-plus year players returned after their offseason break, but Rahilly said he’s already impressed with the younger group who have been back for a few weeks.
“There’s a lot of talent here," he said.
“As I said, working with the (younger) players, they've all come back in great nick. I think the longer layoff, that does help, and they're fresh, with no injuries, so I think Round 1, match committee will be quite difficult.”