Favourite son Kelly returns to Cats

James Kelly at GMBHA Stadium on Tuesday. (Louisa Jones) 252032_09

By Luke Voogt

James Kelly had his eye on a Geelong coaching job before the departure of a high-profile trio, he revealed after returning to the Cats.

Kelly approached the Cats prior to Corey Enright, Matthew Scarlett and Mathew Knights announcing they would leave the club recently.

“Over the last few weeks we’d just sort of floated it … but no one had left,” he told a press conference on Tuesday.

“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 had “started having the conversation” with a few different clubs before the Geelong assistant coaches announced their departures in quick succession.

“When the opportunity to come here was made more serious, then I jumped at the chance,” he said.

“I was certainly on the phone to my manager pretty quick.

“We made the call and just asked, ‘would there be a job available, and if so is there any chance we could we throw our hat in the ring?’

“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.”

The Cats on Monday announced they had appointed “one of Geelong’s favourite sons” Kelly as an assistant coach.

“It’s such a wonderful place and there are so many fond memories,” he said on Tuesday.

“I genuinely love Geelong and love this footy club, so coming back here is always going to bring positive feelings and emotions.

“I still live in Geelong and I’m a Geelong person and feel like I always have been.

“Even being at another club, I’ve always had an eye on what’s been happening down here.”

A veteran of 313 AFL games, including 273 in the navy and white hoops, Kelly earned three premiership medals and an All-Australian blazer during his 16-year career.

Geelong selected Kelly at pick 17 in the 2001 national draft and the versatile and selfless midfielder-defender filled a plethora of roles before being traded to Essendon.

After retiring Kelly spent three seasons on the Bombers’ coaching panel before taking a break from football to look after his children during COVID-19.

“While my wife was working, having someone at home and keeping things relatively normal for the kids at home was the priority,” he said.

“Now we’re ready to switch roles – I’ll come back to work and my wife will have some time at home.”

Geelong Cats’ football general manager Simon Lloyd welcomed Kelly back to Geelong.

“James has great football intelligence, has experience as a member of Essendon’s coaching staff and has a demonstrated ability as a strong communicator,” he said.

“James also brings a great love of the club and so brings additional passion to the role.

“We welcome James back to his football home and look forward to his insights and contribution to the club.”