Geelong defender Harry Taylor is excited about the prospect of playing with Gary Ablett again but keen to hose down expectations on the former Gold Coast skipper.
Taylor played alongside Ablett from 2008 to 2010, sharing in a Cats premiership in 2009, the same year Ablett won the first of his two Brownlow medals.
“I played a couple of years with him before he left and his influence on the field was unbelievable back then,” Northampton product Taylor said while holidaying with family in Geraldton yesterday.
“We really hope he can bring the same sort of influence now as an older, more experienced player but it’s just really exciting for the community, for the town.”
The return of Ablett, the son of Geelong goal kicking champion Gary Sr, is a marketing dream for the Cats but Taylor is at pains to shield the star midfielder from pre-season hype.
“We just want him to be healthy and fit. The same for his family,” Taylor said, alluding to the recent death of Ablett’s sister Natasha.
“Hopefully he can do that and also come and really just enjoy his footy, enjoy his time in Geelong and hopefully have a big impact on the field.
“Obviously he’s a really popular name in the Geelong community and a lot of people might expect him to play like he did when he was at our club, when he won a Brownlow Medal.
“We just want him to contribute on the field the best way he can — just buy into the culture and to help us on-field with the way he teaches and the way he acts and plays.
“If he can do that, we’ll be really happy as teammates.”
On the subject of homecomings, Taylor turned back offers from West Coast and Fremantle in 2013 to stay with the Cats and is a free agent next year. He said he had given little thought to his future beyond next season.
“Not too sure. I haven’t sort of thought about it too much,” he said.
“I really love the Geelong Football Club. I had the opportunity potentially to come back (to WA) about four or five years ago but the environment and culture at Geelong was so strong, it was very hard to leave that.
“Who knows? Maybe West Coast and Freo at the time had a culture just as strong, maybe even better, but sometimes the unknown can be a little bit confronting at times.
“I was really, really happy we decided as a family to stay in Geelong, to entrench ourselves in the club and environment, and in the community, because it really is a great place to live.”
The 31-year-old is thriving on the opportunity to go around again as he enters his 11th year at the Cattery.
“I love the opportunity to try to get the best out of yourself and challenge yourself — and to fulfil the competitive instinct I have, to challenge yourself against the best,” Taylor said.
“We go to training, compete as hard as we can with each other and on game day you shake someone’s hand, wish them all the best, and go as hard as you possibly can for two hours.
“At the end of the game, win or lose, you shake hands and move on.
“Sometimes moving on takes a bit longer than you want it to.
“You’re disappointed with your performance or the way the team has played … it’s just the ability to fulfil the competitive instinct that I really love about the game.
“There might be nothing else like it that I ever find again but it’s something I really cherish and love about what I do.”
Taylor said the Cats, beaten in a preliminary final for the second year running, had to improve to put themselves in a position to be genuine flag contenders again.
“If you roll out exactly as you did the previous year there’s no guarantee you’ll be there again,” Taylor, who was part of Geelong’s 2009 and 2011 premiership outfits, said.
“You need to find ways to improve, to make changes, to make sure you give yourself the best chance to compete again.
“That’s what you do. Give yourself a chance and, with a bit of luck, who knows? You never know what’s going to happen.”