HE MAY be wearing Essendon's colours this season, but new recruit Mathew Stokes says he'll always be a Geelong man.
Stokes joined the growing list of Bombers' top-up players during the week and speaking to the media for the first time on Saturday, said he was excited about the unique opportunity.
However, after 10 seasons, 189 games and two premierships with Geelong, his heart remains in one place.
"I'll always be a Cats man, no matter what," Stokes said.
"But right now I have a job to do for the Essendon footy club and I'm just looking forward to doing that."
Stokes said he initially took some convincing, largely from good mate James Kelly, who has joined him at Essendon.
He said losing his tag as a one-club player was something he had to get his head around.
"I was really proud to walk off the oval (Simonds Stadium) last year and say I played all my career at Geelong, and that's why I probably never thought about playing after last year.
"I didn't really want to go anywhere else.
"But this is a really unique situation and will probably never happen again in the AFL.
"(Having Kelly here) was massive to be honest.
"We've been close mates since I moved in with him 10 or 11 years ago and once I knew they were interested in me and Kel, we were both working at the AFL and in each other's offices and talking about the opportunity.
"To be honest, if it wasn't for him coming here, I doubt I would have come.
"It makes it easier when you've got one or your best mates coming through the program with you."
And Stokes said there was no chance he would play beyond 2016.