NEW WESTERN Bulldogs development and player leadership coach Jarryn Geary is ready to return to club land after spending 2023 outside the AFL system for the first time in a long time.
The former St Kilda captain was added to the football department at the Whitten Oval late last month and will start in the role ahead of the club's return to pre-season training.
Matt Egan has also joined the Bulldogs as coaching and performance manager, Daniel Pratt will lead the backline in 2024 and Alex Johnson has been appointed as a development coach.
After playing 207 games for the Saints across 16 seasons, Geary stepped away from the game for more than 12 months, working as a leadership and performance manager in the corporate sector.
But after being sounded out by Western Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains, who crossed paths with Geary during his time as St Kilda's legal counsel and chief operating officer, and then following conversations with senior coach Luke Beveridge and GM Chris Grant, the 35-year-old knew the club was the right fit and the time was right to return.
"To be honest, I really enjoyed the period off and the time away to reflect on life. It was probably something I really needed," Geary told AFL.com.au ahead of his first day at the Western Bulldogs.
"I think having conversations with people in club land really energised me. I tossed and turned about the timing and when to do it, but the conversations with Bainsy, Granty and Bevo really energised me. I spoke to a few other clubs but those three really energised me and once I had that feeling, I couldn't let go of it."
Geary joined former St Kilda and Richmond high performance boss Matt Hornsby at SANO Health after being forced to retire midway through 2022 due to another long-term injury in the twilight of his career. Using lessons from elite sport, SANO Health works with businesses from around the country to improve individual and team performance and create a better environment to succeed.
Geary replaced Saints champion Nick Riewoldt as captain ahead of the 2017 season and left an enormous impact on the club in his five seasons as skipper, despite missing almost two full seasons due to two separate broken legs, a shoulder reconstruction and compartment syndrome.
"Leadership is something I ended up becoming quite passionate about. I ended up studying commerce and majoring in management because I was captain of a club and felt like it would give me a good perspective on other ways to lead outside of the football bubble. It is something I have a real passion for," Geary said.
"They have had different ways of supporting the leadership program here and felt that I could help support it going forward, not just with the players but with the club's involvement with Vic Uni. That really appealed to me about the role."
Many captains transition into the media or chart a path towards becoming a senior coach after retiring, but not many captains are selected at pick No.58 in the Rookie Draft – the sixth-last live pick – like Geary was at the end of 2006. That experience helped him succeed as a player and will help him in his new development role.
"I was the fourth or fifth last picked in the Rookie Draft – it was very late – I knew I had to develop if I was going to make a career of it," he said.
"I had some great mentors at the start of my career. St Kilda was in a really good spot at the time, so I learned quickly from a lot of really good people and players. That has always stuck with me.
"Reflecting now, ahead of this new phase of my career, I think my journey helps with developing young players and helping them carve out careers in a really tough industry."
Geary will also work closely with Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli and the leadership group at the Whitten Oval, hoping the club can reset for another deep September run after a dramatic personnel reset this off-season.