Jeremy Cameron celebrates a goal during Geelong's clash against Port Adelaide in round 21, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

HE HAS gone from Greater Western Sydney original to Geelong premiership superstar. In between, he's done it his way. 

There's plenty on the agenda this week as Cats forward Jeremy Cameron sat down with Cal Twomey for Cal's Q&A. Ahead of round one, Cameron discusses why he's excited about the Cats in 2024, details his concussion last year, reveals why he turned his back on Collingwood, talks about the pressure in joining Geelong, his favourite young key forward in the AFL and how much longer he expects to be in the game. 

It's AFL season number 13 for you. Do the nerves change ahead of round one with time?
You get better at managing that as you get older for sure. Early days, definitely there were a fair few nerves, but probably still less so than others. It's more the enjoyment. I just get really excited. That's the trouble with me – I've always been one who gets really excited before big games and that's why I don't sleep. It's not so much that I'm worried about things or nervous, it's just excitement. I wish the game was coming around a bit quicker. It's like with Opening Round we've just had, it would have been nice to just play. But yeah, 13 years goes quick. 

Nobody really knows how good the Cats can be this year. What do you think is possible? 
I'm very positive. There's always going to be a bit of talk from the outside about how we're going to go, like there is with every team. It comes down to how much you want to read into that and I don't read into that at all. But there's very positive signs with what I've seen in the pre-season, especially through the younger group we've got coming through, who are 19, 20 through to 25 who have played enough footy to go to the next level. 

Give us some names. 
Tanner (Bruhn). Maxy Holmes. Mitch Knevitt has been really good. Ollie Dempsey is one who we've seen a lot from internally but over the last three weeks he's probably jumped out for a few people. We want him to back himself and go grab it. 'Clarky' (Jhye Clark) is getting a run at it through the midfield as well. We've seen it in snippets previous to this pre-season but he's had a clean run. Seeing Tanner, Max and Clarky in the middle together at once is exciting. The more games you get into these guys the better they're going to get. 

Max Holmes in action during Geelong's AAMI Community Series clash against Essendon on March 1, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

St Kilda up first at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night as the new Joel Selwood Stand is opened. How's the completed ground looking? 
It's been a little while coming but we've been patient with the whole thing. In COVID it didn't really faze us too much not having the stand finished and then as a couple of years roll on you're excited for it to be finished. The supporters surprised us a little bit the other night in the practice game against Essendon as 11,000 turned up and it was nice to see people sitting there and the noise now is held in a lot more. When we pack it out hopefully for round one and get a full house it's going to be great for the players and fans to experience. 

It's already been such a decorated career for you. What drives you as you head into another season?
I don't look back yet on what I've done in my career. It's all centred around that 2022 when we won the flag. But I want to learn new ways to get better every year. That's what drives me. When I first started at the Giants the older boys used to say 'You guys keep us young and energised' and now the roles are flipped. I love coming to work and it's a positive place and somewhere you can always look to get better. 

Last year was going well for you but the concussion and shoulder injury in round 15 changed things. How disruptive was that?  
It was definitely a difficult second half of the year for me. I was in a really good place coming into the year and started well, and I felt I was playing well. I don't know if it was my best footy, it's hard to get a gauge on that, but it was definitely right up there. But the incident happened and it was unlucky because I recovered quite quickly from the head knock in two to three weeks. I had to give it a little bit more time than I usually would which is fair enough and my body was letting me know that. But then it was just the shoulder, which I didn't really think about much at the time. I remember when I woke up on the ground that night it was my shoulder that was screaming at me, it wasn't my head. I was trying to explain that to the doctor but he thought I was just concussed. I could feel my AC out. I thought after three weeks off I could get past the shoulder but it was no good, it was shocking. I was thankful I would still play some good games and contribute but I was battling at home. We had a newborn and I couldn't lift her off the ground, I couldn't have a backpack on my shoulder going to the car and then obviously living on a farm I like being active but it was a constant battle for 10-12 weeks until I had the surgery. It was a year of two halves – the front nine and the back nine. I'm a golfer and I felt like I shot under the card on the front nine and played like shit on the back nine. But that's football and I'm thankful I'm feeling good this year. 


You've played in such a courageous and physical way right throughout your career. How careful do you need to be as a player now with an increased focus on concussion? 
Looking after the head is important and it's always ongoing with new data. We're looking after players a lot more and it's heading in the right direction. It's just so hard as a player to change the way you go about it. Say you're a bad kick – you're always training to become a better kick and I think you can train ways. But it's so hard going out there and if you naturally are so courageous and go back with the flight like Tom Stewart or 'Kola' (Jake Kolodjashnij) does, it's hard to then go 'I'm never going back with the flight again'. Instinctively you want to play footy and that's the way you do it. Over time I've tried to train things differently to look after myself and others but I still love going out there and playing with that free mindset. I can't say I have purposely changed it in any way but it's so important to look after the head. With my head knocks I've been pretty lucky across my career that that was the only major one and you think you're OK a week later, but three weeks later you realise at that point in time you weren't quite right. That's what we're trying to learn as staff and doctors and players as well. 


Were you worried at all about another concussion later in the year when you were headbutted at the pub? 
No, I felt like I was fine at that point in time. I was never unconscious and it was hard, but it wasn't outrageous where I was like 'Oh my God, I'm concussed' or dazed. It was more just the shock of 'What was that about?' I got past it really quickly. It was wrong place, wrong time kind of stuff and I wasn't doing anything wrong but it happened so I had to take the steps from there with the club. 

Go back to 2020. At what point of that year did you realise you'd be leaving the Giants? 
It was a lot later in the season than a lot of people thought. Naturally people think you're exploring early in the year or at some point early in the year, but it wasn't that case for me at all. I was always 'No, no, no' to my manager, who never pushed but said there were options there. It was late in the year and I don't know how much the hub and being locked away with COVID had to do with that. One thing it did show me at that point in time was how important family and people around you are because suddenly I didn't have any of that. You've got your phone and you can contact them that way but I didn't have my partner, Indi, with me and like everyone I wasn't seeing my family. That maybe played on me a bit as well that if I did make the move then mum and dad were only two and a half or three hours away and my sister's only two hours away rather than a big flight. My parents always made the effort to get up as much as they could to Sydney – it wasn't once every six months, it was once a month and that was more so to keep me happy as well. 

Jeremy Cameron celebrates a goal during Greater Western Sydney's clash against Gold Coast in round nine, 2020. Picture: Getty Images

Did you consider any other club but Geelong? 
I spoke to Collingwood at that time. (Hemisphere Management Group manager) Alex (McDonald) was always like 'There's lots of options'. I was always thinking if I was going to go somewhere it was Geelong because it's country and rural and suits me. It was more so that there was no harm in saying no but hearing what teams had to say. I spoke to them (Collingwood) briefly but I always knew deep down that I didn't want to take them for a ride knowing I'm a country fella and why would I move from a big city to the middle of a big city when the only reason I'm making a move was because I could live on a farm closer to mum and dad? 

You reached the preliminary final with the Cats in your first year and then the following year tasted the ultimate flag success. Can you describe the Cats' mindset in 2022?
We came back very positive after 2021. Those COVID years are a blur but we finished the season losing to Melbourne. We were so close and could have made the Grand Final but didn't, and then we returned home and there was a very positive feel. You can go missing the next year because you are so disappointed with what happened the previous year but we didn't have that mindset. We knew we were close and had the list to win. Early on we wanted to play a certain way and we were trying to develop that on the go. We trained it but were always tweaking it and felt so close. We just knew when it came and when we consistently played that way, we were going to be hard to beat and that's exactly what happened. We were like 'Hang on, this is working'. Once we hit seven or eight wins in a row it felt like we weren't going to lose the whole way and we had enormous confidence during the finals. 

What has winning a premiership done for your footballing fulfillment? 
It takes a fair bit of pressure off the player. I remember thinking 'No one can ever take this away from me now'. Coming from the Giants, Geelong said 'We will make this happen if you want to come down'. In turn they had to give up the three first-rounders. I didn't feel an enormous amount of pressure. I probably should have felt more pressure than I did, but I never really sat back and said 'Shit, I need to deliver something here because they've given up so much'. It's more so afterwards now where I look at it and they said 'We're with you all the way, we might have to pay for it a bit'. Going on to win it makes it nice to have there. I don't walk around the streets and bring it up but it's nice when you bump into someone and I like when they say how much joy it brought them that season. That's what sits best with me. 

Jeremy Cameron celebrates Geelong's 2022 premiership win after the Toyota AFL Grand Final victory over Sydney. Picture: Getty Images

You've famously been a player who has never seemed a huge footyhead when not playing. Were you watching the Giants in last year's finals? 
I was very close to going to their prelim (against Collingwood) but I didn't end up going. I watched it closely because I've got a lot of good mates, Toby (Greene) being one of my closest mates, in that side and have watched his journey. I know exactly where he came from, how far down he was. He always backed himself but from where he started to where he is now, not many people understand that. The way he grabbed the captaincy and dragged them right through was amazing and their run was pretty exciting. I don't watch a lot of games, but I do enjoy watching the finals and watching friends. 

Did anyone ever try to change your laconic style? Or did performance help you stave that off? 
The way I've played throughout my career has helped me. There's been lulls along the way like there is in any career. Definitely [nobody has tried changing] at Geelong – straight away they knew what I was like here and here if you want to catch up with 30 coaches every day, then you'll have them there. But if you don't want to talk to anyone you don't have to. You can run your own journey and become the best player you can and do it your way. (Former Giants coach) Leon (Cameron) was pretty hard on me early days and I probably needed to hear it back then to be honest. We had some great chats over the years. I remember him saying one day 'You can be a good player and you will be if you keep going down this track, but you can be an A+ player so pull your head in'. Those meetings have stuck with me. 

Who do you think is the best young key forward in the AFL? 
I like Jamarra (Ugle-Hagan). I really do. I like the way he goes about it. Being a left-footer too… I loved 'Bud' (Lance Franklin), I loved 'Lloydy' (Matthew Lloyd). He's the one that excites me. I really, really enjoy watching Charlie (Curnow) go about his business. He's one of those players who will rip you apart and sometimes you can't do anything about it. This is watching as a fan and you know opposition will put a lot of work into him but he's still going to kick six. He's one of those players. I like watching him as well but I'm looking forward to watching the next 10 years of Jamarra as well.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan poses for a photo during the Western Bulldogs' official team photo day on February 28, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

How many of those years will you still be an opponent? You signed a five-year deal with the Cats when you joined, which runs through to the end of 2025 when you'll be 32. How long do you want to play? 
It's an interesting one. I've got too many hobbies outside of football so that might cost me in the end. I've got so much I'm excited about doing after footy and I know you're a long time retired as well but we want to have a big family, we have one little daughter now, Macey, and we get away in the caravan any chance we get, every off-season we're on the road. I want to travel Australia and do two laps of it if I can if Indi will let me.

That's a lot of content for the YouTube channel.
Yeah, it's a lot. But that's the path I want to go down. I'm really enjoying my football at the moment, don't get me wrong, so hopefully a few more years but that decision will come when it comes. I won't be bored if I retired today. I'd find things to do. I could literally retire today and have so much I want to do and achieve, but I'm not ready for that yet. 

230 games, nearly 600 goals. Do you have any targets with those by the end of your career? 
I don't, I honestly haven't looked at who I'm passing or catching or whatever it may be. I definitely won't make a thousand goals, unless I kick 15 a week for the next three or four years plus some. I don't really look that far forward. It's nice to see guys playing longer into their careers and it's a good example of it down here at the Cattery seeing 'Hawk' (Tom Hawkins) go on and on and on and on. He's always like 'I'll go one more' and signs on and then he kicks 55 goals again so it's like 'Well, you could do that again'…

Could that be you?
I don't know… I might hit the end a bit quicker than 'Hawk'. He's been incredible. 

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