GEELONG star Tim Kelly was at his brilliant best in the 19-point preliminary final loss to Richmond on Friday night and Cats coach Chris Scott remains desperate to retain his services.
Kelly, 25, has rapidly become one of the AFL's most damaging midfielders in two seasons at Geelong but is weighing up whether to again seek a trade home to Perth.
However, Scott hasn't given up hope of securing his signature.
"I don't even know if this is possible but I'm not letting him go," Scott told reporters post-match.
"It's a half-serious response. I've got absolutely no control over what's going to go on. All I can say is he's been a credit to himself all the way through and he should be proud of himself and we're proud of him.
"If your question is, 'Would you like to keep him?' I'll fight tooth and nail to do that."
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Scott was less inclined to talk about the future of veteran Gary Ablett, with the 35-year-old undecided whether he will extend his career into a 19th season. Ablett kicked the first goal of the game and finished with 21 possessions.
Kelly was best-afield with 31 possessions (including 24 kicks), four clearances and 3.1. It was the first time he'd produced a 30-touch, three-goal game in his 48-game career, and Scott couldn't heap enough praise on him.
"Two special seasons. He's just an outstanding player for us," Scott said.
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"On the big stage, really good opposition, he was fantastic tonight. I suspect if we had've won the game we'd be talking about him in even more glowing terms. But just because we couldn't get the result I don't think that should take the gloss off his performance and the year he's had.
"He came in as a mature-age player, having been overlooked in four or five drafts. It's a credit to him and it's a credit to our club that gave him that opportunity."
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Scott was smarting after his team didn't make the most of its dominance and should have been more than 21 points in front at half-time, and then surrendered some "easy chances" to the Tigers in the second half.
"There were just some things we did in the third quarter that are going to take a long time to get over," he conceded.
Asked what he told his players after the game, Scott refused to go into details, saying it was "private".
Though bitterly disappointed, the Cats coach was proud of his club overall for being minor premiers and finishing in the top four when such achievements appeared a long way off last year when they were belted by Melbourne in their elimination final.
"We are proud of them. It's clear, whatever our failings we've got a group of players that don't give up. But right at the moment we're just not quite good enough," he said.
"Any reasonable person would say it's been a pretty remarkable performance to stay up and around the finals for a long period of time with a new group of players …
"When the dust settles we'll rue the opportunity lost but look forward to finding a way to improve …
"From where we were last year we've done a commendable job working our way back into this position … I think in the fullness of time we'll look back and say, 'That was a pretty good season.' It just doesn't feel like it at the moment."
Scott was "really confident" that his team would improve.
"We've got a couple of older players that you'd expect wouldn't improve that much, but we've got a lot of players who will play together for a long period of time," he said.