NIC Naitanui noticed something peculiar in the behaviour of the star-studded, premiership-winning group of West Coast midfielders the moment a big-name recruit walked into the club late last year.
Speaking on AFL.com.au, Naitanui said the addition of Tim Kelly - who in 2019, just his second season in the AFL for Geelong, secured an All-Australian blazer and finished fifth in the Brownlow Medal - immediately sharpened the Eagles' attitudes.
"I love it (the acquisition of Kelly), because there is a group of us who missed out on the (2018) flag – myself, Brad Sheppard, Andrew Gaff, a few others," Naitanui said.
"Sometimes you can see a natural human thing, the motivation can go up and down, especially when you win a premiership.
"Some guys are hungry to win another one, and there are some guys who, you know you can run a little bit harder, but maybe you don't need to as much.
"But when 'TK' walked through the door, when we found out we signed him, a lot of the guys started shitting themselves.
"They were a bit worried, you know, is this guy going to take my spot? He's not just some midfielder who has come in, he is an A-grader.
"It made everyone lift a notch a bit higher. And I love it at training. I'd start tapping the ball to him, and Luke Shuey would crack it, Jack Redden would start swearing, and Gaffy would get pushed out to a wing again.
"I love it. It's the competitive stuff. And he's very confident, too. TK will let you know, he's like, 'Well, I probably won’t have 30 touches any more, but I'll have 15 and I'll kick two'.
"I love the swagger about him, he brings that persona. He is a quiet man off the field, but on it …
"Yeah, I was excited, excited to play the year out with him, so fingers crossed we get back, because I want to see him start stirring up some of our mids."
Kelly was overlooked in five drafts before the Cats took him at pick No.24 in 2017. He played all 48 matches (23 in 2018 and 25 last year) for Geelong in the next two seasons, finishing runner-up in the best and fairest in both years.
For family reasons, he sought a trade back to hometown Perth last October.
"I said to (the Eagles midfielders), 'If you don’t want it that much, there is a guy here who does'," Naitanui said.
"So if we could keep filtering guys like that through the footy club, it would be perfect, a couple of forwards, a couple of backs.
"It makes guys work harder. It’s a natural thing. You want to be the best. Then someone like that comes in. The immediate shift, and then people saying, 'Well, I want to be better than him', I love it."