THE BEST 'go-home' factor in football belongs to Geelong.
It is not being Victorian, South Australian or West Australian, but in fact growing up in or near Geelong, with the Cats luring players back to the region year after year. Their latest – Greater Western Sydney restricted free agent Jeremy Cameron – might be the biggest coup yet.
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Cameron is enticed by the rural lifestyle, with the ability to set up a life out of town on the farm.
While he hails originally from Dartmoor, a small town on the border of Victoria and South Australia, the spearhead forward played junior football in Ballarat and the Cats have drawn on his past in the area to pry him out of Sydney.
He adds to a long line of Cats recruits who have been brought back to the region. Last year it was Jack Steven, who wanted to be closer to his family in Geelong compared to Melbourne where he had won four best and fairests for St Kilda.
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In 2018, Gary Rohan came back from Sydney and Luke Dahlhaus returned from the Western Bulldogs as an unrestricted free agent. Both were former Geelong Falcons graduates.
At the end of 2017, the Cats brought prodigal son Gary Ablett back into the fold after his seven seasons with Gold Coast and this Saturday he gets the chance to cap his comeback in the hoops with a third premiership in his final game.
Patrick Dangerfield also had only one club on his mind when he weighed up leaving Adelaide during 2015, eventually arriving in Geelong as part of a trade as the superstar midfielder opted to settle his family in Moggs Creek, a 50-minute drive from the club down the Victorian coastline.
In the same year, former local Lachie Henderson left Carlton, having previously departed Brisbane, and drove down the highway to settle back into Geelong.
On top of Cameron, the Cats are also expected to land Shaun Higgins from North Melbourne, another former Falcons product whose family ties have him keen to move back in this Trade Period.
The Dangerfield deal is instructive for the Giants, who have indicated their willingness to match the Cats' free agency bid and force a trade transaction.
Cameron, who last year led the Giants to the Grand Final in his Coleman Medal season, is worth two first-round picks, not the one top-10 pick they would get for him under free agency compensation rules.
The Cats also have the cards to make it happen: they hold three first-round draft picks this year after their wheeling and dealing last year and could still hold on to a handy early selection as well as accruing Cameron via a trade, if negotiations headed that way.
They have shown they are willing to play ball in this form before, with Adelaide securing a better return for Dangerfield via a trade after telling the Cats they were going to match the free agency offer.
The Cats' ability to attract locally raised talents back to the club is as much a strength as their capacity to stockpile locals through the draft. In total, they have 16 players on their list who come from Geelong, of which 11 – Gary Ablett, Tom Atkins, Jed Bews, Oscar Brownless, Darcy Fort, Jack Henry, Gryan Miers, Blake Schlensog, Sam Simpson, Cooper Stephens and Tom Stewart – all started their careers in the blue and white.
Dahlhaus, Dangerfield, Henderson, Rohan and Steven are Geelong's set of returned travellers.
The recruiting strategy gives Geelong an ongoing grasp on talented players, with no end in sight.
The Falcons, as one of the strongest NAB League clubs in the competition and richest talent regions, will continue to develop star draftees, with Tanner Bruhn and Ollie Henry (brother of Jack) already on the radar as possible top-10 picks this season.
Geelong will be keen on the pair, however that interest, as shown by their chase of Cameron and Higgins in recent weeks, won't diminish even if they do end up elsewhere around the country and competition.