FOR JAIDYN Stephenson, the bemusement and hurt is still apparent, but there will never be regret.
Stephenson, booted out of Collingwood just three seasons into his AFL career and now at North Melbourne, has told AFL.com.au of a desire in 2021 to remind his old club of his ability and to "make them pay".
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"It certainly is very disappointing - I would have loved to have stayed at the Pies, if I was wanted," he said.
"I think I still have a lot more to offer as a player and I think North Melbourne will get paid out on that in dividends, hopefully. I obviously was very disappointed about the whole thing and last year I might have had a bit of a down year, but as a small forward in a tough year where we were living away from home I was still kicking my goal a game.
"It just wasn't good enough last year, they wanted two or three. It is disappointing and hopefully I can make them pay."
Stephenson and Adam Treloar were exited by the Pies at the end of 2020, largely due to a need to dump players' salaries from their books.
Both were hurt at the sudden about-face in messaging.
"I wouldn't have changed anything and I'm very proud of how I handled that situation, all I can do is tell the truth and be honest with myself and I'm rapt to be here now. Whatever I said is exactly how it happened," Stephenson said.
Stephenson booted 76 goals from 54 matches as a Magpie. Among the highs during his time at Collingwood were being named the 2018 NAB Rising Star and playing in a Grand Final, where he kicked two goals, the same year.
Among the lows were a 10-match ban in 2019 for wagering on matches and the fallout of the 2020 post-season when he was traded.
"A lot has gone on, there's a few minor things I'd change, but apart from that I have enjoyed the journey so far," Stephenson said.
"… my whole life I have been an easy going, laidback person and what will be will be. Everyone has choices in life and if you make the wrong ones, you pay the consequences. But ultimately you are not a bad person for making mistakes. That's how I live my life. Some people may not see it that way, but I do and I sleep easy at night knowing that.
"You need to learn from the mistakes and not make the same mistake twice."
Stephenson said he had been refreshed by the open-minded view of his potential match day role at North Melbourne during the pre-season.
"I actually think it is a good change, and something that I think can help my career grow and prosper," he said. "Obviously at the Pies I was set in my ways, and where I was playing, they had me playing as a deep forward, or a high forward so to come to a new club and be a blank canvas and have the ability to train with the inside midfielders, I would never had that opportunity at the Pies.
"In three years there, I didn't once go a centre bounce stoppage. Here, I might play as a forward, wing."