TIM KELLY returns to GMHBA Stadium for the first time on Saturday since his Geelong departure in 2019. And there's two ways for Cats fans to view their former star when he lines up at the centre bounce.

One is as the Eagles' most important midfielder in an engine room missing Norm Smith medallist Luke Shuey and All-Australian Elliot Yeo through injury.

The second is as the chip that provided more than two-thirds of the transaction to acquire Jeremy Cameron – who will pull on Geelong colours for the first time after his mega move from GWS.

Kelly delivered an incredible two-year stint for Geelong after being plucked from the WAFL as a 24-year-old electrician at the end of 2017. Overlooked by the Eagles at pick 21 for Oscar Allen (now the competition's best emerging key forward), the South Fremantle product arrived at the Cattery at pick No.24.

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Despite a desire to head home at the end of his first season, Kelly excelled when held to the second year of his draft contract, adding an All-Australian blazer, top-five Brownlow Medal finish and second placed best and fairest campaign to his joint runner-up finish alongside Patrick Dangerfield in 2018.

Made even more remarkable was the fact Kelly's output came on a draftee's wage, averaged at roughly $230,000 for each of the two seasons inclusive of match payments and bonuses.

Out of contract, Kelly's wish to return home was ultimately granted with the first deal of the 2019 Trade Period. He landed a six-year contract with Eagles worth an estimated $800,000 per season.

In a three-way trade that involved a bit-part from Essendon (full details below), the Eagles parted with two first-round picks (14 and a future first-round selection, which fell at No.18 in 2020) and selections No.24 and No.33. It was the biggest of its kind, and based on the AFL Draft Value Index, equated to more than pick No.2 when the picks shuffled back at the draft due to free agency compensations and Academy selections.

In return, the Eagles got Kelly, pick 52 and a 2020 third round selection. Geelong got No.14, the future first (No.18 in 2020), 24 and 37.

Tim Kelly of the Eagles handpasses the ball during round one, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

The Cats used the pick No.14 (pushed back to No.16) at the 2019 NAB AFL Draft to secure local midfielder Cooper Stephens before using their own No.19 on last week's debutant Sam De Koning. 

Then, in a move of genius, Cats list boss Stephen Wells sent pick No.24 (pushed back to No.27) to Gold Coast in return for the Suns' 2020 mid first-round priority pick in one of the most lopsided deals in recent memory as the Suns prioritised the immediate future.

Meantime, the pick No.37 was bundled in a deal to acquire Josh Jenkins. 

Wells and his list management team sat through the 2020 season riding the fortunes of a Grand Final loss, with one eye on the Eagles' finish given they held their first-round selection.

The 'win' of the Eagles' elimination final loss was offset by the Giants' history-making call to match the restricted free agency bid on Cameron who the Cats had offered a six-year deal estimated at more than $5million.

Jeremy Cameron is looking good for a Cats debut. Picture: AFL Photos

After weeks of jostling and an array of different scenarios, the Cameron play came down to the dying stages of the Trade Period.

In the final two minutes, the Cats sent the Gold Coast selection (No.15), the Eagles' 2020 first-round selection (No.18), their own first-round pick (No.25) and a future-fourth rounder to the Giants. In return they got Cameron and two 2021 second-round picks (one tied to GWS, the other to Essendon).

The Giants would go on to use No.15 on Conor Stone who debuted in round four, No.18 on uncapped wingman Ryan Angwin and bundled up No.25 as the key selection in a live swap with Collingwood on draft night to nab the Pies' 2021 first-round pick.

When calculated in the AFL Draft Value Index, the Cameron deal spits out at costing the Cats roughly pick 12 given the Essendon second-rounder sits at No.23 and the Giants' at No.25 for this season.

So, for any Geelong supporter even contemplating 'booing' Kelly on his return to his former playground, it might be time for a re-think towards something of a thank-you cheer. Especially if Cameron kicks a bag.

Tim Kelly of the Eagles in action during round one, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos


West Coast received: Tim Kelly, pick 52 (on-traded to Brisbane in pick swap), 2020 third-round pick (on-traded to Sydney in Tom Hickey deal and later consumed in matching for Errol Gulden)

Geelong received: Pick 14 (Cooper Stephens), pick 24 (on-traded to GC for Suns to draft Jeremy Sharp), pick 37 (on-traded to Adel in Josh Jenkins deal), 2020 first-round pick (used in Jeremy Cameron trade).

Essendon received: Pick 33 (pushed back to 38 at the draft for Nick Bryan), pick 57 (on-traded to Carlton in deal for Andrew Phillips).

West Coast lost: Picks 14, 24, 33, 2020 first-round pick

Geelong lost: Tim Kelly, Pick 57, 2020 third-round pick

Essendon lost: Pick 37, 52