SIX MONTHS after an off-season incident in America threatened to end his career at Collingwood, Jordan De Goey rewarded the club's faith in him, producing a dominant display to help the Magpies bank four premiership points on the first Friday night of the season.
The 26-year-old was stood down by the club at the end of October and wasn't welcome at the AIA Centre until late January after his involvement in an altercation inside a New York nightclub that resulted in charges and an appearance in a US court.
While almost all the focus was on the debut of father-son draftee Nick Daicos, after the son of Collingwood icon Peter delivered 27 touches in one of the most hyped first games in recent memory, St Kilda couldn't find a way to contain De Goey, who finished with 27 disposals, 12 score involvements, five clearances and 2.3 in the 17-point win at Marvel Stadium.
"I keep saying, he is just one player in our team. There is a real fascination for Jordy. I suppose that's not going to finish right now, I'm sure," Collingwood coach Craig McRae said in his post-match press conference.
"Every press conference there is at least a couple of questions about Jordy. I thought he played his role well. We want him to play his role and bring what he does. He is just a class finisher. Get the ball in his hands and he's got great skill and good things come off that."
SAINTS v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats
McRae made it one win from one start after finally earning an opportunity as a senior coach, following more than 15 years as a development coach, assistant coach and VFL coach at Collingwood, Richmond and Hawthorn.
The 48-year-old said he wiped the slate clean with De Goey, only focusing on the person he has dealt with since the game-breaking midfielder-forward returned to the club on January 21.
"I think with Jordy, everyone sort of judges him for things he's done in the past. I don't have scar tissue with Jordy, I judge him on things I know of him," he said.
"I see him within our four walls and he's been a great teammate. He does a lot of stuff for the community that people don't realise. I'm not here to judge his past, all I can judge is what I see. I think he's a great human within our four walls."
It was a tale of two debutants from vastly different backgrounds at Marvel Stadium on Friday night. The NAB AFL Rising Star favourite with one of Collingwood's most famous surnames and the 25-year-old concreter from South Australia, plucked out of the SANFL and plonked on St Kilda's list only a fortnight ago.
Daicos dominated the discussion in the build-up to the season-opener, but Jack Hayes – the Woodville West-Torrens star who was added to St Kilda's rookie list this month via the pre-season supplemental selection period – dominated the second half to finish with three goals from 18 disposals and 10 marks in a display that will have recruiters questioning why they didn't pick him earlier.
St Kilda coach Brett Ratten said recruiters and coaches can be guilty of being fixated on what a player can't do, rather than what they can do, with Hayes emphatically dispelling the question marks regarding his size and athleticism in the space of two hours on Friday night.
"I think sometimes – and we all do it – we look at the deficiencies that players have maybe before what they do bring. Sometimes we do look that way as coaches, but he's been around the mark; clubs have been so close to picking him and they haven't for some reason or another. It's a credit to him," Ratten said after the loss to Collingwood.
"He's a really good young man who has been given the opportunity to play AFL and been looking for that for a long time. For him to perform the way he did for a big man who in the ruck is a bit undersized, he competed and did what he had to do to and showed everybody that he's up for AFL level."