After four years on the sidelines and four knee reconstructions, Daniel Menzel might have been destined to kick four goals on his AFL return.
But to suggest his incredible effort against Collingwood on Friday night was the result of anything but hard work and determination would be selling the comeback kid short.
Menzel was Geelong’s best in their 48-point loss to the Magpies, kicking a goal in each quarter.
He could even find himself a popular winner of mark of the year for a soaring fourth-term effort over Tom Langdon.
Cats boss Chris Scott, who admitted his emotions at the sight on Menzel back on the MCG, said he loved every minute of it.
“It’s hard to explain … just how arduous his last four years have been,” he said.
“The 2011 final when he hurt his knee was one of the hardest moments I’ve had in footy.
“To come back and kick four, have 20 touches, just look so dynamic … as I said to Menz pre-game, this is just the beginning.”
Scott said Menzel’s return was the only highlight of a “greatly disappointing” night that means they’ll play Adelaide in round 23 for pride and not a finals place as they’d hoped.
With Geelong sitting out the finals for the first time in nine years, the spotlight will shift to the future of their flag-winning veterans.
Six premiership stars – Corey Enright, Jimmy Bartel, Andrew Mackie, James Kelly, Stevie Johnson and Matthew Stokes – are unsigned for next year, as is key man Steven Motlop.
While Mackie was good, none produced stand-out performances in what could be their last outing on the MCG.
Kelly and Johnson could even have denied themselves a last hurrah in round 23 with indisciplined acts.
Scott said decisions on ending decorated careers were the hardest thing about coaching.
“These guys, I love them,” he said.
“I can’t think of people in the game that I respect more.
“Does it make the decisions on careers hard, absolutely … it’s going to be brutal.”
Scott said every out-of-contract player knew where the club stood.
“Some of those (club positions) are ‘we’re undecided’ but at least they know that’s where they sit,” he said.