Ego and competition with fellow Geelong veterans will drive three-time premiership star James Kelly to the end of his AFL career.
Kelly has spoken candidly about the pressures of being in a group of players who are nearing retirement.
The Cats have some big calls to make at the end of this season on players such as Kelly and Jimmy Bartel, who were key figures in the club’s 2007-11 premiership era.
Mathew Stokes is playing in the VFL, while injury-ravaged recruit Hamish McIntosh has already announced his retirement.
“We (older Geelong players) have been playing pretty well,” Kelly told Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.
“The thing that held us in good stead in earlier years is we’re a really proud group.
“Ego comes into it a bit – if this is going to be the end of our careers … you want to be playing really well.
“Go out the right way, if that’s the case.”
Kelly said discussions with the club were ongoing about whether he would play there beyond this season.
He noted that ultimately, it is up to the Cats.
“It’s hard for me to say … whatever happens, I will walk out a happy man,” he said.
Kelly, who had 21 possessions in Saturday’s win over Brisbane, is also unsure whether he would play elsewhere next season if Geelong let him go.
He admitted the uncertainty is stressful, but also motivating.
“It sort of takes you back to your first couple of years of footy, where you’re really trying to prove yourself,” Kelly said.
“It does put you on edge a little bit, but it’s enjoyable to take up the challenge and still prove yourself a bit.”
And Kelly is also well aware that Geelong might have already made up their minds about him and other veterans.
“Good clubs and smart clubs, these decisions are coming from a long way off,” he said.
Just as rivalry among teammates helped drive the Cats to the three flags between 2007-11, Kelly admitted the veterans were keeping an eye on each other’s form.
“You’d be lying if you said it wasn’t like that,” he said.
“You naturally think about yourself and in football clubs, it always happens – there are always comparisons.
“That’s been a really good thing for us.
“As a group, we’ve always been really competitive with each other, we’ve always driven each other at training.”
After Saturday’s win, Cats coach Chris Scott said age was one reason that 30-year-old Stokes was playing in the VFL this weekend.
“The brutal truth, and it is brutal for Stokesy, is that on balance, he’s probably better than some of the guys who are playing in our team at the moment,” Scott said.
“But they’re younger and that’s working in their favour.”