Kelly to join Stokes in Geelong exit

James Kelly is expected to join Geelong teammate Mathew Stokes in announcing Saturday’s season-ending AFL game will be his last for the Cats.

The Cats have confirmed that Stokes is about to leave the club.

Significantly, Stokes’ announcement did not mention retirement and he is understood to be weighing up whether he continues to play.

There is strong speculation that Kelly will also confirm his departure from Geelong before Saturday’s Simonds Stadium match against Adelaide.

They are the first of six Cats premiership veterans whose playing futures beyond this season are uncertain.

Jimmy Bartel and Andrew Mackie are most likely to keep playing, while Corey Enright could retire.

The biggest call will be on star utility Steve Johnson, who has said he feels he can keep playing in the AFL next season.

Stokes, 30, has played 188 games for the Cats since his 2006 debut and was a member of their 2007 and `11 premiership teams.

He voluntarily withdrew from the 2009 preliminary final team because of injury and that cost him a place in the team that also won that year’s grand final.

While Stokes received widespread praise for that decision, he feared his AFL career was over early the next year when he was arrested for cocaine possession and trafficking.

The trafficking charge was dropped, while he was put on a 12-month good behaviour bond and fined $3000 for possession.

Geelong also suspended him for seven matches.

Again, Stokes handled the matter admirably and he is a much-respected figure at Geelong.

The 176cm Stokes said he was overlooked in the draft three times before the Cats recruited him.

“(Recruiter) Stephen Wells and the Cats were the only ones that wanted to take a chance on me,” Stokes said in a club statement.

“I am grateful for being part of this great club that has really changed my life.”

Coach Chris Scott and chief executive Brian Cook praised Stokes for what he had achieved on and off the field.

“He is a player that has given everything for the club and been a key component of an incredible period for the club,” Scott said.

“In addition to his skills and toughness, Mathew’s resilience is something that I really admire and is a shining light for others to follow.”

Kelly, 31, has played 272 senior games since his 2002 debut.

He was also a key member of the Cats’ three premiership teams from 2007-11 and made the 2011 All-Australian team.

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