Stanley settled in Geelong

They are the two big Cats who have bonded over their love of dogs and are now playing career-best football at their new AFL home.

Former Gold Coast ruckman Zac Smith and ex-Saint Rhys Stanley head a multi-faceted Geelong ruck division looking more potent now than at any time since triple premiership star Brad Ottens called it quits at the end of the successful 2011 campaign.

In his second year at the Cattery, Stanley said he was thrilled to learn that the 206cm Smith would be joining the club this season after falling out of favour at the Suns.

“Competition for spots is really healthy in any list and it was that aspect of it, along with working alongside him, that I was really excited about,” said the 25-year-old.

A promising first year for Stanley with Geelong in 2015 was cut short by a season-ending foot injury in round 11.

But he has made a flying start to the 2016 campaign, playing eight of the opening nine matches and splitting his time between a key forward post and the ruck.

Stanley rated improved consistency as the biggest difference in his game since leaving St Kilda, where he was often asked to play second fiddle in attack to Nick Riewoldt.

“Being able to fit into a group down here that’s obviously had some success has been really pleasing for me,” he said on Thursday.

“Also surrounding myself with the coaching group and being able to learn from some really great players – I’m just enjoying my footy.

“And I really enjoy playing in the ruck.”

Smith and Stanley also spend plenty of time together outside the footy club, including as part of a large contingent of Geelong players who are also keen dog owners.

With big Blue Matthew Kreuzer sidelined with a knee injury, Smith and Stanley are well-placed to dominant the ruck duels in Sunday’s clash against Carlton at Etihad Stadium.

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