IT’S a clear case of better late than never for Geelong supporters – and a certain skipper – when it comes to Patrick Dangerfield.
The Cats thought they may have been able to entice Moggs Creek’s favourite son back home in 2012.
He had spent five years across the border in Adelaide ... well, four if you take away the first when he stayed back while completing Year 12.
But Dangerfield was committed to re-signing with the Crows, who had just finished second on the ladder and been one straight kick away from contesting the grand final, while then-reigning premier Geelong appeared on the slide.
Back then family wasn’t such a pull for a 22-year-old as team success.
Despite the Cats finishing three rungs lower on the ladder in 2015, an older, more family-orientated “Danger” decided the time was right to return.
And he might just have the added bonus of team success that he craves, and the individual variety.
Maybe it’s because he’s in his footballing prime at 26years of age. Or maybe it’s because he’s settled back at Moggs Creek, just down the road from Geelong.
But Danger has taken his game to another level.
He has polled 23, 22, 21 and 22 votes in the Brownlow in the past four years, but will surely surpass those totals in 2016. He is the raging favourite, priced as short as $2.20 following seven 30-plus possession games so far, including a haul of 43 against Hawthorn in round one, and 48 and 37 in the past two weeks.
He averaged a career-high 26.8 disposals a game in his final season with Adelaide, but has pushed that up to 31.2 in 2016.
He’s among the top 10 for total disposals, contested disposals and clearances, but a runaway leader for inside-50m entries (7.7), from GWS’s Toby Greene (5.6) and Sydney’s Lance Franklin (5.5).
There are few better sights in AFL right now than seeing Danger burst away from a pack and kick long into the Cats’ attack – he’s the ultimate 80m player (run 25m, kick 55m).
With the Cats now on top and back into clear favouritism for the flag, it could amount to the ultimate homecoming.
Few have probably loved having Danger home more than his new captain, Joel Selwood, who has carried the midfield in recent years.
“For a long time I had a vision of him coming over to Geelong and joining Geelong because I knew the childhood that he lived – he enjoyed barracking for Geelong,” Selwood said recently. “To have him here now ... it’s something I have really enjoyed.”
Dubbed “Dangerwood”, the pair is sharing the load and sharing the love.
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The gifted forward won a flag with Hawthorn (1991), but returned to Adelaide to be part of two more (1997-98).
Enjoyed AFL success with Essendon – a flag and Brownlow in 1993. But the Port Adelaide SANFL premiership winner (1990) became the Power’s first captain and member of its first AFL premiership (2004).
Could not have done any more at West Coast (Brownlow medallist, premiership captain), and took home another “Charlie” and four more All-Australian jumpers at Carlton.
Spent a couple of years in Adelaide, but couldn’t have picked a better place to end up when wanting to return to Melbourne. Now a three-time premiership Hawk.
Solid in nine years at Carlton, but the Port Lincoln product has become the game’s best small forward with the Crows.