Long journey: Garry Hocking at the MCG on Thursday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
The Geelong Football Club stopped being like family to Garry Hocking more than a decade ago, but it was his immediate family that persuaded the Cats' legend to make amends with the Cats along with his own legacy at the club.
Forcibly retired at the end of 2001 and later rejected when he sought a coaching position at Geelong, Hocking spent seven years as something of a coaching journeyman before Port Adelaide gave him his break back into AFL in 2009.
But he remained bitter at how the Cats had treated him and continued to make occasional negative observations about the club until relatively recently when Hocking's wife Melina pointed to their football-loving son Lochlan and told her husband wake up to himself.
Steven and Garry Hocking train at Kardinia Park in 1991.
Melina Hocking said that Lochlan, should his childhood ambition be realised, could end up at Geelong and hardly needed to have his sporting ideals clouded by his father's problematic break-up with his old club of 15 years.
''Melina told me to wake up to myself,'' said Hocking on the eve of Port Adelaide's unexpected semi-final against the Cats. ''She said I needed to move on and make sure our son was not hearing things he shouldn't.
''He might end up there one day and I would love him to have the same opportunity to play for the Cats that I did and it was a great opportunity Geelong gave me.''
Which brings ''Buddha'' to one of those pivotal collisions of fate which will take place on Friday night at the MCG. Hocking will be working alongside another former Geelong captain - also forcibly retired from the club and more recently overlooked as senior coach - in Ken Hinkley as he attempts to plot an upset win, something that Port Adelaide has turned into a habit over 2013.
And there is still family in the Cats' camp in Hocking's elder brother and former Cats teammate Steven. The brothers are estranged and have been for many years. ''Steven's still there and I know quite a few of the playing group, but you move on,'' was all the Port assistant coach would say on the subject.
''You put a lot of time and energy into a club when you play and then you leave and you tend to become totally involved in where you are. When I do have time to think about it, it's still a bit weird - there might still be the odd enemy there and it might have been a poor transition but you move on.''
Hocking would not discuss his relationship with Steven, now Geelong's highly respected team performance manager who is regarded with Neil Balme as one of the most effective football operational double acts in the AFL.
The pair have hardly spoken for years with the elder Hocking, a dour but effective defender, also forcibly retired by Geelong in 1994 after 199 games. He was brought back to the club a decade later by then coach Mark Thompson and is now regarded as being a key platform in the rebuilding of the club and the reshaping of its culture.
''Steve has been an integral part of this club's success over recent years,'' said Geelong chief executive Brian Cook. ''Both Neil Balme and Steve Hocking are general managers. They rely on each other to be the complete package.
''Without Neil, Steve would not be so good and without Steve, Neil would not be so good.''
The Hocking brothers' relationship is such that observers who know both remain in no doubt that - as matters stand - Garry could never work at Geelong while Steve was there. The issue relates to family, not football, with Cook of the belief the club had no role to play in a rapprochement. ''That might be the case one day, but not now,'' said the Cats CEO. ''It's an issue for them.''
But Garry Hocking's difficult relationship with Geelong is something he has worked to address, largely for the sake of his immediate family and, in particular, Lochlan, now 13 and engrossed in the game both as a fan and player. In the end, few except Hocking himself believed he could go on as an AFL player.
''Everyone knows I didn't leave on the best of terms as a player,'' said Hocking. ''Perhaps around the family I've said a few things over the years that might have been a bit negative about Geelong.
''I realised a few years ago that Lochie was idolising Gary Ablett and watching Geelong and he didn't need to be listening as a young fella to me occasionally saying bad things about the club that I shouldn't be saying.''
Hocking finished his playing career - he played 274 games for Geelong and won four best and fairests, made four all-Australian teams and was named in the Cats' Team of the Century - at North Ballarat where he also coached.
Before joining Port, he coached the Western Jets, Peel Thunder and spent four years with Michael Turner at the Geelong Falcons. In the years that coaching was a part-time pursuit he worked in various other roles, including as a postman. Towards the end of his time at the Falcons, Port's then coach Mark Williams asked of Turner why Hocking had not been given a chance as an AFL assistant.
Turner told Williams that Hocking had helped oversee a dramatic change in the under-18 team's program and that his IT skills were exceptional. ''People have got perceptions of Garry Hocking but the Garry Hocking I know is a very good person and a very good coach,'' said Turner.
When Hocking arrived for his interview at Port he brought no paperwork or powerpoint presentations but told Williams he would be prepared to move his family interstate again for the chance to work at an AFL club. Williams, like Turner, said it was Hocking's left-of-centre thought process coupled with his humility that engaged him.
Said Turner of the Friday night semi-final: ''People ask what hope Port have got against the Cats and all I have been saying to them is that Ken Hinkley and Garry Hocking will be doing everything in their power to beat Geelong.''