Patrick Dangerfield never felt the need to meet Cats coach, players before signing

In normal circumstances, a recruit of Patrick Dangerfield's stature would meet both the coach and captain of the club he intended to join, long before he had signed. In the AFL, such mid-season meetings are standard practice.

But Dangerfield never felt the need to meet Geelong's Chris Scott or Joel Selwood in the course of Adelaide's uniquely challenging 2015. 

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"No, I didn't meet with Geelong, because during the season it wasn't a priority," Dangerfield explained. "Because during the season for me it was 'I'm here to play. I'm here to perform, here to help us win' - and by us, I mean Adelaide."

Dangerfield felt he knew enough about the Cats to eschew the meetings. "I didn't need anyone to sell Geelong to me. I know how they well regarded they are. It's not like I needed Chris to call me up and say 'we'd love to have you.'

Star Geelong recruit Patrick Dangerfield.
Star Geelong recruit Patrick Dangerfield. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

"I feel incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to represent the jumper and a club that has such a rich history because they have been so successful ... externally I knew what I was getting in for."

Eight years ago, in the year Dangerfield was drafted, a comparably explosive midfielder left his non-Victorian club and went home. But whereas Chris Judd received in-depth presentations from four clubs before making himself a Blue, Dangerfield — who has the same manager (Paul Connors) — never considered another suitor, besides the club closest to his family in Mogg's Creek. 


A business-like Judd took tenders for his services. Dangerfield permitted only one bidder, which has hired him at highly affordable rates – far less than he would have commanded elsewhere. Dangerfield was mindful that if he took too much, the Cats' premiership aspirations would be undermined.

Dangerfield confirms his choice was always only between Adelaide and Geelong. Much as Melbourne clubs fantasised about him, Dangerfield felt it would be dishonourable to leave his Adelaide teammates for a Melbourne club.

"It didn't appeal to me at all because if I was going to come back, it was going to be to Geelong, where my family are, where the place that I love is and a really successful club.

"I couldn't have fronted to them (Adelaide teammates) and said 'oh, I'm leaving but it's not necessarily to go home, it's just to go to another club based in Melbourne.' It wouldn't be the morally right thing to do."

The Dangerfield acquisition — and Dangerfield himself — differ from other deals and gun players in several telling respects. He didn't meet the Geelong coach or captain, didn't consider other clubs. Unlike Buddy Franklin, we all knew where he'd be going. Gary Ablett left home and Geelong. Dangerfield went home to Geelong.

In contrast to others, he didn't let the fact that he was likely leaving detract from his performance either - indeed, he elevated his game; Dangerfield agreed that he had probably played his best footy of his career in the second half of 2015. "Yeah, I think that's sort of the most consistent band of games I've played." He felt his disposal had improved this year.

And thus far, none of the million-dollar men — those paid a seven-figure sum per annum like Franklin, Judd, Ablett — have won a flag at their second club. Unlike that trio, Dangerfield didn't have a flag to his name when he left.

He "absolutely" understood that if he took more (and an estimated $5 million for six years isn't shabby), it could impact on Geelong's flag prospects. "You see millionaires die every day of the week. For me, it's not about accumulating as much wealth as I possibly can, it's about enjoying life, enjoying footy, combining the two but not at the expense of succeeding in our quest to win, you know, a fourth flag in 15 years."

Dangerfield and I met in the Cats' community centre, where players, staff and the administration will soon gather for presentations after a bucolic barbecue outside. One was struck by his powerful bearing - more muscular and imposing in the flesh. You wouldn't want to run into him at speed.

And his responses were suitably forthright and succinct – a trait he shared with the late Phil Walsh, the slain coach whom Dangerfield says had a "profound" influence on his values.

If he thought leaving teammates for anyone besides Geelong would be morally dubious, Dangerfield did not feel morally obliged to stick with the Crows following what he called "the incredibly sad" death of Walsh.

"I didn't feel any obligation to stay because Phil had passed away. Incredibly sad. He's the most incredible coach that I've had in my time in footy. It's incredible the life lessons, Phil's life lessons - that impact has been profound for me.

"It's something I'll carry in my views and philosophies on the game forever, that's how strong I view and regard his views on life. I think he was an incredible person and coach ... we would have loved to have him for longer and longer.

"The game needed to have him for longer, I think, such is his passion for it and those who competed in it. But at the same time, I didn't feel an obligation to stay because Phil had passed away, no."

Dangerfield says the death of Walsh underscored the importance of both family and friendships. "You think about what's important, and for me it was quite difficult because when he passed away, most people would say 'absolutely, it confirms how important family is', which it did. 

"But it also confirmed how important the relationships are that you've built over a long period of time with the players you've spent a huge amount of time with in Adelaide."

One abiding memory was that Walsh translated his words into action. "If Phil said it, it wasn't just a passing comment, he would follow up on it. If he said we're going to catch up for coffee tomorrow, then we were catching for coffee tomorrow. It wasn't just sounds. He was good for his word always. Incredibly honest, up front. 

"I think that's what you want as players – you want to be told the whole truth and nothing but it. Don't sugar coat. Phil didn't ever sugar coat anything."

Dangerfield says he has barely rested since leaving Adelaide, having gone to Ireland for the international rules. "There's been a fair bit going on so it's nice to sport of get back to training and have some routine and normality again."

He is physically fine and training solidly, though he hadn't surfed in the past few weeks, because "I've had a bit of a crook back". 

He says he has not considered whether he should be in the club's leadership group – "I've still got a lot of relationships I need to build here." He has had little time with Joel Selwood as yet, as the skipper has been grounded with a "foot mishap".

In January, he will marry his long-time partner Mardi, a local lass whose father is an ex-mayor of Geelong. He's living in the house he purchased five years ago at Mogg's Creek. He will wear No. 35 next year, his old number at the Geelong Falcons, where he played with another new Cat, Lachie Henderson.

But the most pertinent question of Dangerfield, perhaps, is whether he can be the difference — in concert with fellow recruits — that maketh another Geelong premiership.

"We need to play a role. I'm the same as anyone else," he said. "I'll play to my strengths and try and help out our midfield. Obviously Joel's taken a fair bit of the load ... If we have an injury-free run ... we'll get back to the attacking brand of footy that Geelong were really renowned for and probably just slipped a little bit away in 2015."

Dangerfield, 25, plans to play for "as long as I can compete, I think. If you need inspiration for that, you look at Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Corey Enright, you know these players that are playing well into their 30s and playing at the elite level.

"That's important – I think if you're going to continue to play, that you need to actually perform ... I'm confident that I can do that."

The question was posed, diplomatically, if Dangerfield's highly contested, collision-at-speed style would threaten his longevity and whether he should modify his game.

 "The way that I've played, that's why the strengths have become strengths. Whether I'd change my game, probably not. But the position? Yes ... as the career goes on, I think I'll play a little bit forward. I'd love to play sort of deeper forward around the end of my career ... if I can keep my speed, there's no reason you can't play and get that longevity."

The excitement at the Cattery about Dangerfield's arrival was palpable. Back in Adelaide, meanwhile, they've already moved on.

At a pub that he owns with Rory Sloane and Tex Walker, his name has been removed from the menu. "There was a Danger's Catch – I think they've canned that."