James Kelly is trying to keep an unusual AFL week as normal as possible.
Kelly and his long-time teammate Mathew Stokes assumed their playing careers at the top level were done and dusted when Geelong let them go at the end of the 2015 campaign.
But the multiple-premiership stars were both thrown lifelines by Essendon after the club was forced to seek top-up players to replace the dozen who were handed year-long bans for their roles in the club’s contentious supplements program.
Kelly and Stokes will square off against their former teammates for the first time when the Bombers host the Cats at the MCG on Saturday.
“It’s probably going to be hard at the start of the game, but you don’t want to make it any harder than it has to be, playing the game in your head before you get to it,” the 32-year-old Kelly said on Friday.
The three-times Cats premiership player was adamant the text messages on his phone hadn’t increasing in the build-up to the inevitable confrontation.
“I’ve spoken to people I normally speak to and that’s because I’m friends with them and it’s not because we’re playing them this week,” he said.
“I always keep an eye on how they’re going and a few guys that I’m close with I watch them a little bit closer.
“I don’t watch a lot of footy anyway and watching Geelong is no different.
“The build-up has been pretty normal – we’re just focusing on preparing normally for another opposition.
“I’m sure I’ll get nervous as the game gets closer and immediately after the start.
“But I’ve played enough footy to go out there and make the right decisions, so I’ll go out there and be as professional as I can.”
Kelly is unsure about the reception he and Stokes will receive from the Cats’ fans.
“It depends whether they’re angry with me or not,” he said.
“I wouldn’t expect it to be hostile or anything.
“I was happy when I left, I didn’t leave on bad terms.”