Geelong have revealed they were chips in on VFL star Shaun Mannagh prior to his Norm Goss Medal-winning performance, with the 26-year-old one of six new Cats players selected in the National Draft.
Mannagh was taken 36th overall as Geelong's second selection on Tuesday night, landing on an AFL list after a breakout year at the state league level.
His 2023 campaign with Werribee culminated with a 27-disposal, six-goal outing against Gold Coast in the VFL Grand Final to earn best-afield honours in a losing side in front of a range of AFL scouts and coaches.
The Cats weren't alone in having an interest in Mannagh on draft night, however, Stephen Wells and Andrew Mackie had "made up our mind" before the mature-aged talent's starring role at Princes Park in September.
Speaking on the acquisition of Mannagh, Wells said the selection was a long time coming for the Laverton native.
"Shaun's a player that we think deserves an opportunity in an AFL list," Wells said.
"His performances over the last couple of years have been terrific, and this year he went to another level again, we felt.
"We were having a lot of peaks at the draft and so we wanted to get a bit of a mix-and-match type profile, different types of positions and different types of age profiles. So we're very, very happy to give Shaun an opportunity. We know he's going to really appreciate it and come in and make an impact at our club straightaway.
"A lot can change in six months from a Mid-Season Draft. We had more list spots available now, we watched him play in the finals and against a Gold Coast Suns grand final team in the VFL that was stacked with AFL-listed players and he performed so well.
"I'm sure everybody, even those that were deciding not to pick him, would have really noticed his performance in the grand final, it was outstanding. We'd actually made up our mind before the grand final that we were very keen on Shaun and in some ways we were a bit disappointed that he played so well."
Mannagh is expected to have an instant impact at Kardinia Park, with his lightning pace and attacking nous set to be welcomed by senior coach Chris Scott.
The 175cm talent is capable of playing through midfield or as a damaging forward, with Wells confident it won't take long for Mannagh to be pressing his case for an AFL debut.
"Shaun will come in and provide depth whether it be as the the smaller forward or the midfielder that can play a variety of different roles," he said.
"We want Shaun to come in and be himself. We know he's fit. We know he's very grateful for the opportunity and he'll hit the ground running as soon as he gets there."
In true Wells fashion, Geelong swooped on two unlikely additions, with Wiltshire the latest to join the Cats' program from the local area.
A sprightly small forward who boasts impressive goalkicking prowess and a strong marking ability, Wells said Wiltshire gained Geelong's attention in providing "something that's a bit uncanny" at the local level.
"We just always try to do what is in the best interests of the footy club, and the Geelong region is a great footy area and the different leagues down, there's players that develop at different rates," Wells said.
"This year Ollie Wiltshire, who came through the Bellarine Football Netball League, he actually had a couple of games ar the Geelong Falcons a couple of years ago and didn't go quite so well, but his performances over the last two years and this year in particular has been outstanding.
"It's going to be really interesting to see how he develops and we will see a lot of upside there. But there's great talent down in Geelong and it's there for everyone to see.
"Looking back, we would have been better off picking Tom Stewart before he got into the VFL program. Just Ollie's performances this year were outstanding, we felt that if we just took him through to the VFL program that by the end of next year he might be going so well that we might miss him."
The Cats' draft planning mightn't be over, with Wells and Mackie potentially open to upgrading a player from their rookie list to the primary list to be active in Wednesday's Rookie Draft.