MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Brodie Grundy of the Magpies and Esava Ratugolea of the Cats compete for the ball during the 2019 AFL round 01 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Geelong Cats at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 22, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

Geelong have confirmed there is external interest in contracted Tall Esava Ratugolea, with the Cats containing talks with the key-position talent despite stating he's set to remain at Kardinia Park for 2023.

Cats list boss Andrew Mackie was certain the 24-year-old would be a Geelong player next season when speaking to media on Monday, stating that Ratugolea "will be staying with the Cats".

But a change of tune was heard when Mackie spoke on Trade Radio on Tuesday morning, with the three-time premiership defender revealing that while the club are keen to keep Ratugolea, the two parties are in ongoing discussions around what his future looks like.

"Esava is an interesting one," Mackie said.

"We've put games into Sav and he's been a big part of our succession plan forward of the footy. Throughout the year as a bit of a circuit breaker we sort of threw him behind the ball and he showed some really good signs as a key back.

"Clearly blokes like Sav, six years into the system, just wanna start playing footy and we've had that discussion with him and we continue to try and map out for him how that would look for him.

"He's a contracted player and no doubt the coach loves him, we love him, but totally understand that he's trying to work out where he is going to play his footy. We're pretty clear on how that looks."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: Esava Ratugolea of the Cats and Marlion Pickett of the Tigers in action during the 2021 AFL Round 08 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Geelong Cats at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 07, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

When questioned on rival interest, Mackie said questions from clubs on Ratugolea's services weren't unfamiliar, having staved off the advances of others for most of the Fijian's career.

"There is interest in him, but there has been (interest) for five years too," Mackie revealed.

"He's a player with the attributes that he has and the size that he is... those guys are few and far between and that's a reason why we'd like to keep him."

Geelong are shaping for a busy off-season, with young talent Tanner Bruhn and Ollie Henry expected to join the Cats from GWS and Collingwood respectively.

Gold Coast defender Jack Bowes is nearing a call on his preferred club after being placed on offer to rival clubs, with Geelong among those in contention for the silky Suns utility.

But another name that could make his way to the Cattery is ex-Bomber Conor McKenna, who is said to be considering a return to the AFL after leaving Essendon in 2020.

The Irishman has spent the past two years back in his home nation after leaving the Bombers, but is now considering a switch back down under with Geelong and Brisbane among those seen to be weighing up a move for the 26-year-old.

Essendon Bombers Training Session
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: Conor McKenna of the Bombers in action during the Essendon Bombers training session at The Hangar on March 19, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Mackie revealed that while discussions with McKenna have been parked, the Cats are opento rekindling those conversations.

"We've spoken to (McKenna) throughout the year, albeit a while ago," Mackie conceded.

"We've got people in our footy club who have dealt with him in the past at Essendon, James Kelly being one of them, and were complimentary about Conor.

"We've had a discussion about him, he can come on as a rookie list player, so that's attractive.

"There hasn't been much discussed about Conor for a little while. We have spoken throughout the year (and) I'm sure we'll pick up that conversation with where he's at and what he's thinking."

McKenna played 79 games for Essendon between 2015-2020 as a viable half-back flanker.