Rhys Palmer thought he would be a Fremantle player for life.
Now in spite of watching his old club reach a grand final as his own team battles to rise from the league's bottom rung, the 25-year-old says he has no regrets about leaving WA.
The 2008 NAB Rising Star is on the verge of his third season with Greater Western Sydney and ready to embrace a new role as the team's specialist tagger.
And rather than feeling remorse as old teammates played off for the ultimate prize last year, he was happy to see good friends finally enjoying some success after years of toil.
"Hindsight's a beautiful thing, but I definitely don't regret the decision," Palmer said of leaving Fremantle.
"As I see it, the Giants boys in the not-too-distant future will be involved in the same grand final week.
"There's no regrets.
"It's a totally different team over in Freo at the moment since I was there. A lot happens in a week in footy, especially in a couple of years.
"All the Fremantle supporters see certain players have a good year, but they don't know about the years before where you see them working hard to get into the side and work on their fitness. To see them get a bit of reward by playing in a grand final was really good to see."
Palmer left the Dockers at the end of 2011, accepting a lucrative offer to join the league's youngest club after a self-confessed "horrible" final season under former coach Mark Harvey.
He still keeps in regular contact with Nick Suban and Jon Griffin, among others, but said he was happy to be out of the Perth fishbowl and off the back pages of newspapers.
"I've experienced that side of footy where it is full on and you do speak about it 24/7," he said.
"You come across here and it's sort of refreshing to get away from it all. I keep a close eye on Sydney and the way they go about it. Sometimes they go under the radar. Before you know it comes finals time and they're playing in grand finals.
"They're always around the mark and I think that's because they keep their head down and work really hard. They're not affected by the public eye as much. They earn respect from just working hard and from doing that week in, week out.
"We've definitely taken a leaf out of their book."
Palmer said GWS had high expectations for their season in the wake of last Saturday week's 68-point NAB Challenge thrashing of St Kilda in Wagga, saying the talented side felt it was heading in the right direction after just three wins in the first two seasons.
·Praised Leon Cameron, saying the new Giants senior coach was upfront, told players where they stood and had helped boost Palmer's confidence.
·Said he had underestimated just how long it would take to recapture his speed and agility following a knee reconstruction in 2009.
·Labelled Curtly Hampton and Adam Treloar as two young Giants who would have breakout years in 2014.
·Admitted it was "scary" how good All-Australian Jeremy Cameron could become in an improved side.
·Claimed Port Adelaide midfielder Hamish Hartlett was the most challenging opponent he had played on so far.
·Said he would be taking tips from Docker Ryan Crowley in an effort to become one of the game's best taggers.
Palmer started the transition from outright ball winner to tagger last season.
The role was identified as a must for a Giants side laden with offensive midfielders Tom Scully, Dylan Shiel, Callan Ward and Stephen Coniglio, but short on defensive-minded personnel.
Palmer is ready to be tested if thrown on to champions Gary Ablett, Jobe Watson or Joel Selwood this year.
"Footy's changed a hell of a lot in the time I've been in the system," Palmer said. "I really don't mind the role of negating someone, of working on them and working off them.
"It's turned into a really defensive game and if you can shut more of their good players down, the easier it is for us to win.
"Leon has given me the chance to play in that negating role through the midfield and I'm really looking forward to the challenge."
The early signs are that Palmer will not be content with solely shutting down his direct opponent.
He collected 28 disposals and kicked a goal in the win over the Saints, saying he had learnt from Crowley how important it was to hurt the opposition when given the chance.
"I've definitely kept a close eye on Crowley," Palmer said.
"He's a massive influence and a reason why the Dockers went nearly all the way last year. His ability to shut down a player … but also on the offence as well he kicks a few goals and he gets quite a lot of the ball.
"You can even look back as far as Cameron Ling. All the great sides always had a bloke who shut down and played a selfless role for the team."
Going hand in hand with that selfless role has been a footballer coming to grips with his life away from the game.
Now 25, Palmer has given up shared accommodation with his teammates at Breakfast Point and moved into his own house in Newtown, in Sydney's inner west, with girlfriend and Sky Television producer Tina Brodal.
"I've matured a lot in the last couple of years," he said.
"I still think running around with the 18, 19-year-old boys, you still think you're that age, but you've got to mature.
"It's a very tough game in this industry.
"Hopefully a bit of experience is definitely going to help me out this year."