Thursday night is special to Gold Coast defender Joel Jeffrey for two reasons.

First, he gets to play in front of his family and friends at Darwin's TIO Stadium to kick off Sir Doug Nicholls Round.

Jeffrey has played five of his 17 AFL games at the venue, is unbeaten there and said he always gets "goosebumps" running out.

Second, he gets to do it against the team he supported growing up – Geelong.

The Darwin football community is close, so it's no surprise why the silky Sun gravitated to the Cats as a youngster.

"Steven Motlop is a family friend," he told

"I grew up watching him, he was one of my favourite players. I always went in the changerooms when he played in Geelong.

"It'll be pretty cool running out on the home deck against them."

After a slow start to his season, Jeffrey found some form in the VFL in recent weeks and was recalled for his first game of 2024 against North Melbourne last Saturday.

He excelled as part of Gold Coast's backline, gathering 20 disposals, gaining 598m and using the ball at a staggering 95 per cent efficiency in the humid and slippery conditions.

Coach Damien Hardwick was delighted with Jeffrey's performance and said there's still plenty of room to improve.

"He's got some strengths we want to explore a little bit more," Hardwick said.

"His ability to take the game on and use his speed is something we've been working on. 

"Sometimes he's a bit of a kick-mark player, but we want him to use his explosive speed and the talents God has given him.

"I thought we saw that the other night and hopefully we see it again in a few nights."

Jeffrey said he was excited to develop his game, starting in front of those he knows against the Cats.

"Growing up here, it's a small place and you know everybody, and you know they're all going to be at the game, so you want to impress your family and friends," he said.

"My mindset coming out here is just having fun. 

"I always think of coming out here as a little boy and having fun, playing footy with my friends and I still think that same way today."