[u][url]http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/article/2008/03/11/12052_gfc.html[/u... FOR a man who came close to hanging up the boots at the end of last season, James Byrne can't wait for footy to begin. The Geelong VFL captain is excited, rather than daunted, by the loss of eight premiership players from last season and believes the Cats are still well placed to push for a finals berth. "I was thinking about retiring and hanging up the boots, but ever since I got back and into training I've been as keen as anything to get something out of the year and hopefully have another successful year,'' Byrne said. "The hunger is definitely still there. As close as the games are getting I start getting a bit more enthusiasm about it and obviously it's a lot harder the older you get. "But the closer the games come the more excited I get, just looking at the young guys running around and I think we should be up there again and I am really looking forward to it.'' For Byrne, there could hardly have been a more fitting way to exit the game had he decided to hang up the boots at the end of 2007. The former Adelaide Crow won the VFL best and fairest award, the JJ Liston Trophy, last year and also captained the Cats to their second premiership in the revamped VFL. He was also named captain of the VFL team of the year. But after the departure of almost half the Cats' premiership team, Byrne decided he should commit to the final year of his two-year contract. "I would love to do that (back-to-back) and make a bit of history, but my main desire was to actually come back and show the faith in the club that they've shown me and the support they've given me since I've been here,'' he said. Byrne knows the challenge is ahead of his team. He identified the Cats' VFL list as pivotal and warned the club's long list of draftees that they will be heaped with a mountain of responsibility. "I think the VFL list this year is going to be the most important out of any year that I've been down here,'' Byrne said. "Guys like Matthew Firman, Jay Cheep, Chris Urie and Jack Hollmer _ and even James McTaggart who didn't play a lot last year _ are the guys who are going to make this team a better team, so they will need to step up and take ownership. "The AFL-listed guys that are new here _ like Scott and Dawson Simpson and Adam Donohue _ they're going to have a lot put on them early because we're going to have a young side and they're going to have to step up straight away. We expect big things from them, but it's pretty much going to come from the VFL list as well.'' Byrne refrained from declaring the Cats a legitimate chance to press for back-to-back titles, but was adamant they had the depth to challenge for a place in their third successive grand final. "I think we've got a good enough senior list if we stay relatively injury-free, as well as the improvement from the boys on the VFL list, they're the guys who are going to make our side successful,'' he said. ``You know you're going to have a good AFL contingent if we stay injury free and the VFL guys are really going to have to step up and you can see them training the way they are at the moment, they look really keen, really sharp, super fit and really competitive. "You'd love to go back-to-back, and you play footy for those achievements, but we want to make finals first and we'll see what happens after that.''