“I love him,’’ the Port Melbourne mentor has said more than once in the past few months, reflecting an affection that coaches reserve for players who won them premierships.
But Ayres has applied some “tough love’’ to Valenti as the two-time JJ Liston Trophy winner embarks on a comeback to the VFL at the age of 30.
Valenti left Port at the end of the end of the 2014 season after a 149-game career that earned him a string of accolades.
He joined Noble Park in 2015, only to suffer a serious injury to his left knee.
After a reconstruction, Valenti resumed playing last season at Old Haileybury in the VAFA. But as early as last September’s Liston count he was making noises about rejoining the Borough.
He signed a few days ago after a pre-season in which he admits he had some “touchy’’ talks with his 2011 premiership coach.
Valenti said Ayres presented him with “what if’’ scenarios that he sometimes didn’t want to hear.
What if you’ve lost a bit of your nip?
What if the knee doesn’t hold up?