Dedication pays off as Kelly prepares for AFL debut

Saturday, March 24, 2018 - 4:20 PM by Chris Pike

THIS time last year Tim Kelly was preparing for another strong WAFL season with South Fremantle and was a father of one, now all of a sudden the father of three is preparing for his AFL debut with Geelong and it's hard to imagine anyone more deserving.

Kelly came through the ranks at South Fremantle and was part of a successful colts team as a talented junior. He was able to quickly translate that into becoming a regular league player with the Bulldogs by the second half of the 2012 season.

He continued to improve year on year with it a surprise that he hadn’t been put on an AFL list by the time the 2017 season started. But by the finish of last season, Kelly could no longer be ignored having had a simply brilliant season in a Bulldogs team that reached a second straight preliminary final.

Kelly just had a remarkably dominant season as a midfielder for South Fremantle where he showed equal ability to win clearances, win contested ball and then break away from the pack, run and carry the ball and use it effectively.

He had added goalkicking to his repertoire as well booting 26 majors for the season and Kelly was just an unstoppable force in the WAFL who could do everything well.

His performance in the WA Day Foundation Derby win best illustrated his full capabilities when he finished with 35 possessions and seven goals in breathtaking performance.

By the end of the season, he finished runner-up in both the Sandover Medal and WJ Hughes Medal counts to teammate Haiden Schloithe, but there would be no more overlooking of him by AFL clubs.

He was selection at pick No. 24 by Geelong in the AFL Draft last year and has continued to go from strength to strength.

Either side of his partner Caitlin giving birth to twins Tariq and Trey who joined their first-born son Tykeem, Kelly has been remarkably impressive since joining the Cats.

He has thrived being in the full-time football environment and starred on the training track, in intra-club matches, then in the AFLX and during the JLT pre-season matches for Geelong where he was impossible to ignore for Round 1.

Kelly will now make his AFL debut this Sunday for the Cats against Melbourne at the MCG in what will cap a remarkable last six months for the 23-year-old.

Over the past six months, Kelly has welcomed two more children, moved across the country and now is set to join the AFL. He's still pinching himself about it all.

"It’s crazy to see how much things have changed for me in the last 12 months. Everything has come together at the one time," Kelly said.

"I became a father again recently, with my partner giving birth to beautiful, healthy twin boys on the 30th of December and that capped off a whirlwind few months."

This time last year, Kelly could only dream of reaching the AFL and he was focused on doing all he could personally at South Fremantle to improve his own game but also try to help the Bulldogs win a premiership.

But he always had faith that the opportunity at the top level could come his way if he continued to work hard and it's paid off.

"A year ago, I was just another WAFL player looking to make the next step," he said.

"After years of nominating for the draft and the heartbreak of rejection each time, I knew 2017 was going to be somewhat of a last chance.

"I’d made a lot of effort in recent years to return to pre-season training at South Fremantle in great shape, so I’d be able to build on my fitness as opposed to returning to the level I’d left at the previous season."

Kelly wasn’t just sitting back and hoping someone noticed him though. He turned himself into the ultimate professional in all areas with his football at South Fremantle to ensure he couldn’t be ignored by AFL clubs.

"Things like eating better and staying active are small changes that made a whole lot of difference in the long term — building that professionalism was a way to get better," he said.

"I knew evolving my game and becoming a goal-kicking midfielder and building consistency would help my chances. I wanted to kick 20 goals for the year, averaging a goal per match, and managed to achieve that by the end of the season."