After missing out on selection in Round 1, Josh Kelly – selected with pick two in last year’s draft – came into GWS’s side to take on St Kilda with little fanfare a week later. He started as the sub, but looked the goods as soon as he came onto the ground.
On Sunday he played his first full game and showed why he was rated the best midfielder in the country in last year’s draft crop. Kelly racked up 17 silky possessions and kicked two classy last quarter goals to help sink the Demons on Sunday. Few were surprised when he was named the Round 3 Rising Star nominee on Monday night.
Having seen what he’s capable of, it’s hard not to wonder why he missed out on selection for the season opener, and why the Giants haven’t been shouting about his talent from the rooftops.
— Matthew Richardson (@mattricho0) April 6, 2014
No.2 pick Josh Kelly kicks two goals to finish off the Dees. @voss03 says he'll win a Brownlow. Can't argue.
— Jay Clark (@ClarkyHeraldSun) April 6, 2014
Speaking to aflplayers.com.au before the season began, Kelly said the Giants had made a point of easing him into the rigours of AFL.
“There’s a lot of intense training but they’ve been really cautious with the way they’ve introduced us into training.”
Outside GWS, it’s fair to say expectations are high. There’s no shortage of punters willing to make bold predictions about what might lie ahead for Kelly. But he’s not the type to get ahead of himself.
“Something I want to consistently improve is my contested footy and probably trying to put weight on” – Josh Kelly
“I haven’t set any goals related to games I want to play or anything like that,” Kelly said in the leadup to the season.
“It’s more just focusing on getting a full pre-season, getting my body right and getting myself ready for practice matches… and training to my full capacity every time I step onto the track, trying to impress and gain respect.”
It’s something he’s worked at diligently and without fuss. Teammate Heath Shaw sits next to Kelly in the Giants’ locker room – Shaw wears number 23 and Kelly wears 22 – and told SEN’s Morning Glory yesterday that he’d barely got a word out of Kelly all year. The 19-year-old is staying focused, and keeping grounded.
“Something I want to consistently improve is my contested footy and probably trying to put weight on,” Kelly said earlier in the year.
“That’s not something I’m expecting to address immediately and start stacking heaps of kilos on… But I’m also continually working on my strengths as well – you don’t want to lose those, so every training I’m trying to hit all my targets and work hard in the running sessions.”
Roughly two months on, Kelly’s approach to footy hasn’t changed.
“I just want to keep training hard and putting my hand up for selection,” Kelly told afl.com.au on Monday.
Since coming to the Giants, Kelly has had no shortage of professional role models. Early on, he was particularly taken aback by Tom Scully’s attitude.
“His work-rate at training… every single running session he’s putting 100 percent in,” Kelly said.
“Just his professionalism and work-rate… even though he’s got a lot out of himself, just his continual drive to improve [sets a great standard].”
Kelly has already shown he has the skills and smarts to become an elite midfielder, but if he’s going to reach the expectations others expect, it will be through hard work. From all accounts, his appetite for hard work might be his greatest asset of all.
Josh Kelly is the 12th GWS player to receive a Rising Star nomination, and is eligible for this year’s #22under22 team. Will he make the side? Let us know in the comment box below.
Q&A with Josh Kelly
East Brighton Vampires
Who did you barrack for before you were drafted?
Who was your favourite player?
Jarrad McVeigh/ Scott Pendlebury
Greatest influence on your career to date?
Person you would most like to meet?
Greatest non-football achievement?
If you weren’t a footballer… ?
I’d be studying