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Tim Kelly was always going to be a star

Haiden Schloithe spent many years with Tim Kelly, as the two climbed up the ranks at the South Fremantle Football Club. Now, as Kelly has successfully completed his first home and away season at AFL level, his former teammate and friend provides a poignant insight into the 2018 AFLPA Best First Year Player, presented by The Line.

On draft night in 2017, I wasn’t surprised to hear Tim Kelly’s name called with the 24th selection by the Cats.

After all, I had watched him closely from our colts days, and right through to our senior days at the South Fremantle Football Club in the WAFL.

Sure, he was a raw but talented prospect who probably didn’t know just how good he was at the time, but as an observer, we all saw the little glimpses at training — the way he moved, the way he handled himself — he caught everyone’s eye.

There is not an exact science with these things, but some players may take longer than others to develop, no matter how talented they may be. The way he has improved over the last few years has been huge.

Tim was always mature from a young age, and a lot of that is down to his relationship with his partner, Kaitlin, and their three boys, Tykeem, Tariq and Trey.

I have been able to see first-hand how good he is and the improvement he has had, but to see him take his game to another level this year has been nothing short of amazing. To produce quality games on the biggest stage is fantastic.

I hope that I am not exaggerating by saying that he has been one of Geelong’s best, which is saying something when you consider the talent at their disposal.

While I maintain he has always had the talent, it wasn’t until the last few years that he began to apply himself. Maybe that was down to the arrival of Tykeem, or maybe the switch just flicked, but his effort went to a new level.

He was the first player at training and the last to leave. He either was in the gym getting stronger, or out on the oval working on his kicking. He was always doing something.

Recruiters told him that if he was to make it, he needed to improve his disposal efficiency, so that is why he was always out on the field kicking a ball around.

We saw him take pride in coming back to pre-season in great shape so he could explode into his training from there.

Tim’s motivation grew after several years of draft knockbacks, so he probably thought 2017 was going to be his last chance.

If he ever needed advice or a shoulder to lean on, there was no shortage of friends at South Fremantle who had experiences at the elite level.

He and I would talk about my time with the Dockers, and there were senior players like Ryan Cook and Ashton Hams there to provide assistance.

Looking back now on draft night in 2017, I was sitting at home watching with some of our teammates because we had training that night.

Funnily enough, I was thinking there was a chance my name could be called, and even though it wasn’t, the slight disappointment I felt turned into excitement because Tim had finally received his chance.

Myself, and everyone at the South Fremantle Football Club are so proud for Tim due to everything he has done.

When he plays on a Friday night, we all have a chat on the Saturday about how well he performed the night before.

To come into the AFL system, take all before him and win the Best First-Year Player Award, as voted by his peers, is an extraordinary achievement.

But I’m not as surprised as other people, because I saw he had the tools all those years ago.