Harry Cunningham is set for his 100th game.
Harry Cunningham is set for his 100th game.

When Harry met Kelly

SWANS great Paul Kelly says the Giants did his old club a massive favour when they released Cunningham on the eve of their first season in the AFL.

Kelly coached the young prospect when he was part of the GWS Academy in Wagga and could see from the start the speedster had what it took to make the big time.

Cunningham will play his 100th game in red and white when Sydney take on Collingwood at the SCG and Kelly thinks he'll more than double that total by the time he's finished.

"He should have another 100 in front of him," Kelly told The Daily Telegraph.

"He's a great young fella and he was when I first met him as a teenager. He had good pace and he wanted to learn, he couldn't get enough of it. You could tell he had what it took mentally to play in the AFL and fortunately he ended up at the Swans.

"He's been able to hold his spot in a really good team in a very successful era. Back in 2011 the Giants had so many high picks in the draft they didn't need another midfielder. "

 

Harry Cunningham ahead of his 100th game for the Sydney Swans. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Harry Cunningham ahead of his 100th game for the Sydney Swans. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

The 17-year-old Cunningham grew up barracking for North Melbourne idolising Wagga product Wayne Carey and Brent 'Boomer' Harvey but he couldn't believe his luck when he turned up at the Giants Academy to be coached by fellow Wagga product and Brownlow Medallist in Kelly.

"I'm very grateful being part of the Giants Academy because I got to be coached by Paul Kelly," Cunningham said.

"We all knew what a high calibre player Paul was but we got to find out what sort of a person he was. I learned a lot off him and not just about footy.

"He taught me about professionalism and to be a good person not just a good player. It's something we pride ourselves on at the footy club. I've been lucky enough to be part of that and Kel was very important in that."

The Giants took over the Riverina as their recruiting zone when they came into the AFL leaving Cunningham as the last in a long line of Swans players from the area.

 

Harry Cunningham in action for Sydney. Picture: Michael Klein
Harry Cunningham in action for Sydney. Picture: Michael Klein

His 100-game milestone will see his name alongside more Riverina royalty in former Swans skipper Dennis Carroll and Brad Seymour on the number seven locker.

Of more immediate concern for Cunningham is getting Sydney back on the winners list.

The in-form midfielder says his team are a long way from being done in 2018 and warned against anybody writing them off too soon.

Sydney have not missed the finals in the last eight years and played in all but three of the last 23 finals series.

"I can totally understand the criticism coming after the last five week's we've had," Cunningham said.

"Inside the four walls we've got the confidence and the belief we can turn this thing around. Footy is a funny game and it can change pretty quickly for the b

"We are in a position where we need to turn it round and fast. I've got full faith we can get back on the winners list soon. I'm really looking forward to running out onto the SCG with Alex Johnson and the rest of my teammates and doing something about this."

 

 

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Paul Kelly in action for Sydney. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Paul Kelly in action for Sydney. Picture: Phil Hillyard