Cats ‘excited’ despite plea to leave
TIM Kelly is guaranteed the sort of AFL spotlight that follows star Geelong teammates Gary Ablett and Patrick Dangerfield.
Already a revelation with his outstanding debut year, Kelly's unsuccessful trade bid means the midfielder will be one of the ongoing stories of next season.
There will be regular speculation about his future - he comes out of contract this time next year - and how all that might affect his on-field form.
Kelly requested a trade away from the Cats after only one season, with his intentions laid bare he wanted to return home to WA.
He was the only big name player during the AFL's 2018 Trade Period that was left hanging when the window officially closed.
He requested a move back to his home state citing family reasons. Kelly and partner Caitlin have three young sons, including twins. After being overlooked in five drafts, Kelly joined Geelong as a mature-age recruit.
He enjoyed a stellar debut season, finishing equal-second in Geelong's best and fairest voting.
That ensured the Cats would drive a hard bargain with the Eagles, with the premiers now keen to add Kelly to their midfield after previously overlooking him in the draft.
"The problem is Geelong rate him just as highly as we do," said West Coast list manager Brady Rawlings.
Geelong also tried to broker a deal with Fremantle, but Kelly was adamant that he wanted to join the Eagles or stay put.
Cats list manager Stephen Wells is confident that Kelly will not waver next year at Geelong.
"To our great delight, Tim is very keen to get back to Geelong and play good footy next year," Wells said.
"If we weren't confident of that, we may have been a little bit more inclined to do the deal." Wells was not quite so adamant about signing Kelly to a new deal.
"We're not sure about that … we 'll be happy to talk to him and his manager about extending his contract if we can, but that will be a little bit in their hands," he said.
Despite the prospect of a cloud hanging over the head of Kelly and his playing future, teammate Tom Hawkins says the playing group is excited to have him back.
"We'll continue to give the support to Tim and his family - both in Geelong and back home - that we can. As a player, we always try and do that down in Geelong," Hawkins told reporters on Monday.
"It is hard for players moving interstate and especially when you've got a young family.
"I know that they're very close with their family. It's a hard part of the industry and the job that we're in, but we see it in all walks of life.
"It's hard to speculate on exactly what Tim and his family will do … but I know Tim has enjoyed his time (with the Cats). He reiterated that at the best and fairest when he got up and spoke.
"It's fantastic to have a player of his quality back with us playing again," Hawkins said.
"To be fair, as a teammate, you can only speculate on what happened during the Trade Period because you're very much removed from that. But as his teammate, I'm wrapped to have him back.
"We can see even more improvement in Tim Kelly. It's his first year of AFL football at the level. He's got the ability to be able to keep improving."
Kelly's partner, Caitlin Miller, added fuel to the playing future fire in an interview on the weekend where she hit out at the club.
Miller stated the family had received "minimal" support throughout the season despite their children's running battles with illnesses.
"They were aware we had never been to Melbourne, had no family or support and whilst we have had access to the club doctor when the children have been sick, the support we have been given by the Cats is minimal," she said.
"We understand our situation is unique - I'm not sure the Cats have ever recruited a player with three under three from interstate so maybe they're unaware of the kind of support that we should have been offered."
The 2019 season is sure to be interesting with all eyes set to be locked in on Kelly and just how he'll handle his potential final season in Geelong.
- with AAP