GEELONG players will welcome wantaway midfielder Tim Kelly back to the club with open arms this pre-season, despite his unsuccessful trade request and his partner’s recent strong criticism of the club’s “minimal” support.
Kelly requested a trade to West Coast at the start of the AFL exchange period, but the Cats and Eagles couldn’t come to an agreement on a suitable deal.
It means Kelly, who finished second in the club’s best and fairest count this season, will be forced to see out the second season of his two-year Cats contract after he was drafted by the club in 2017.
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Kelly’s partner, Caitlin Miller, on the weekend hit out at Geelong over its “minimal” support for the family, with Kelly and Miller the parents of three children under the age of three.
“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 told the Geelong Advertiser over the weekend.
“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.”
Kelly’s requested trade to West Coast was the only major deal that did not happen before the Wednesday night deadline.
Next season, there’ll be ample and regular speculation about Kelly’s future — he comes out of contract this time next year — and how it might affect his on-field form.
Geelong forward Tom Hawkins said players sympathised with Kelly’s desire but remained excited to have him back at the club.
“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.”
After being overlooked in five drafts, Kelly joined Geelong as a mature-age recruit via the national draft.
And he enjoyed a stellar debut season, which subsequently ensured the Cats would drive a hard bargain with the Eagles come trade negotiation time.
“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 rapt 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.”