Explosive WA midfielder Tim Kelly believes he can add a dimension to one of the competition’s deepest and most imposing midfields as he eyes off a dream Geelong debut in round one.
It is increasingly likely the mature-age draftee will enter the MCG for first time in his life when the Cats meet Melbourne in their season opener on March 25.
And he will do so as the second AFL player of Chilean descent, following in the footsteps of former North Melbourne and Western Bulldogs player Jose Romero.
Kelly has rocketed into selection calculations with a series of eye-catching pre-season displays in internal hit-outs, AFLX and the JLT Community Series.
The 23-year-old is now more likely than not to line up alongside Brownlow medallists Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett, captain Joel Selwood and fellow WA products Mitch Duncan and Sam Menegola in a star-studded midfield-forward rotation in round one.
Kelly has been slated as a direct replacement for departed speedster Steven Motlop, who jumped ship to Port Adelaide as a free agent last October.
The Sandover Medal runner-up offers similar speed and goal-kicking nous to Motlop.
But Kelly’s added ability to win his own ball could also free up the likes of Dangerfield and Ablett to push forward when required.
Kelly has one more chance to press his round one claims in the pre-season clash against Essendon tomorrow, having overcome a corked left thigh that forced his early exit from last week’s loss to Gold Coast.
“I’m happy to play forward where I feel I can be dangerous and I definitely think I can add to that midfield group,” Kelly said.
“I think I showed a bit in three quarters (against Gold Coast) and can definitely build. That’s what it’s about now.”
Kelly, who has an Aboriginal father and Chilean mother, was overlooked in five drafts before being snapped up by Geelong with pick 24 last November.
He already has half an eye on playing in front of an expected crowd of about 50,000 at the MCG in round one.
“I’ve never played there and never been there, not even to watch a game of footy,” Kelly said.
“As a kid, you always dreamt of playing AFL and imagined the crowd packed. I always visualised myself handling the pressure pretty well, so I guess if I’m lucky enough to get picked then I’ll have that mindset.”
Kelly said the arrival of partner Caitlin Miller, two-year-old son Tykeem and the couple’s new-born twins Tariq and Trey in Victoria last month had kept him busy off the field.
But he is settled in his new environment and adapting well to life as a full-time footballer after juggling a job as an apprentice electrician during his 93-game stint with South Fremantle.