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'I embraced it and kind of ran with it': Kelly

By Adam Curley - AFL Media  December 16, 2017 12:09 PM

GIANTS midfielder Josh Kelly had an outstanding 2017 season. - GWS Giants,Josh Kelly

GIANTS midfielder Josh Kelly had an outstanding 2017 season.

I love playing my footy up here, we're in the middle of some exciting times, and hopefully there's some success coming up for us.

Embracing the constant speculation about his contract status was the catalyst for GIANTS midfielder Josh Kelly's breakout 2017 season.

Kelly went into this year with one season left on his deal with the GIANTS, and his stunning form made the hype surrounding his future at the GIANTS, or elsewhere, grow by the week, and made it one of the game's hottest topics. 

While the Victorian could have crumbled under the pressure, especially mid-season when it was revealed North Melbourne had offered the 22-year-old a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal to join the club his father Phil played for in the 1980s, Kelly used the media spotlight as motivation. 

He produced an outstanding season, averaging 29.5 possessions, 6.5 tackles and 4.9 clearances without missing a match, and told that the Kangaroos' bid to lure him to Arden Street became public; it only strengthened his resolve to maintain his consistency.

"I placed higher expectations on myself and I wanted to live up to those expectations that people were discussing externally," Kelly said. 

"I think the whole situation helped me, it forced me to grow up a little quicker on the field and it made me want to be a better player quicker.

"It made me realise I wanted to be the best player I could be now, instead of slowly taking steps forward.

"I wanted to make and impact and become a regular in the GIANTS team right now.

"I embraced it and kind of ran with it."

Kelly eventually signed a new contract with the GIANTS on the eve of the finals, just days before he was named All Australian for the first time, before coming sixth in the Brownlow Medal, and winning his first club champion at the GIANTS.

"The whole year hasn't really sunk in, but for me to take a step forward with my performances, win the best and fairest and make the All Australian team, yeah I'm very proud," he said.

"Obviously it wasn't something I'd ever dealt with before and it all kind of just snuck up on me, and just became part of my year.

"I didn't avoid what was being said or try and hide from it, I just had to take it in my stride.

"Obviously the North offer was something I had to consider, but by the end of the year I'd had time to weigh things up, and it became clear that I wanted to stay at the GIANTS. 

"Once the new deal was all done it was just total relief and excitement, and I haven't second guessed the decision once.

"I love playing my footy up here, we're in the middle of some exciting times, and hopefully there's some success coming up for us.

"It was an easy decision in the end."

Even though he re-committed to the GIANTS and declared his loyalty to the club, some questioned why the new contract was only for two more seasons.

"People might question that but that’s what was on the table and I think it's a pretty standard contract," he said.

"You've constantly got to roll with the ups and downs with the AFL so I was happy with two years."

Well known as a skilful onballer with an exquisite side step and balance, Kelly showed a different side to his game against West Coast at Spotless Stadium in round 22.

It wasn't just his club record 43 touches that gained attention; it was the courage he showed to come back onto the field after being smashed by Eagles spearhead Josh Kennedy. 

Kelly ran back into Kennedy's space and was crunched by the leading forward, and was helped from the field under the blood rule. 

The midfielder laughed about the incident, admitting he hadn't seen Kennedy at the time. 

"I'll claim courage because that’s what people said, but if you watch it in real time I had no idea," he said. 

"On the replay it looks like I looked around and copped the hit but in the moment I just looked around and it was just bang, I got whacked straight away."

While happy to joke about the huge hit now, Kelly is hopeful his ability to come back onto the ground minutes later and kick the sealer that night showed the footy world that he's not just an outside runner. 

"I'm not the Callan Ward or the Phil Davis of the team, they put their heads in holes and fly back with the contest all the time, but I hope it showed a different side to my game," he said. 

"The doctors cleared me of concussion and all that so that’s the expectation, that I get strapped up, come back on and have an impact."