It’s been nearly a month since the GIANTS tasted defeat on the biggest stage, but for GIANTS vice-captain Josh Kelly, the Grand Final experience is one that will only serve to help the GIANTS in 2020.

While the 24-year-old said the loss to Richmond is raw, he is able to reflect on it in a positive light. 

“It was a disappointing day but at the same time the whole experience of it all was pretty unreal,” Kelly told GIANTS TV.

“The month of footy we played leading up to that game and I guess our year in general was a rollercoaster ride, so to be able to have the chance to go out there on Grand Final day and play for the premiership was unbelievable.

“We’ll be better for it, obviously not happy with it but it was a great experience.” 

Despite having played 118 games, 2019 was another season of learning for Kelly. 

The classy on-baller missed the opening two rounds of the year before a calf injury sidelined him for five games in the second half of the season.

After two stop-start years following his outstanding 2017 season that saw him claim the Kevin Sheedy Medal and be named in the Virgin Australia All Australian team, Kelly is confident that he can hit the ground running in 2020.

“With no injuries and not needing any surgery I’m really looking forward to having a full pre-season and setting myself up to have a year where I can have a constant impact and stay out on the field,” he said. 

“For me the last two years have been inconsistent and as a footballer you just want to be out there impacting as much as you can.

“That’s the biggest thing that I’ve taken from the year, which has been hard but I’m excited by the fact that the body is feeling good now and I can set myself up.”

One of the other key learnings for Kelly and the entire GIANTS squad in 2019 was building resilience.

With the GIANTS’ place in the top eight looking shaky at the end of round 17 on the back of three defeats and with a number of key players missing, the GIANTS had to delve deep to ensure they stayed in the hunt for finals.

Kelly said the GIANTS never abandoned belief and were led superbly by their coach and co-captains.

“Leon’s been outstanding this year, alongside Phil (Davis) and Wardy (Callan Ward),” he said. 

“I said we had a rollercoaster ride and we did.

“We had patches where we started the year with a win against Geelong, for example, down there and it felt like we were really setting ourselves up and then to have patches where we were out of form as late those games against the Bulldogs and Hawthorn when we weren’t playing the footy we’d like to.

“Leon continued to hold that belief in the group and that hope that we could play GIANTS footy and that GIANTS footy would hold up against the best teams. 

“There must have been times where people were questioning him but the group has full faith in him and I guess that showed with the footy that we played in the back half of the year, finals specifically. 

“Wardy might not have been on the ground but the impact that he was able to have and Phil on game day and around the club, it was a year when those two boys had to have a big impact and they did.”

While the leaders stood up for the GIANTS in 2019, Kelly is excited for what the GIANTS’ brigade of young stars can do in 2020 as the club looks to make a fifth straight finals campaign. 

“The club’s in a great spot, we’re a young team in general but specifically those boys, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Brent Daniels, Sam Taylor, Bobby Hill, Jackson Hately I’ll forget someone if I keep naming them,” he said. 

“Having those blokes come through and the passion they have for the footy club and the drive they have to be the best players they can be is a big part of what makes our footy club tick and what makes us keep on improving.

“I have no doubt they’ll come back even hungrier and boys like Timmy (Taranto) and Hops (Jacob Hopper) want to go better and then boys like Bobby Hill and Jye Caldwell just want to go to another level so that’s really exciting for us and exciting to see how their pre-season goes.” 

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