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30 days to the draft: Meet gun prospect Josh Kelly

Draft insider: Meet Josh Kelly Get up close and personal with draft prospect Josh Kelly

LAST year Kelly was eligible for the Greater Western Sydney mini-draft, and several clubs would have picked him as a 17-year-old ahead of Jesse Hogan, who Melbourne acquired through a complicated trade. Kelly, whose father Phil played 61 games for North Melbourne and won two Sandover Medals for East Perth, quickly moved on from being overlooked to underline his standing as a top choice this season. 

The Sandringham Dragons midfielder won All-Australian honours after a consistent NAB AFL Under-18 Championships with Vic Metro, and was also a joint winner of the Ben Mitchell Medal, presented to the outstanding member of the AIS-AFL Academy. Kelly has been through all the elite programs since he was 12, and has grown his game with every step. He will join an AFL club and impress from his first left-foot pass, time trial or training session.  

Who will be next? Check out the top picks at the draft countdown page

STRENGTHS
Kelly builds his game around running and kicking, and he's very, very good at both. His aerobic base is enormous, and he won the 3km time trial at the NAB AFL Draft Combine with a time of 9min 32sec (the second fastest ever in testing). But he is still more footballer than athlete. In tight situations Kelly finds space, and under pressure he works out a way to get out of it, size up an option, and hit it with a precision pass. For a light body, he is courageous in the air, not afraid to dig into a contest, and then think quickly. The 18-year-old is an understated character, but has a competitive drive to match any other at the top of the draft.  

Why Josh Kelly has risen to the top

WEAKNESSES
At the start of the season, Kelly saw pace as being a limitation in his game so he worked on it by hiring a sprint coach. At the combine he tested in the top five for repeat sprints (24.31 seconds), showing his improvement. The next step for Kelly is building his game as an inside midfielder. He spent some time in that role earlier in the season at TAC Cup level and found his extraction skills need some work. That will come with time and a bigger frame.  



PLAYS LIKE
There are definite similarities between Kelly and West Coast's Andrew Gaff in the way they both run all day, move to their left side and penetrate with their kicking. Both can rack up big numbers of possessions, too, roaming from one end of the ground to the other. 
 
DRAFT RANGE
Was outlined very early this season as a top-five selection and that hasn't changed. Right in the frame to be the No.2 pick.

BOTTOM LINE
Professional, talented and quietly determined, if Kelly isn't the best midfielder of this year's draft, he's very close. Worthy of a top-five pick.  

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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs