COLLINGWOOD father-son prospect Will Kelly is set for keyhole surgery on his ankle, but the key defender is confident it won't impact the start of his pre-season once, as expected, he gets drafted to the club he has supported his entire life.
The Magpies have already expressed their interest in Kelly, the son of 1990 premiership player Craig, confident that he is among the top key defensive prospects in this year's NAB AFL Draft pool.
Kelly is projected to be a top-30 pick in this year's draft, but won't test at this week's Combine because of the injury.
"We've had a few chats and Collingwood has made it clear that they're interested in me. But as of the moment there's not a concrete guarantee that it's going to happen," Kelly told AFL.com.au.
"So I'm waiting to see what happens at the end of the year and, if I am lucky enough to be drafted, it'll be amazing.
"I've barracked for the Pies my whole life and it would be pretty amazing to be able to stay in Melbourne to be close to my mates and family."
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Kelly was disappointed in how he performed for the Oakleigh Chargers in the TAC Cup finals, but it turns out he played the final four games of the season – including his side's Grand Final loss to Dandenong – with a stress fracture in in his ankle.
"After surgery I'll be in a moon boot for four weeks and then the next eight weeks from there is just building up to full training load," Kelly said.
"If everything goes well and it recovers really well then hopefully I'll be right to come in day one, if not the first few weeks will be a bit lighter."
Kelly has improved a lot in the last two seasons, with a "learning year" in his bottom-age TAC Cup season in 2017 setting him up for a consistent campaign in 2018.
The 193cm backman said he grew in confidence after his appearances for Vic Metro in this year's NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, where his athleticism and competitive instincts were put on show.
Kelly played largely in a role up forward for his school side Scotch College this year, but appears best-suited in defence.
"This year's championships were huge for me. My first game was pretty disappointing with two disposals, but I reckon after that the second and third game I grew in confidence and that whole series I learned a lot about my ability," Kelly said.
"Naturally I've taken that defensive position more and my best form has definitely been down back."
Father and top player manager Craig has been a valuable resource, but Kelly has also leaned on older brother Jake, who plays at Adelaide, for some advice throughout the year.
Feeling like they were well-stocked for rookie players in 2013, the Magpies overlooked Jake Kelly despite nominating him as a father-son rookie prospect, with the 23-year-old carving out a fine 53-game career with the Crows so far.
"Jake's been really helpful, just showing me the amount of work that it takes to get there and if I am lucky enough to get drafted you've got to prove yourself all over again," Kelly said.
Will Kelly was as disappointed as any Collingwood supporter on Grand Final day, attending the game with his family. But he admits he revelled in the atmosphere the Magpie army produced at the MCG.
"When you see the supporter base at games you realise what it means to people and it would be amazing to be in that environment," Kelly said.