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Who wants a lightning-quick 200cm key defender?

Ben Kelly in action for the Murray Bushrangers in 2018 - AFL,Tag-Draft,Draft
Ben Kelly in action for the Murray Bushrangers in 2018

MURRAY Bushrangers coaches were getting desperate.

A Gold Coast-bound Ben King had four of Sandringham's five goals to the main break of the clubs' then-TAC Cup elimination final clash last year. 

The 202cm forward, who the Suns eventually claimed with pick No.6 in the NAB AFL Draft, added just one more goal that day despite the Dragons powering away to win by 43 points. 

The decision to swing a 200cm ruckman by the name of Ben Kelly onto him proved a masterstroke.

Kelly wasn't among last year's happy batch of draftees – a knee injury kept him to 11 games, and his form wasn't quite good enough – but that job on the King twin might yet prove significant.

The reincarnation of the Mid-Season Rookie Draft, which will be held on May 27, after round 10, has presented another opportunity for Kelly and co.

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Many initially thought the draft would help clubs cover injuries, but that is now a secondary priority for most. 

AFL.com.au understands recruiters are instead hunting long-term options, with the chance to get players in months before the National Draft proving appealing. 

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After discussions with AFL recruiters, the Bushies brought Kelly back for the NAB League this season as a 19-year-old – and the results have been highly promising.

He played predominantly as a centre half-back before switching into the ruck the last two seasons, but has returned to his defensive roots in 2019 while still rucking where required. 

Kelly's intercept marking and blazing speed for his size – he runs sub-three seconds for 20m – are his strengths and he's featured in the best players in three of his four matches this year. 

Ben Kelly on the run during the Young Guns clash. Picture: AFL Photos

"He's found it easier going back as a key defender, which is more of a natural position for him to play," Bushrangers talent manager Michael Wilson told AFL.com.au

"His intercept marking and run and carry have been exceptional, and he's caught the eye of a few recruiters and played really well." 

Kelly featured in Sunday's AFL Victoria Young Guns series-opener, in both defence and the ruck, alongside several Mid-Season Rookie Draft prospects. 

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The Albury product is also as good as certain to be part of the Allies' squad for the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships as an 'over-ager'.

Kelly – if he's drafted – could join Brisbane's Harris Andrews, Docker Alex Pearce and St Kilda's Jake Carlisle in the AFL's 200cm-plus defensive ranks, or he may still need to make it as a ruckman.

Kyle Dunkley was a standout in the Young Guns match, racking up a game-high 27 disposals (12 contested), seven clearances, eight score involvements, four tackles and two goals.

Kyle Dunkley in action during the Young Guns game. Picture: AFL Photos

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Dunkley's Western Bulldogs-listed sibling, Josh, was in the crowd to watch, with Sydney, Carlton, Gold Coast and Richmond believed to be keeping tabs on the son of ex-Swan Andrew. 

Angus Hanrahan, younger brother of Hawk Ollie, was among the goals, too.

Jacob Atley, brother of North Melbourne's Shaun and Port Adelaide's Joe, was not so fortunate, aggravating a left knee injury and sitting out most of the second half.

Jacob Atley fires out a handpass during the clash. Picture: AFL Photos