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The one that got away: Who Eagles, Dockers drafted before Cats pounced on Kelly

Get Excited, Eagles: The best of star recruit Tim Kelly Former Geelong midfielder Tim Kelly lands at West Coast in a significant trade

WEST Coast finally got its man - but it had to pay a hefty price to bring star midfielder Tim Kelly home to Perth.

The Eagles were happy give up picks 14, 24 and 37, plus next year's first-round selection to Geelong in exchange for Kelly, pick No.57 and a future third-round selection.

It was a monster deal that also involved Essendon, which grabbed picks 33 (Eagles) and 57 (Cats) and gave up 37 (Cats) and 52 (Eagles).

Was it too much if we look at the trade in isolation? Absolutely not.

Kelly is one of the League's best onballers, a genuine match-winner, and by all reports, a quality clubman.

However, the Eagles' trade bank - and salary cap - wouldn't have taken such a savage hit if they'd valued the West Australian's talents years earlier and selected him before Geelong swooped in 2017 with pick No.24.

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He could have been placed on the rookie list. Think about that. What a steal.

West Coast wasn't alone, Fremantle also let the Cats – finally – waltz in and take one of the state's brightest stars from under its nose.

 

The League's other 15 clubs also chose to ignore the emerging gun, but the WA clubs' recruiters had him in their own backyard week after week.

Kelly debuted for South Fremantle and averaged 19 possessions from his 12 games in 2013, then took a significant step in his development the following season, finishing runner-up in the Bulldogs' best and fairest.

He gathered 22.2 disposals in his 20 games, to go with 10 goals, but went undrafted that November.

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The 2015 season saw the midfielder's output drop slightly to 18.7 touches in 18 matches, and his finishing let him down (5.15 for the year), but he was still an integral part of South's year.

At that point, to be passed over in another draft might have been enough for Kelly to give up on his dream of playing at the highest level, but it only elevated his drive to get to the AFL.

Tim Kelly elevated his game to another level in 2019, finishing fifth in the Brownlow Medal.

He starred as the Dogs returned to the finals in 2016, averaging 20.3 possessions from his 20 games, as well as 4.3 tackles, and had a brilliant September.

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Kelly racked up 25 disposals per game in three finals, which included his 20 touches, seven tackles and a goal against Fremantle's host club Peel, and a team that included then-Dockers Nick Suban, Matt de Boer, Connor Blakely, Ed Langdon, Harley Balic and Josh DeLuca in the midfield. 

Fremantle officials would have watched that game intently, but even that performance wasn't enough to tempt them, or the Eagles, to call out Kelly's name on draft night.

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Another post-season of disappointment seemed to be the final straw for Kelly, who entered the 2017 WAFL season as a 22-year-old determined to give recruiters no choice but to draft him.

He played all 23 games for the Bulldogs, who surged to a preliminary final on the back of the dominance of Kelly and fellow midfielder Haiden Schloithe.

 

He averaged 26.3 possessions per match and kicked 26.14 for the year, before finishing second to Schloithe in the Sandover Medal, and the Bulldogs' best and fairest.

Two months after that season ended, Geelong gave Kelly his well-deserved chance and the rest is history.

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After back-to-back second-place finishes in the Cats best and fairest, an All Australian blazer and 37 Brownlow medal votes, the 25-year-old is now an Eagle, but what impact could he have had if they'd plucked him from the WAFL three or four years earlier?

They won the 2018 flag, could it have been more?

Tim Kelly with his first All Australian blazer.

What would the Dockers' list, finals record and onball division look like with Kelly in the 22 alongside dual Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe and Lachie Neale, if they had drafted him a few seasons ago?

While those questions can never be answered, as Kelly begins the second phase of his AFL journey with West Coast, everyone will now be asking, how are opposition clubs going to curb Adam Simpson's star-studded midfield?

So, who did the WA clubs choose instead of taking a punt on Kelly? AFL.com.au has the list below:

2015 

West Coast
Luke Partington (pick No.28 - six games after being drafted), Tom Cole* (36 - 41 games)Kurt Mutimer* (57 - four games)Matthew Allen* (62 - zero games)
Rookies: Jordan Snadden (zero games), Brant Colledge (zero games), Alec Waterman (zero games), Simon Tunbridge (three games)

Fremantle
Darcy Tucker* (27 - 70 games), Harley Balic (38 - four games), Sam Collins (55 - 14 games), Shane Yarran (61 - six games)
Rookies: Matthew Uebergang (zero games), Ryan Nyhuis (17 games)Anthony Morabito (re-drafted - zero games)Josh DeLuca (zero games)

2016 

West Coast
Daniel Venables* (13 - 21 games), Josh Rotham* (37 - four games), Willie Rioli* (52 - 38 games), Jake Waterman* (77 - 29 games)
Rookies: Thomas Gorter (zero games)Drew Petrie (16 games), Fraser McInnes (re-drafted – five games)

Fremantle
Griffen Logue* (eight – 23 games), Sean Darcy* (38 – 26 games), Brennan Cox* (41 – 34 games), Luke Ryan* (66 – 49 games)
Rookies: Taylin Duman* (24 games), Luke Strnadica (zero games), Brady Grey (18 games), Josh DeLuca (re-drafted – four games)

2017 

West Coast
Jarrod Brander* (13 - three games), Oscar Allen* (21 - 23 games)

Fremantle 
Andrew Brayshaw* (two - 39 games), Adam Cerra* (five - 41 games)
*Geelong selected Kelly with pick No.24

*denotes player still at the club

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