JOSH Kelly didn’t expect to stay at Greater Western Sydney for his entire football career, with the Melbourne-born midfielder always assuming he'd head back to his hometown at some stage in his career.
Strong family ties to North Melbourne and big offers from other Victorian clubs were tempting for the restricted free agent, but ultimately paled in comparison to the opportunity to continue to build a strong culture at the young Giants.
Kelly, who was drafted by the Giants in 2013 from the Sandringham Dragons in Melbourne's south-east, agreed to an eight-year contract extension this week and now joins Stephen Coniglio, Toby Greene, Lachie Whitfield and Nick Haynes in committing to spend their entire careers at the Giants.
"Probably in the back of my mind I've always thought one day I'd return to Victoria or play footy elsewhere," Kelly said the day after agreeing to the mega deal.
"But I've loved being involved in a football club, forming those relationships and being part of building that culture especially with the Giants who are a young football club.
"So maybe not initially, but throughout it all I've come to love the club, come to love living in Sydney and am excited about what's ahead."
North Melbourne was the front-runner in attempts to lure Kelly back to Victoria as a restricted free agent, and also made a monster 10-year offer to the Giants' onballer in 2019.
It was at that time that Kelly signed a two-year deal with the Giants that included the option of an eight-year extension that he has now agreed to.
The 26-year-old's father, Phil, played 61 matches for the Kangaroos between 1981 and 1985.
"These are big decisions, the contract made it so I had to weigh up those kinds of things, it's a long-term commitment. I considered all aspects, family back here has always been a lure," Kelly said.
"I feel a strong family tie to North Melbourne. Dad played there, I supported them as a kid so there has always been that connection.
"There was to-ing and fro-ing and it was a difficult decision but in the end I stayed entrenched with the relationships that I have and the culture that we're building at the Giants."
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Kelly missed the Giants' rousing win over Geelong last week due to a tight quad and the team only having a five-day break between matches, but expects to return for the crucial clash against the Tigers.
With captain Stephen Coniglio still struggling with soreness in his big toe that was reconstructed earlier in the year, and vice-captain Toby Greene suspended for one match, Kelly is set to lead the Giants for the fourth time this season.
The Giants were forced to make eight changes to the team ahead of the clash with the Cats but coach Leon Cameron has said many of those players are now ready to return from injury or being managed.
"There is going to be some heartache at selection because clearly there are some guys like Kelly and [Jacob] Hopper, [Shane] Mumford as well," Cameron said.
"We've got to get that balance right because the kids played some terrific footy but it's good to have some selection pressure and that's what you need this time of year."