TIM KELLY’S partner Caitlin cried “tears of joy” when his trade from Geelong to West Coast became official.
Twelve months after the Cats and Eagles were unable to come to terms on a deal, Kelly’s wish was granted on Wednesday when West Coast handed over a bumper haul of draft picks.
The relief felt by the 25-year-old was palpable after two challenging seasons living away from family raising three young boys, two of whom are autistic.
Tim Kelly has a message for YOU, Eagles fans! pic.twitter.com/HlBLILihZj
— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) October 9, 2019
“(Caitlin cried) tears of joy. Like a weight has been taken off her shoulders,” Kelly said as he was unveiled in blue and gold.
“That was the feeling amongst the family, thrilled, rapt, she can’t wait to get all the boys their West Coast gear and get them all in blue and gold.
“She’s absolutely rapt, the same as me.”
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Kelly, who grew up a “mad” West Coast supporter and switched to Carlton when hero Chris Judd left in 2007, said the Eagles’ strong family culture was a key factor in his emotional decision to pick them over Fremantle as his new home.
“Myself and Caitlin are pretty open with the issues that we have with our sons,” Kelly said.
“For my oldest boy, as soon as we got to Geelong he was basically diagnosed with that and he’s non-verbal, so there’s weekly speech therapy sessions, weekly occupational therapy sessions with him.
“Earlier this year, we discovered that one of our twin boys is also going to be going down the same path where he’s going to need the exact same treatment.
“The good thing is we got onto it early, but as you can imagine having to manage all of that on the other side of the country where you don’t have any family support (is challenging).
“It’s less pressure on me and I can go to work (now) day in, day out knowing Caitlin has got the support around her and I can focus on what I do best.”
Kelly revealed his mind was all-but made up that he would return to Perth all year, but the star midfielder still produced a brilliant campaign.
He polled 24 votes to finish fifth in the Brownlow Medal and was runner-up in the Geelong club champion for the second-straight season.
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Kelly described his trade as a “win win” for both clubs and was grateful to the Cats for giving him an opportunity after being overlooked in five national drafts.
“I got off the phone to Joel Selwood this morning just before the deal got officially done, and we just wished each other all the best,” Kelly said.
“We’re going to miss playing with each other and look forward to the battles.”
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Kelly was excited for some silver service from Nic Naitanui next season, hoping the star ruckman would “putting it (the ball) wherever I want” and described the semi-final win over West Coast last month as “pretty strange”.
He was a gamebreaker that night, booting two goals from 18 touches, and West Coast coach Adam Simpson can’t wait to unleash Kelly alongside stars Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo and Andrew Gaff.
“We’re ecstatic. It’s been a long process. It hasn’t been the last two days of negotiations, it’s been over 12 months,” Simpson said.
“We understand to keep our list together you’ve got to give up picks and that’s what we’ve done, so we’ve been able to get someone like Tim into our club and hold onto our players.
“At this stage, where we’re at, is important and it’s made our list stronger.
“The aspirations are the same every year. We can continue to strive for the ultimate, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.”
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Simpson doubted the Eagles would have much more involvement in the Telstra AFL Trade Period, although they could attempt to move higher up the draft order.
West Coast only holds picks 52 and 64 this year after Kelly’s trade, and also coughed up next year’s first-round selection.