Victorian clubs have “renewed their interest” in star Giants midfielder Josh Kelly, who faces an $8 million contract dilemma in the midst of a subpar start to his – and his club’s – 2021 campaign.
The Giants are one of five clubs with a 0-2 record after the first fortnight of the AFL season, with a crunch Round 3 game against Melbourne to be played on Sunday night.
The club’s winless start comes 18 months after a stunning surge into a 2019 Grand Final – a rise Kelly played a key role in.
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Earlier that year, Kelly signed one of the AFL’s most unique players deals to remain with the Giants.
The club confirmed Kelly had signed a two-year extension that tied him to the club until at least the end of 2021. But multiple reports at the time suggested the contract had, from an AFL player perspective, unprecedented flexibility with triggers that could tie him to the Giants for life at his discretion.
Josh Kelly’s Giants are 0-2. Picture: Ryan PierseSource:Getty Images
“It’s probably not something I want to go into too much,” Kelly told reporters in May 2019. “It’s a great initiative by my manager and the club to have a look at those things, but right now that’s probably not the focus for me. I’m fully invested and really excited by the next couple of years at this stage.”
But in a detailed column for The Age, Jake Niall reported that Melbourne clubs’ interest in Kelly had regained momentum “in the knowledge that he’s gettable”.
Niall reported there appeared to be “only three clubs” in Victoria that could afford to sign Kelly without making a significant dent in their salary cap: Essendon, Hawthorn and North Melbourne.
It means Kelly faces a significant, multimillion-dollar dilemma come season’s end.
Multiple reports in the past have suggested Kelly has an option to trigger a clause to extend his contract, worth reportedly around $1 million a season, by a further eight years.
But if that clause isn’t triggered, the 26-year-old would be available for free agency at the end of next season.
Kelly in 2017 was heavily courted by North Melbourne – the club his dad Phil played 61 games for in the early 1980s – before eventually re-committing to the Giants. The Age on Tuesday night reported the Kangaroos would likely be “close to the front of the queue” for Kelly in 2021 as they have the salary cap space to almost match the Giants contract.
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It comes after Kelly, like many of his Giants teammates, has struggled to recapture his best form at the start of this season. According to the AFL Player Ratings by Champion Data, Kelly was the Giants’ 11th-best player against the Saints in Round 1 then the 12th-best against Fremantle on Sunday night.
“When Josh Kelly arrived, we all looked at him and thought, ‘this guy’s going to be excellent’. And he was in 2017, he was one of the elite players in the competition,” St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt told Fox Footy’s On The Couch.
“But you look at him now in terms of his impact on the games, he’s a good-to-average player at best.
“For a guy who was compared to Scott Pendlebury five years ago.”
Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy added Kelly was “not the Kelly who I would’ve had as my first pick from the Giants two or three years ago”.
“He’s just not playing with any intensity. He may want to play on the inside, he’s playing on the outside,” Healy told Fox Footy.
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Speaking on SEN Breakast on Wednesday morning, Melbourne champion Garry Lyon suggsted the “narrative starts to shift” about Kelly’s form and future if he puts together a few standout games.
Co-host Tim Watson said Kelly had a significant decision to make.
“The bottom line really, for me, it is either the money and the eight-year deal, because he probably won’t get both those things if he comes to a Melbourne club that is going to have success,” Watson told SEN Breakfast.
“If he wants success in the short term, he’s probably not going to choose either of those three teams (the Kangaroos, Hawks or Bombers), but they can afford him.
“He may need to choose between ‘the sack’ or the success — the sack being the money.”
Originally published asAFL star’s dilemma over $8m trigger
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