You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Kelly has relished second AFL chance

AAP logoAAP 24/11/2016 Roger Vaughan

James Kelly is that rarest of beasts - an AFL figure whose reputation has grown thanks to the Essendon supplements debacle.

The 32-year-old veteran is the first to admit it's a selfish observation, but he says Essendon's terrible season has been an invaluable experience for him personally.

Kelly was a shining light for the Bombers, who lost 12 players to doping suspensions stemming from their supplements debacle and finished last in 2016.

The three-time Geelong premiership player had ended his playing career and was starting work in AFL football operations when the Bombers bans in January meant a sudden change.

He was among 10 players recruited to top up their list and Kelly revelled in the experience, earning widespread praise for his leadership and finishing joint runner-up in the club best and fairest.

Kelly and former Richmond player Matt Dea did so well as replacements, the Bombers have signed them for another season.

Whatever happens from here, Kelly will be forever grateful to Essendon for the unlikeliest AFL second chance.

"In terms of experience, it's invaluable really," he said.

"You end up being a part of a footy club that's going through something unprecedented.

"To be part of that, selfishly, to learn and be in that environment, it was really good.

"Maybe the group was in a better position at the end of the year than they were at the start, so I was happy with that."

Kelly said it is crucial now that the Bombers dust themselves off, regroup and move ahead.

He said the return of the banned players was having an immediate impact.

"They're the 10 most experienced players, so just having that experience straight back into the club is invaluable," Kelly said.

"Their presence out on the ground, you can see the young blokes are excited that they're back - that just has a ripple effect right through the whole club.

"It's just a better place when your senior players are around."

Kelly feels for Jobe Watson, who has struggled after the loss of his Brownlow Medal.

"Everyone is just really excited that he's coming back," he said.

"Eventually the dust will settle - for me personally, I don't think Jobe needs a Brownlow Medal to be a great player and a great person."

One setback for Kelly has been a rearrangement of the player lockers.

Kelly wore the No.47 guernsey this year, but was able to have Michael Hibberd's No.1 locker.

While he is happy to keep 47, he has lost the prime locker position.

"I'm more flat with having to move locker locations," he deadpanned.

"It's the worst - I'm thinking about leaving."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon