AFL star Tim Kelly says his partner Caitlin cried tears of joy after his trade to West Coast finally went through – 12 months after it fell flat the first time.
Kelly established himself as one of the league’s best midfielders during his two-year stint with Geelong, and formed a strong bond with the Cats’ player group.
But with two of his three young sons diagnosed with autism, Kelly and his partner have been desperate to move back to Perth to be closer to family.
Kelly first requested a trade to West Coast last year – but the clubs couldn’t come to an agreement.
The deal was able to go through this time around after the Eagles agreed to give up picks 14, 24 and 37 – as well as next year’s first round pick.
The clubs also exchanged a series of later current and future picks as part of the deal.
Kelly was thankful the trade went through, and said West Coast’s strong family culture was a key decision in him picking the Eagles over Fremantle.
“(Caitlin cried) tears of joy. Like a weight has been taken off her shoulders,” Kelly said in his first press conference as an Eagle on Wednesday.
“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.”
Kelly will be forever indebted to Geelong after they provided him with the path to the AFL as a mature-age player.
But the 25-year-old said his family situation meant he simply needed to move back to Perth
“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 (autism) 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).”
Kelly said he had left the Cats on good terms.
“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.”
Kelly’s arrival means West Coast now boasts arguably the best midfield in the AFL.
Ruckman Nic Naitanui will feed a blue-chip midfield featuring the likes of Kelly, Elliot Yeo, Luke Shuey, and Andrew Gaff.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson said it was worth the loss of a swag of draft picks to snare Kelly, but was quick to add it didn’t guarantee them success.