Tim Kelly soars high for the Eagles dragging them back to clinch an important win against the Saints.
With a backlog of injuries and absences of key midfielders, the Eagles looked to some of their younger players to deliver on Thursday night, in what was a massive game for their finals hopes.
And they sure delivered, with Tim Kelly leading from the front.
The All-Australian was a roving nightmare for the Saints midfield, and from the off Kelly was firing on all cylinders, stealing the footy in midfield numerous times in the first quarter, and immediately looking to get the ball forwards to move into the Saints 50.
With 30 disposals and a goal of his own, Kelly was everywhere on the pitch on Thursday night, leaving the Saints midfield stunned.
And after the Eagles went down by three goals in the fourth, it was his dynamism and link-up play with Liam Ryan that helped drag the Eagles back into the match, collecting the ball and scoping out Jack Darling inside the 50, who slotted the first of four comeback goals.
With 9 score involvements in the match, Kelly was unstoppable, pretty much-taking everything that came down from the centre bounce, working with Liam Ryan to move the ball up to the forward line, and getting back to make four tackles during the game. He was a standout leader for the Eagles.
Kelly earnt the plaudits of Adam Simpson after the match who describe him as “worth every cent. Hopefully, we’ve got him for the next seven or eight years.” And with Kelly signing a 6-year contract at the start of 2020, it looks like Eagles might be starting to see the rise of a new future club captain.
“He knew and Nic (Naitanui) and Gaffy (Andrew Gaff) knew that they had to step up and lead and they did exactly that.” Adam Simpson.
Nic Naitanui and Andrew Gaff
But it wasn’t just Kelly who led from the front for the eagles. Despite him being the MOTM, Andrew Gaff and Nic Naitanui were also awesome with Naitanui dominating giant, Paddy Ryder at the ruck, making 33 hitouts as opposed to Ryder’s 22.
After his break last week, Naituani looked to be in good fitness, moving up the field high, taking multiple marks from Saint’s clearances just outside the forward 50, pushing the Saints back towards their own goal.
And Gaffy was superb on the night too, combining well with Tim Kelly to cover a lot of ground for the Eagles, making 33 disposals and 4 tackles around the park.
We have to talk about Gaffy’s goal though, it was what turned the game for the Eagles, and although he doesn’t score many, he knows how to kick them when it’s needed.
But guess who set that one up? Yes, Tim Kelly again, managing to scope out Gaffy who collected the mark just inside the 50, and put his foot through the ball in what was a monster of a kick.
Kelly’s performance was outstanding and he was by far the most influential player for the Eagles pushing them into their second gear late in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles now have a 7-day turn around before they take on North Melbourne in what is a must-win game if they are hoping to slot a qualifying finals game.