Exciting Northern Irish speedster Ultan Kelm won’t be joining Fremantle next season after all, with a hip injury putting his dream of becoming a professional footballer on hold.
The Dockers announced in October they had committed to signing Kelm as a category B rookie – effectively making him a free shot – but the club left him out of their squad at this week’s final list lodgement deadline.
Fremantle football boss Peter Bell said the 21-year-old County Fermanagh defender wanted to continue his rehab at home and that the Dockers would look at listing him for the 2023 season.
“He is very confident that he will get on top of the injury, however it will take considerable time with his medical team,” Bell said.
“With our agreement, Ultan would prefer to stay in Northern Ireland and recondition the injury for the time being, as the travel and likelihood of quarantines would only be a hindrance to his rehabilitation.
“We have agreed not to list Ultan as a category B concession for 2022, however he remains committed to us and when he has recovered, the plan is for him to travel to Perth next year for a trial ahead of a permanent move and category B listing for 2023.”
Kelm’s 20m sprint time of 2.87 seconds at the 2019 AFL Europe combine would have won or tied for first at every AFL combine for the previous five years.
“I haven’t always dreamt of being an AFL player, that would be a lie,” Kelm said before his injury setback.
“But I’ve always aspired to be elite and I think every young sportsperson dreams of being a professional athlete.
“When you’re given the opportunity to become a professional athlete in a sport that I think is very similar to our own, in a country that’s so appealing to live in like Australia, it’s an opportunity that when I first heard of it it’s all I’ve wanted.”
Fremantle submitted a main list of 36 players plus six rookies in Bailey Banfield, Connor Blakely, Mitch Crowden, Lachie Schultz, Josh Treacy and newcomer Karl Worner. All rookies are eligible to play in every game.
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