REIGNITING a relationship with a former mentor and working with an exciting midfield group made coming to Port Adelaide an enticing prospect for the club’s newest development coach, Luke Kelly.
Kelly joins from Greater Western Sydney where he was a defensive coordinator and then development coach.
Before that he was a performance analyst with the Western Bulldogs, where he worked alongside Port Adelaide’s new midfield coach Brett Montgomery.
Kelly will again work closely with Montgomery – who has shifted from defence coach into the midfield – as a midfield development coach, and says it was part of the appeal of coming to Alberton.
“I couldn’t say no to working for a club like Port Adelaide and alongside Brett Montgomery and Ken (Hinkley) and the other coaches,” Kelly said on Adelaide radio on Monday.
“Aside for the club itself, which has a huge amount of respect from the outside for its success in the past and currently, being able to work with Brett Montgomery who I worked with when I first came to the Bulldogs, he mentored me and taught me the game early days.
“And then to work with Ken, and to look at the midfield talent – there’s a good mix of experience and youth – so it was hard to say no to when you start lining up the names.”
Kelly said he had admired Port Adelaide’s midfield from afar in recent years and had been impressed with the development of Karl Amon, Zak Butters, Xavier Duursma and Connor Rozee in particular.
He said his goal was to improve the midfield group, and he did not expect a need for wholesale change.
“It’s not going in and having to change the wheel,” Kelly explained. “You make two consecutive prelims for a reason.
“The group has really established itself and has got a good chemistry. It’s now going in and trying to find a few percent here or there – whether that’s some fundamentals, some knowledge of the game – it’s really just trying to complement them and find that extra little bit.
“They’ve all got some high-end attributes and some game winning abilities.
“They’re knocking on the door the last few years so it’s exciting.”
It has been a different journey into coaching for Kelly who started in the AFL at the Western Bulldogs as a recruiting intern.
He was an analyst for five years but with a set and relatively successful coaching group at the Dogs, an opportunity to explore coaching while in an analyst role with Greater Western Sydney came about in 2017 and he shifted to Blacktown.
Kelly was soon coaching in the GIANTS academy and developing his coaching with GIANTS coach Leon Cameron and for the last two years has been a development coach, leading the club’s VFL program.
In 2020, Kelly was awarded the prestigious Phil Walsh Memorial Scholarship by the AFL Coaches Association, which saw him given a $10,000 cash prize to help with future study and travel to further his coaching.
It has allowed him to learn about elite standards in other sports, and he has previously visited the San Francisco 49ers, Stanford University, the University of Southern California and the Anaheim Ducks.
“No doubt that anyone who has gone overseas from a coaching perspective and spoken with College or NFL teams, there’s not too many questions coming back your way because they tend to think they’re doing a lot right,” Kelly explained.
“The reality is though that a lot of the time they do just spend money to cover up the lack of whatever it is, whereas we go to work and the development and welfare side of things (in the AFL) is first class.
“The high-performance side, there is no other sport like this, so what our athletes are able to do every week is fantastic.
“But you go over there and you take bits and pieces from everyone about how they set their program out or how they do something here or there and you take five or ten per-cent but most of the time you go over there and it reinforces how well we do things over here.”
Kelly remains in New South Wales and will soon make the move to South Australia to start work at Alberton.