28 July 1969 (age 53)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 20y 246d
Last game: 33y 34d
Height and weight
Height: 179 cm
Weight: 83 kg
Sydney: 45, 14
Wagga Tigers (1990)
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Paul Kelly was one of those rare players in whom the product on display seemed somehow to exceed the sum total of its parts. Tough, determined and enormously courageous, Kelly also possessed inspirational qualities of leadership which often helped push the Swans over the line in games they ought to have lost.
Recruited from Wagga Tigers, Kelly, who made his Sydney debut in 1990, rapidly developed into one of his club's most important players. Having played a considerable amount of rugby during his formative years he excelled in attributes shared with that code such as tackling, obtaining the ball under duress, and evading opposition players whilst running with it. Over the years his kicking also improved, and indeed during the closing years of his career he developed into a goal poacher extraordinaire.
At his peak between 1992 and 1997 Kelly won four Swans best and fairest awards during that time as well as the 1995 Brownlow Medal. He was also selected in the 1995, 1996 and 1997 AFL All Australian teams, being named captain in the last two of those years.
Kelly's courage often sent him where angels fear to tread, and while this undoubtedly made him an inspiration to his team mates, it was also probably responsible for curtailing his career. Over the course of that career Kelly had to undergo more than 20 operations in bids to address injuries sustained on the field, and it is doubtful if, over his last half a dozen or so seasons, he ever took to the field much more than 50% fit. Despite this, he was worth his place in the team almost on reputation alone, and his retirement at the end of the 2002 season left the Swans with a substantial gap in their playing list which was going to prove difficult - indeed, well nigh impossible - to fill.
Author - John Devaney