Down Under Blog: #48 Should he stay or should he go?

Pommy Rich gives us all the mis-dealing's in the NRL in his world famous Down Under Blog.

Albert Kelly, enigma, hero, villain……..

After the reports that Albert might be heading back down under at the end of the season, I thought I’d look a bit deeper at the whys and wherefores of what might happen.

Firstly, lets look at the facts. Signing Albert Kelly was a hell of a gamble. He was fat, unfit and obviously a very troubled soul in his final days across the river. As predicted there was a lot of bad blood from Rovers fans when the news broke, comments to the tune of “he’ll walk out on you after three months”, “he won’t turn up to training”, that sort of thing. Then Albert had to head back to rural NSW (actually just up the road from me), after a family bereavement and the rumour mill went into overdrive again.

However, he’s been the model professional in the black and white. In the top three for the Man of Steel, scoring some incredible tries, solid in defence, and providing a good foil for Sneeeeyd with his kicking game. In the first half of last season there were games when he was nigh on impossible to defend against, ask the eight Wigan defenders that couldn’t put him down when he scored that amazing try at the Pie Dome.

Yes, he drifts in and out of games but he has a real knack of popping up when needed. I felt that after Wembley he faded a little, and that some defences really put him under pressure, still for a first season we’ve got to be happy.

The fact we signed him on a one-year contract is testament to his chequered past, when he started to show a bit of form though we soon tied him to a one-year extension. That finishes at the end of this coming season, and here’s when we need to consider what the future holds for both for the player and Hull FC.

Radford seems to have the key to the padlock that’s been holding Kelly back for years, his attitude. He looks fitter, faster and more at home at Hull than he’s done at any other club in his career. He’s obviously adored by his teammates, the coaching staff and the faithful. The nice thing is that for the short leash we have him on off the pitch, we give him freedom to express himself on it.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that I still worry a little that something will put Kelly off the rails, but the structure around him at Hull seems to be light years ahead of what he had at Rovers, so I’ve got to put that out of my mind when I’m considering if I want him to remain at Hull. On balance (and let’s face it on ONE season), I’d love him to commit for another couple of years, the question is, does he want to?

Albert is a proud indigenous Australian, and family and home are massive things for his people. Kempsey, his home town, is a 30-minute drive from where I am and it has a proud ancient Aboriginal heritage, If Albert is homesick for the country of his forefathers, we may well have an uphill battle to retain him.

Question is, will he find a club over here? I’m sure he wouldn’t want to sit in reserve grade, and there’s not many NRL clubs that are actively looking to recruit a halfback right now. Obviously, this might change as the season progresses and players drop in and out of form and favour. St George might be an option, and Ian Millward their assistant coach has said in the Aussie press this week that he sees the Hull and Wigan tour as a chance to talk to some players with a view to signing them in 2019….

If homesickness is the issue, then at least we won’t have to face a Super League team with Albert in the ranks, I just worry that by coming back down under he’ll end up languishing in the second team somewhere and not fulfil his undoubted potential.

Let’s not forget he couldn’t hold down a place in a poor Gold Coast Titans team before he signed to Rovers, and prior to that had been through Cronulla, Parramatta and Newcastle’s systems. The other option to stave off his homesickness might be for Hull to keep him happy by signing his cousin – Greg Inglis!

In every NRL club Albert has been at, he’s had issues. Parra didn’t keep him despite an amazing career in their under 21’s (including playing for the NSW rep U21’s Origin team), he was sacked at Cronulla and Newcastle, and allowed to leave the Titans too. In the goldfish bowl of the NRL (especially Sydney, where a player only has to be seen in a pub for the press to label them a problem drinker or gambler), any misdemeanour is amplified ten-fold. I suppose what he must consider is, has he matured enough to be able to handle that sort of day in day out scrutiny, or does he continue to be a big fish in the small pond of Super League?

So, let’s look at the worst-case scenario and say we fail to keep hold of him. In my opinion, although this would be a blow (especially to our strength in depth), in Jake Connor we have a ready-made replacement. Just as much of a maverick, and a real mouthy, get under your skin, pain in the arse stand-off, the likes of which we haven’t seen at Hull for years. Jake needs to play regular first grade, and needs his hands on the ball as often as possible, maybe for him to truly reach his potential he needs to be our regular 6?

With Abdull back at the club providing even more depth and some very talented young kids in the system we’re better placed than we have been for years to negate the loss of any player, even one as mercurial as Kelly.

Only time will tell, but If Albert goes, I’m sure it’ll be with our best wishes – we tend to treat our cup winners like that, just ask Mahe..

See you at WIN in February!

Until next time, Up the Cream, Gerremonsard and Come on you ‘Ull.

Rich – Twitter @pommyrich

Up the Cream Issue 48

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