Why Kelly deal is evidence of AFL's big 'problem'

1 month ago 11
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AFL legend Leigh Matthews says the monster contract extension awarded to Josh Kelly by the GWS Giants is indicative of the struggle the league's expansion clubs face.

After pushing back the original deadline on his eight-year contract trigger, Kelly opted in to remain a Giant for what is likely to be the rest of his AFL career on a deal which will see him make an average of $1 million per year through 2029.

While Kelly is an All-Australian and in the prime of his career, Matthews suggested the deal could become problematic for the Giants in the future.

"It says something – and I've spoken about this a couple of times – the Giants definitely and one day maybe the Suns, retaining your talent without blowing the salary cap is virtually impossible," he told 3AW's Sportsday.

Josh Kelly signed an eight-year extension which will see him remain at the Giants until he is 34 (Getty)

"Because players in those two markets have to get 20 to 30 per cent more than they probably are at other clubs to retain the talent.

"It's a problem that those two clubs have got and when will it ever change?"

After a down year in 2020, Kelly has been one of the Giants' most consistent midfield performers, particularly with club captain Stephen Coniglio missing a large chunk of the year.

Despite his quality, Matthews believes the 26-year-old isn't quite in the million-dollar player tier.

Kelly joins Coniglio, Lachie Whitfield and Toby Greene as the players on long-term deals at the Giants (Getty)

"I wouldn't have thought Josh Kelly is a $1 million player," he said.

"The fact is, would any other club in the competition have taken over that contract off the Giants?

"Josh Kelly, I suspect, was more valuable a couple of years ago than he is now.

"He's not a $1 million player in a sense that you'd name a lot of players who might be $1 million players before you'd get to Josh. He might be in the 20s – but it's a gigantic contract."

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