Collingwood CEO lifts the lid on brutal decision about son after AFL premiership

Craig Kelly says his son needs to work out how bad he wants to make it after being delisted by the Magpies.

Pictured left Collingwood CEO Craig Kelly and right his son Will
Collingwood chief Craig Kelly has opened up about the club delisting his son, Will. Image: Getty

Collingwood CEO Craig Kelly has opened up on the emotional decision to delist his son Will ahead of the 2024 season. It was announced last week that the 23-year-old would be axed after making five appearances for the club since being drafted in 2018.

The Collingwood chief did not rule out the possibility of his son returning to the club in the future but admitted he has a lot of work to do and needs to have a long hard think about how badly he wants it. Will made two appearances for the Magpies in 2023, both as the starting tactical substitute.

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Kelly told SEN Gerard Whateley he cannot remember a situation similar to the one he and his son find themselves in now but he has complete faith in the decisions made by general manager Graham Wright and coach Craig McRae. “Obviously a bit emotional. Wrighty (Wright) is fantastic, Fly (McRae) is fantastic. They all had great conversations, them and Will," he said.

"Will wants to be at the Collingwood footy club, he’s been told he needs to do certain things, he’s recognised those, he’s improving himself, he’s learnt you’ve gotta sometimes be sat on your backside to take a few steps forward in life. He’s a 22-year-old kid, who just turned 23, he’s got plenty of upside, he now needs to work out how badly he wants it and where he wants it.

“Maybe there’s an opportunity with us once we get through the draft period, that will be up to Wrighty. The good thing is, it’s not my job to manage the list and I’ll debate with Wrighty on things… but that has to be their call. It was a hard one when it’s your son. It was fun having him around and going to work.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 25: Will Kelly of the Magpies in action during the 2023 AFL Round 06 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Essendon Bombers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 25, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
Will Kelly, 23, was axed by Collingwood after making five appearances for the club since being drafted in 2018. Image: Getty

In a statement from the club at the time of his axing, Wright did not rule out a return to the club for the youngster. “We thank Will for all that he has put in across five seasons with the club,” Wright said in a club statement.

“Unfortunately for Will, he has faced injury challenges that have kept him out of the AFL side, but his strong willpower and ability to develop through our VFL program should be commended. We have informed Will we will consider adding him as a train-on player over the pre-season if we have SSP spots available following the completion of the draft process in November.”

Collingwood look towards the 2023 National Draft

With the AFL trade period over attention now turns to the National Draft. The Magpies will enter the draft with picks 19, 33, 80 and 98. but AFL draft expert Cal Twomey says despite having four selections, the Pies will just use picks 19 and 33.

Twomey believes Collingwood will target a tall option either up forward or down back. “They have two picks that they’re going to use at the draft,” Twomey said on's Gettable. “They’re (picks) 19 and one in the 30s which will shift around depending on the bids," he said. “I think they’ll look at a tall (option) at some stage of the draft. They’re likely to use (a pick on a tall with) those two selections.”

The opening night of the draft will take place on November 20.

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