Young Bomber flying high in rookie year
MOST young key-position players find it tough to adjust to senior football in their rookie year.
Not Billy Kelso.
The Hervey Bay Bombers young gun has made an immediate impact on his team, establishing himself as one of the premier tall defenders during his first full season in the AFL Wide Bay competition.
The athletic 16-year-old made his senior debut late in the 2012 season, but has cemented his position at centre halfback after a stunning start to the year. Bombers coach Troy Ignatenko had so much faith in Kelso he ordered him to man arguably the most imposing player in the competition, Across The Waves' Russell Vandenberg, in Round 1.
And he was brilliant, keeping the Eagles big man to one goal and only a handful of touches to earn his team's man of the match.
From that spirited performance he gained a lot of respect from the playing group and the coaching staff's confidence in Kelso had sky-rocketed.
The Xavier Catholic College student said he was relishing the extra responsibility and playing against hard-bodied men.
"I've enjoyed it," he said.
"I have to adapt a bit because I know I'm not that huge, so instead of bodying up on my opponent I use my speed and come across and spoil it.
"I don't engage in the marking contest too much.
"I'm being challenged all the time and it's great being able to see my game come together."
Kelso's role at centre halfback has been instrumental to the Bombers' success so far this season.
Four times in nine games he has been named among the team's best six players, which puts him in frame for the league's rookie of the year award.
His height (191cm) combined with his endurance and ability to read the flight of the ball makes him a difficult defender to shake off.
It's no surprise Kelso, a keen Collingwood fan, decided to go down the football path given his father Andrew played up until last year.
At eight, he began playing with Collingwood Park, south-west of Brisbane, and later Kenmore before moving to Hervey Bay five years ago.
Kelso has never had a burning desire to play representative football, believing the extra work-load would shift his focus away from finishing Year 12.
His goal is to go to university in Brisbane or Melbourne next year, but Kelso admits he is more eager to discover how far his talent for football could take him.
"If I have to move for uni then I'll look for a club that plays good footy," he said.
"I would like to give myself some belief I could go further."
Before he farewells Hervey Bay, Kelso is determined to finish the season strongly and win his first senior premiership.
He will take the field on Saturday in the Bombers' top-of-the-table clash against Across The Waves in Bundaberg, which could decide which team finishes on top of the ladder and gains automatic entry into the grand final.