FOOTBALL has helped Darren Kelly adjust to wherever he has found himself.
The ruckman/forward, 30, has played the game in Melbourne, Port Douglas, Perth, Hamilton and Warrnambool during a career stemming more than a decade.
“You can definitely go anywhere you want and as long as you play footy you know you’re going to make friends straight away,” Kelly said.
His years in the south-west started in 2008, the first of two-and-a-bit seasons with former Western Border league club Hamilton Imperials.
A knee injury in early 2010, which required a reconstruction, struck him down for two seasons before he joined South Rovers in mid-2012.
Mates prompted Kelly to cross to Allansford, where he has been one of the finds of the season at full-forward.
He has 22 goals from 13 matches — the second-highest at the Cats behind Nick Johnstone with 28.
His true value is in what Allansford lacks.
The Cats’ campaign started full of expectation under first-year coach Josh Parkinson.
But injuries have been ever-present since round one.
Only Josh Brown has played all 18 matches while four others have managed 17.
Their tall stocks have been particularly ravaged.
Goalkickers Brett Membery and Jet Dowie have tallied a collective 11 games for 16 goals and utility Joe McCosh has managed seven games for five goals.
Their absences has heaped the pressure on Matt Dwyer, Nathan Wilson and Kelly to battle against taller ruckmen and key-position players.
Kelly said he had spent most of his career in the ruck or in defence.
He said his shift forward — interspersed with stints in the ruck — had been through “necessity”.
“I’m not a big tall ruckman so I perhaps try to run around a fair bit and use that to my advantage,” he said.
“I’m not going to be able to body blokes out so I try and use my fitness.”
Allansford takes on Dennington in a Warrnambool and District league elimination final at Merrivale Recreation Reserve tomorrow.
Kelly said he was confident the Cats could progress to week two of the finals series.
“They’ll go in favourites because they beat us last time,” he said.
“But the last couple of weeks we’ve made improvements in the way we played against Panmure and in a half against Kolora-Noorat, their class was a step above.
“If we’re switched on from the start and we can play how we want to play I think we can definitely match it with them.”