Greater Western Sydney have extended a July 31 deadline for star midfielder Josh Kelly to make a decision on whether he accepts a massive eight-year deal or crosses to a Melbourne club.
Kelly had signed an agreement with the Giants that gave him a choice of either accepting a deal of close to $8 million over eight years, or exercising his rights as a free agent and leaving the club, with North Melbourne favoured to sign him if he departs. The contract offer imposed a deadline of July 31 this year.
Decision looms: GWS star Josh Kelly.Credit:Getty Images
That unusual offer was signed back in 2019 – when Kelly committed for two seasons, with a binding option (in Kelly’s favour) for a further eight years, for a total commitment of 10 years – and has now been extended until the end of this season to give Kelly, who typically takes his time before making decisions on his future, more time to make his call.
Both GWS and Kelly agreed that it was in both parties’ interests to extend the deadline from last Saturday by some weeks.
This leaves open the question of whether Kelly will take up the massive GWS deal which, like several other very long-term agreements, was struck prior to the COVID pandemic and the club has not taken off the table. If he signed it on the terms struck, it would be the longest deal for any player in the game.
North Melbourne are heavily favoured to win Kelly’s signature, according to multiple sources familiar with Kelly’s situation, although a number of other clubs in Victoria have expressed interest in him.
The Kangaroos have strong connections to Kelly through his father Phil, a former North player, and the club offered Kelly a stunning nine-year deal worth close to $10 million back in 2017 when the midfielder chose to remain with the club that drafted him with pick 2 in the 2013 national draft.
Like all AFL players, Kelly has been subjected to pay cuts caused by COVID’s impact, and it is unclear what players will accept in terms of any future cuts, if any, in 2022.
The Giants have remained optimistic that Kelly would stick with them and take up his long-term deal, which on current terms would be the longest current contract of any AFL player.
GWS have already handed both gun midfielder Lachie Whitfield – also an ex-Victorian in high demand from Melbourne clubs – and skipper Steven Coniglio seven-year deals, while match-winning forward Toby Greene signed a six-year deal in 2018 that the club in May extended by an additional two years.
The two-plus-eight-year deal that Kelly’s manager Paul Connors struck with the club in 2019 was similar to one that had been agreed to for West Coast’s Andrew Gaff, who had a two years plus an offer for another four in his free agent season of 2018.
Gaff turned down a North Melbourne bid to take up West Coast’s option clause, which was approved by the AFL.
Meanwhile the Giants are confident of re-signing inside midfielder Jacob Hopper, who is the other major out-of-contract name at GWS, which have often shed talented players due to salary-cap restrictions and then replenished their list with high draft picks.
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