Fremantle Dockers sign Irish speedster Ultan Kelm Category-B rookie
Fremantle have further addressed their need for outside runners with the addition of Irish speedster Ultan Kelm, a long-term prospect they hope to turn into a rebounding defender at AFL level.
One day after landing Geelong winger Jordan Clark in the trade period, the Dockers announced the Kelm’s signing as a Category-B rookie.
Fremantle’s head of player development David Walls described the 21-year-old as “a really good athlete who plays with a lot of confidence and rebounds off half back”.
A defender in Gaelic Football who has been playing U20 and Senior Inter-County football for County Fermanagh for three years, Kelm caught the eye of AFL recruiters at the 2019 AFL Europe Combine in Dublin, impressing with his 2.87 second 20m sprint.
“Ultan’s been involved in the AFL combines in Ireland and he’s interviewed extremely well. He’s desperate for an opportunity, he’s professional and he’s a really good athlete who plays with a lot of confidence and rebounds off half back,” Walls told the club website.
“What’s impressed us most is how proactive he’s been with following up with information, watching games and his understanding of the game.
“We’ve got all of his athletic data, which is off the charts, and he’s provided us with plenty of footage of him practicing and kicking.”
The league had plans to bring Kelm and three other Irish prospects over to Australia last April to take part in a camp and other AFL Academy activities but the COVID pandemic forced them to cancel.
Kelm has been honing his AFL skills alongside former Collingwood midfielder Marty Clarke, who’s also from Northern Ireland.
Clarke played 73 AFL games for the Magpies between 2007-14 before returning home.
“He’s been using an AFL footy for the last couple of years and practicing his skills. He’s still got a long way to go but he’s made some great gains in the last two years and is incredibly motivated,” Walls said.
“He’s worked with Martin Clarke in Ireland, who has assisted us in this process as well with information and training him. It’s been mixed historically with players from Ireland, but it could take a couple of years before we could expect to see him playing at AFL level.”
Clubs can have up to three Category-B rookies on their list, including players who are not Australian citizens.
Kelm is Fremantle’s first Irish signing since injury-prone tall Sean Hurley, who spent two seasons at the club in 2015 and 2016.
The 196cm Hurley made 15 league and seven reserves appearances for the Dockers’ WAFL affiliate Peel Thunder.
Fremantle head into next month’s national draft with a strong hand including three picks inside the top 20 - six, eight and 19.
The West Australian understands fellow Gaelic player Oisín Mullin, who tested alongside Kelm at the 2019 combine, is also a chance of getting an AFL gig with several clubs showing interest.
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