Fremantle are set to add some extra pace this off-season, committing to sign Irishman Ultan Kelm as a Category B Rookie.
Kelm is a 21-year-old who hails from Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, a small county in the Ulster province, and has been playing U20 and Senior Inter-County football for County Fermanagh for three years.
A defender in Gaelic Football, Kelm was a standout performer and interviewee at the 2019 AFL Europe Combine, impressing with his 2.87 second 20 metres sprint.
For context, Fremantle’s Joel Western set the all-time record with a 2.73 second 20 metres sprint heading into the 2021 NAB AFL Draft, while Kelm’s time would have won or tied for first at all AFL combines between 2014 and 2019.
With GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) being a strictly amateur organisation, Kelm has been highly motivated to play sport professionally in the AFL.
Head of Player Personnel David Walls said Kelm was a long-term prospect with high potential.
“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 said.
“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.”
Walls said Kelm has worked with former Collingwood player Martin Clark, who also hails from Northern Ireland and now works closely with players looking to make the switch from GAA to Australian Rules.
“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 Clark 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.”
Under AFL rules, Clubs can have up to three players on their list as a Category B rookie, which can include players who are not Australian citizens that have not lived in Australia for a substantial period.
The Club will now work on arrangements for Kelm to relocate to Australia.
He joins midfielders Jordan Clark and Will Brodie as Fremantle's player acquisitions this off-season.
Stay tuned to fremantlefc.com.au in the coming days for interviews with our newest Fremantle Docker!