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Ultan Kelm’s arrival at Fremantle Dockers set to be delayed amid hip injury rehab

Fremantle Category B rookie Ultan Kelm’s move to Western Australia has reportedly been delayed until 2022. Kelm was poised to relocate from Northern Ireland this month after securing a place on the Dockers’ list in October. However, the 21-year-old will remain in his native country to rehabilitate a hip injury, according to Irish news outlet The42.

The report states Kelm has been assigned a rehabilitation programme by The Santry Sports Clinic. Brisbane star Joe Daniher, GWS stalwart Callan Ward, North Melbourne defender Aidan Corr, and Essendon swingman James Stewart are among those to have used the same facility.

While the setback has delayed Kelm’s transition into a professional sporting environment, Fremantle indicated they’d patient with the Fermanagh product’s development.

“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,” Fremantle’s head of player development David Walls said, shortly after Kelm’s signature was secured.

“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.

“He’s worked with (former Collingwood player) Martin Clarke in Ireland, who has assisted us in this process as well with information and training him.” Fremantle are hopeful Kelm will eventually slot in across half-back, where his dare and pace could rise to the fore.

The club is equally confident in Kelm’s professionalism and application, showcased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “What’s impressed us most is how proactive he’s been with following up with information, watching games and his understanding of the game,” Walls said. “We’ve got all of his athletic data, which is off the charts, and he’s provided us with plenty of footage of him practising and kicking.” Kelm is the second male Irish recruit in Fremantle’s history, following injury-prone tall Sean Hurley. Snapped up in 2015, the 196cm Hurley showed flashes of his ability but was hampered by a string of hip and hamstring complaints and returned to Ireland in 2016 after 22 games for Peel Thunder (15 league, seven reserves).

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