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Kelly with his wife, Lauren, and mother, Maree.

Every week, Dylan Kelly writes four names on his wrist tape before he runs out onto the field for the Burleigh Bears.

It all started with his mother, Maree Kelly.

But over time he has added more – his wife, Lauren Kelly, his two-year-old daughter, Addison, and his six-month-old son, Brooks.

This week, players across the Hostplus Cup and Hastings Deering Colts competitions are being encouraged to write down the names of those they are playing for on purple strapping tape in honour of Harvey Norman Women in League Round.

For Kelly, he doesn’t even have to think about the names he will write down on Saturday ahead of his clash with the Northern Pride at UAA Park – it’s second nature to him now and he knows exactly how the women in his life have helped him.

First, with his mother.

Kelly with his wife, Lauren, and mother, Maree.
Kelly with his wife, Lauren, and mother, Maree.

“I already write mum on my tape as it is,” Kelly said.

“She passed away when I was about 20. She had a brain aneurism 10 years ago this year.

“Ever since then I’ve written her name… It’s something special to me.

“Mum was probably one of my harshest critics but my biggest fan at the same time. She was at every game on the sideline, yelling out. She was heavily involved in my junior club back on the Central Coast and was a big reason I spent a lot of time down at footy.

“When she passed, it was a pretty rough time. But I didn’t want to stop playing, because she loved it and I loved it as well. I was very lucky to have the mother I have and how much she supported me.”

Maree’s support started at the Berkeley Vale Panthers, where as well as being a supportive mum, she was a treasurer and secretary at different periods, and was in the canteen every single weekend.

She remained involved with the Panthers long after Kelly moved on. But as his career progressed, she remained his number one supporter.

Kelly then met his wife, Lauren, when they were just 17. He was playing football with her brother-in-law and they were introduced through him, hit it off and never looked back.

All of a sudden, he had the forces of Maree and Lauren combined, backing him through his career.

“Mum’s constructive criticisms were what kept pushing me,” Kelly said.

“She’d be there every week, saying, ‘you should be doing this, you should be doing that.’ I was always just like, ‘yeah I know mum, I know.’

“When I got older and my wife started coming, it was a bit like they’d join forces and both had something to say about how I was playing, good or bad.

“Looking back at it now, it was special to have mum there and the relationship I had with her, having her at my games. No matter where I was, I knew she’d be there.”

Dylan and Lauren Kelly on their wedding day.
Dylan and Lauren Kelly on their wedding day.

Lauren continues to carry that supportive standard that Kelly’s mother set for many years prior and she is someone that he credits with helping to save his career.

Kelly has been with the Bears since 2017 but has had struggled with injury in recent seasons, including broken arms in 2020 and again this year.

He thought he might not get back on the field this season, but with Lauren’s support, he has played both A grade and Cup over the past month.

“I had a few issues from an old break that I had in 2020 that I didn’t get right,” he said.

“I re-fractured it just before Round 1. I had two surgeons tell me that I couldn’t play footy again this year and one tell me I shouldn’t think about it at all.

“I ended up having surgery and the first thing the surgeon said was that I might be able to play in a few weeks. I didn't think it was real - I thought it was just the anaesthetic.

“But here I am able to play out the back end of the season. Lauren has been a big influence to keep playing.

“I’ve had a lot of injuries and spent a lot of time, especially in the past few years, on the sideline. She was a big reason in me coming back.

“I hurt my knee in 2018 and she pushed me to come back. I broke my arm in 2020 and again this year.

“The first thing we spoke about when that happened was that you never know what can happen. 

“She’s obviously a bit smarter than I am and saw something there. She’s been a big driving factor in my life, footy or not footy.”

And despite enduring both a broken arm and a COVID-cancelled season in 2020, that year was one of the best of Kelly's life due to the arrival of his daughter in October.

With so many positive female influences in his life, it was only fitting that the now 30-year-old became a father to a young girl who has helped change his life.

Kelly with his daughter, Addison, and son, Brooks.
Kelly with his daughter, Addison, and son, Brooks.

“I love it,” Kelly said of being a father to both Addison and Brooks.

“I have a special bond with my daughter. It doesn’t matter if I have a bad or good day at work, bad game of footy, she’s always there to cheer me up.

“I love being able to be her dad. With her being my first born, it was pretty special. She taught me a lot.

“I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing but she’s shown me a lot and I’ve grown. She’s very special to me.”

With all this support behind him, both past and present, Kelly cannot wait to get out onto the field against the Pride on Saturday, purple tape wrapped around his wrist with all those special names scrawled across it.

Kelly – whose younger sister is also Australian Jillaroos centre Isabelle Kelly – said he hopes to do all the women in his life proud.

“This weekend is pretty special,” he said.

“I have my wife, my daughter and my mother who I love more than anything.

“I’m also lucky to have my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and my own sister as well, and they all mean something to play for.

“My little sister, I’m very proud of her. It’s amazing seeing what she’s doing and the person she’s become and the player she is. I love being able to watch her play.

“Living so far away is tough but I’m very proud knowing what she’s accomplished and knowing what she’s dealt with as well with mum and being the only girl in the family and not having her mum around... she’s battled and I’m very proud.

“She’s a real role model for other girls.

“It’s special for me to be able to go play for them all. They put in all the hard work away from footy at home and doing all the things no one sees. It’s nice to repay them in some way.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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