Jillaroos rookie set to take Nines by Storm
Rich rugby league blood runs through her veins and now Jillaroos teammates are predicting that Isabelle Kelly will be the breakout star when they meet the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns in their three-match series at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines this weekend.
The women's games have become one of the highlights of the Auckland Nines since their introduction in 2015 and having lost the past two series to the tune of 2-1 the Jillaroos have promised to bring a fit and fast team purpose-built for Nines football.
One of the debutants expected to flourish in the open style of play is Central Coast-based Kelly whose father Ken was the 306th player for Manly-Warringah in the mid-1980s and whose brother Dylan played for the NSW Cup representative team last year and has joined the Melbourne Storm for the 2017 season.
With a background in netball as well as representing New South Wales in touch football, Isabelle only took up rugby league in 2015 and was chosen to make her NSW debut in the Interstate Challenge just months later where she scored her side's only try in the 4-all draw with Queensland.
She will switch between centre and fullback over the course of the Nines and has fellow members of the Jillaroos raving about her athleticism.
"Have you seen her box-jump video?" asked hooker Brittany Breayley. "It's on our Facebook page, you've got to see her box jump."
Long-time Jillaroos fullback Sam Bremner will share the fullback role with Kelly at the Nines and said she was excited to see just what Kelly will be capable of producing.
"She's strong, she's fast, she knows a lot about the game and I'm looking forward to having her help me out the back," Bremner said.
"She plays fullback in her club and last year I played three whole games at the back and this year I feel comfortable to get her in there and help me out and I'll go and replace her on the wing when I need a breather.
"There's no better way for her to learn than to throw her where she's comfortable and see what happens."
A member of the Berkeley Vale women's team that participates in the Sydney Metro competition, Kelly had only played rugby league at school growing up until she saw the Jillaroos play the Kiwi Ferns in a Test match at Suncorp Stadium in 2015.
"I remember not so much watching the Nines but more watching the Test match," Kelly said.
"Sitting at home watching the Test match I said to myself, 'I want that to be me one day.'
"I did watch the Nines last year and I thought it was my type of game. I just love the atmosphere and would love to have the pleasure of putting the green and gold jersey on.
"It's always been in my blood. My whole family has played it. My brother Dylan is actually in Melbourne at the moment with the Melbourne Storm so I think it's always been in my blood to play.
"I've loved every sport I've played but not as much as I love playing rugby league."
A personal trainer based at Long Jetty by day, the contact aspect of rugby league and the opportunity to push her body to do things she perhaps didn't think was possible is for Kelly the great attraction of the game.
"It's a completely different feeling when you're out on the field in rugby league compared to when I played touch football," she said.
"It's more aggressive, you can give it all you've got and it shows what your body is capable of.
"There are some big girls out there and you might not think you can get them down but then you can.
"Girls are slowly starting to come into league from league tag and everything and it's good because they see myself or another girl representing Australia or New South Wales and they see that they can make it that far, even if they live in a place where rugby league isn't played as much."