Frank Kelly has followed in the footsteps of his brother and played for Excelsior and North Otago this season. The lanky Englishman talks to Hayden Meikle.
Q How old are you, Frank?
I’m just 22.
Q John Kelly, who played out here a few years ago, is your brother?
Yeah, we’re actually twins. He came to Oamaru when he was just 18. He’s about an inch taller than me and two stone heavier. At school back in England, in Hereford, Troy Looms was our boarding house master, and Troy decided to put my brother in the forwards and me in the backs. We were a small school but we were quite good at rugby. I’d control the backs and my brother looked after the forwards.
Q Are you and John similar people?
We’re a bit different, but I guess we’re similar in a lot of ways. I don’t know.
Q Where exactly is home?
I’m from quite a small town but I was basically living in Manchester before I came here, so Oamaru’s been a bit of a change in pace.
Q Did you play football growing up or has it always been rugby?
Yeah, everyone plays football in England. It’s so massive. I played football till I was about 16 and decided to focus on rugby. I was a striker. I knew some guys who played football in the Conference, which is like the sixth level, and they were on $100,000, so maybe I should have stuck with football.
Q What level of rugby did you get to in England?
I was playing Level 4 before I came to New Zealand. I’d say it’s just a bit below the Heartland Championship. When I get back, I’m hoping to play Level 3, which might be about the same as Heartland. But Heartland rugby is so hard to describe. I’ve never seen anything like it. There are lots of good players but there’s not much structure. You get average players in England who can work well in a structure, but everyone here in New Zealand can throw mad offloads and do crazy stuff. That’s quite appealing, but it takes a lot to get used to.
Q Did you enjoy club rugby with Excelsior?
When I started, I couldn’t believe what was going on half the time. Guys were throwing offloads constantly. But it was really good. I moved into a flat with some Blues boys, which helped me settle in. When I first got here, I actually got thrown through a window. It was an accident, ha ha. I went up to a big Old Boys player for a bit of a wrestle and he picked me up and sort of threw me across the room. Unfortunately, I smashed through a window, and I got a cut on my back which my room-mate stitched up a little bit.
Q Did you just fancy experiencing a new style of rugby?
Yeah, I thought it would be good to see a bit of the world. I’d just finished university. I studied history. I’d been offered a couple of other opportunities in New Zealand but my brother said I should come down here for a look. He said they’d look after me and wouldn’t let me starve.
Q Are you enjoying being in the North Otago team?
Yeah, it’s good. It’s quite a professional atmosphere. I’m loving the whole mix of the squad. I went to a Tongan party the other day and I was the only white boy there. That was an experience and a-half. It’s awesome. All the boys in our squad are really great.
Q What happened against Horowhenua-Kapiti?
We’ve talked about the breakdown, and that’s been a problem our whole campaign. Last weekend showed exactly what can go wrong. If we don’t win the breakdown, we won’t win games. And we made too many turnovers. We need to look at ourselves and sort it out.
Q Any career goals outside rugby?
Oh, I’m not worried about that just yet. I might look at the army. Both my parents did 22 years in the army before retiring. We’ll see what happens.