A late email, a polite rejection and a single phone call that changed everything. 

When the siren sounds to signal the start of St Kilda’s first ever AFLW match, expect Poppy Kelly to be standing in the centre of RSEA Park. 

The 21-year-old is chasing the Saints’ No.1 ruck role after a rapid rise that almost never began. 

A handful of games over two years with the St Kilda Sharks, and then Beaumaris, gave the Uni student a taste of footy. 

But it wasn’t until some social media scrolling led Kelly to the Saints’ VFL Women’s trial day. 

“I actually missed the cut off to register and emailed the club to ask if I could still attend,” Kelly told saints.com.au

“Initially I received a polite apology that I was too late, but a few days later Peta Searle rang me out of the blue and invited me down.”

To say the rest is history would be to dismiss the hours of dedication on the training track, honing her kicking skills one-on-one with coaches and learning every aspect of the game. 

“I was pretty green and my kicking was terrible,” Kelly said. 

“A lot of my sessions with the Saints VFL team early on were simply just learning to kick. 

“Peta would set the girls off on their drills, and I would stay and work on my kicking with Sam (Sam Colagero – Development coach).” 

Searle said watching Kelly’s natural power, aggression in the ruck and marking ability gave her a glimpse of her potential. 

“Poppy was really raw when she first arrived but you could see she had something.” 

“She loved to compete and throw herself at the contest. 

“As the games began, she just improved with every match. 

“Of course she still has a lot to work on, but that’s exciting and we look forward to the player she can become in the coming years.” 

Away from the game, Kelly spends most of her spare time hanging out with her pet pooch, Monty. 

“I’m on holidays for Uni at the minute and just doing some bartending, so there has been a lot of time hanging out with him at the beach.” 

“He loves the beach as much as I do, and I think we are pretty lucky to live where we do.” 

READ: Nat Exon plays 10 questions

Despite her growing reputation as a serious footballer with serious talent, Kelly loves a laugh and says one of her immediate aims is to find an action shot of her playing where she isn’t poking her tongue out. 

“I’ve tried but I’m not sure what happens,” she said with a laugh. 

With the countdown on until the start of the AFLW season on February 9, Kelly is using every minute on the track to continue to improve. 

“I’m becoming more confident and I can’t wait to represent the Saints. It’s more exciting every session and I still pinch myself how quickly things have happened.”