Brian Kelly says 2020 is the happiest he has been on a football field, and the 24-year-old has another reason to smile after being named the Paul Broughton Medallist as the Titans Best and Fairest.
One vote was all that separated Kelly and last year’s winner Moeaki Fotuaika, with a final round vote against the Knights enough to give the Ballina junior his first medal.
“It’s a huge privilege,” Kelly said.
“I didn’t think I would get there, especially being out for the last couple of weeks of the season, but I’m just honoured and super happy.
“I had no idea (it was so close) and it came down to the last round so I’m lucky my ankle came good for that last round.
“Full credit to Moe as well, he has had an awesome year.”
After two seasons at Manly, Kelly returned to the Gold Coast for the 2019 season.
The centre says that a boost in fitness was the catalyst for the best on-field season of his NRL career to date.
“Overall I think this year is my best year I’ve ever had,” Kelly said.
“The whole pre-season I came back a lot fitter than I have usually been and the coaching staff have really worked with me on my defence which I wanted to pick up this year.
“This is just the platform that I’ll build on and I’ve just got to keep on improving.”
Coach Justin Holbrook says Kelly is a deserved winner.
“Early in the year, he had a bit of a slow start, but credit to him how he committed to the team,” Holbrook said.
“Every week he couldn’t wait to play and I think that rubbed off on the team.”
His team-mates joined the praise.
“I think he deserves it immensely,” said AJ Brimson.
“ He has been very consistent this year I think and I just love playing with him and my job is just to follow him because I know he is going to break tackles and hopefully set me up.”
“I tell BK every week before we run out that when he is in our team that we are a much better team and when he has got the ball in his hands we’re very dangerous,” Jamal Fogarty added.
After winning the award in 2019, Fotuaika says while he was disappointed to fall one vote short of back-to-back medals, he is pleased that he was again rewarded for his consistency.
“I always try to build every year and stay consistent with my game,” Fotuaika said.
“I don’t want to have one good season and then one not so good season, so I was pleased to be up there again.
“It was tough to lose by one point but to see a mate in Brian Kelly receive it, I’m just so happy for him and stoked for him.
“It’s definitely something that isn’t done without hard work.
“I’ve seen BK work hard throughout this whole year and to see him get the rewards and to come away with the Paul Broughton Medal is great.”