Luke Kelly looking forward to playing NRL match in NT

Homecoming: Luke Kelly of the Parramatta Eels played his junior football for the Katherine Bushrangers. Picture: Getty Images
Homecoming: Luke Kelly of the Parramatta Eels played his junior football for the Katherine Bushrangers. Picture: Getty Images

TIO Stadium in Darwin will be the temporary home for the Parramatta Eels when they take on western Sydney rivals Penrith in round 22.

It may be a long way from their traditional home at Pirtek Stadium, but it will be something of a homecoming for Eels five-eighth Luke Kelly.

Kelly was born in Katherine, 320 kilometres south-east of Darwin, where he played his junior rugby league for the Katherine Bushrangers.

Although Darwin is not quite his home town, Kelly is excited by the prospect of playing an NRL game in the Northern Territory.

With Corey Norman shifting to fullback to cover the injured Reece Robinson, Kelly has had the chance to play in the top grade at five-eighth in recent weeks and is hoping he can be there in round 22.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 16:  Luke Kelly of the Eels passes during the round 10 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the New Zealand Warriors at Pirtek Stadium on May 16, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 16: Luke Kelly of the Eels passes during the round 10 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the New Zealand Warriors at Pirtek Stadium on May 16, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

"If I get to go up there, I'll definitely have a lot of family and friends up there supporting me," he said. "I think this will be the closest I get [to a home game], so hopefully I can be there."

Kelly is one of the few Northern Territory juniors currently playing in the NRL, along with Newcastle Knights winger James McManus and Melbourne Storm and Queensland speedster Will Chambers.

While it plays second fiddle to Aussie rules in the Northern Territory, Kelly said rugby league still had a pretty big following.

"I was like any other kid when I was growing up I guess — you play your junior footy, you play in the backyard.

"It's a long way from Sydney or Queensland, but I just enjoyed it like any other kid."

But in his teenage years, Kelly had to move away from home to give himself the best chance of making it to the top level and attended boarding school at St Gregory's College in Campbelltown.

"That's probably the hardest part, moving away as a teenager," he said.

"But if you're serious about it, you want to give it a crack. That was probably the toughest part, but it's worked out all right, so I can't complain."

The Eels round 22 clash with the Panthers in Darwin is on Saturday, August 8, with kick-off at 7pm (AEST).

This story Luke Kelly set for homecoming in Darwin Clash first appeared on Parramatta Sun.