Most athletes sweat on national selection, but Australia’s first indigenous wrestler at a Commonwealth Games, Stevie Kelly, had the luxury of choice.
The younger sister of Parramatta Eels player Luke Kelly, Stevie, 20, is the 63-kilogram Australian and Oceania champion in wrestling and judo. She has only been wrestling for three years.
”It was either go to the Commonwealth Games for judo or wrestling, so I decided wrestling to mix it up and do something different,” said Kelly, who is spending two weeks in Canberra finalising preparations for Glasgow.
From the remote Northern Territory town of Katherine, the Kelly siblings were raised on sport, pig shooting, fishing for barramundi and motorbike riding. But both left the Territory for boarding school in their teens to pursue their sporting talent.
Luke Kelly, who started with the Melbourne Storm, attended prestigious rugby league school St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown, while Stevie went to Melbourne’s Genazzano FCJ College.
Stevie, who has the middle name Grace, as in Grace Kelly, was born to be tough.
“No older brother ever wants to see their little sister into contact sports, but she’s been doing judo for a very long time and I think she’s more than capable of looking after herself,” Luke said.
“Like any brother and sister, you have your fights when you’re growing up, but we were really close. We get along very well and I’m super proud of her and I know she’s going to do well.
“To make the Commonwealth Games is a massive achievement, but for her to be the first indigenous athlete to do so is something I’m extremely proud of and I know the rest of my family are.
“A lot of the credit for our success definitely goes to our parents. Coming from a small town there was not a whole lot to do so we played a bit of everything, whether it be touch, soccer, obviously rugby league, AFL, netball for her or judo. Our parents always encouraged us to keep busy with our sports and it’s nice that it has paid off for both of us.”
Australia’s Commonwealth Games wrestling squad is training in Canberra at the AIS, including indigenous male wrestler Shane Parker, who represented Australia at the 2010 Dehli Games.
”Shane Parker and I are both the first Aboriginal athletes to ever compete at the Commonwealth Games as wrestlers, so that’s a pretty big achievement in itself,” Stevie Kelly said.
”We have a good bond so we all look out for each other, especially with the other guys helping us with techniques and really giving their time.”