SERIAL off-field offender Albert Kelly yesterday resuscitated his troubled career with a dazzling display for Gold Coast – and then called on rugby league to give absent opponent Josh Dugan a second chance.
Let go by Parramatta, Cronulla and Newcastle, 21-year-old Kelly scored two tries as the Titans registered their biggest-ever win, 36-0 over Canberra, at Skilled Park in their 150th game since joining the premiership in 2007.
It was the Raiders’ first game since sacking fullback Josh Dugan for insubordination and it could scarcely have gone worse as they trailed 30-0 after a dismal first half.
But for Kelly, who was at the Sharks during the 2011 period for which they are being investigated by ASADA, the memories of the afternoon will be golden as he finally showed signs of realising his undoubted potential.
His career has several times been in similar limbo to that of Dugan, who the NRL is not certain to register even if he finds a club.
“Duges, he’s a great player and people need to get behind him now – he needs the support at this moment,” said Kelly, who had 18 relatives from the NSW north coast in the 12,267 crowd.
“I needed the support when I went through troubled times as well and I got that support from friends and family.
“I back him to get back into his prime form.”
Asked if he had heard from ASADA over his time with the Sharks, Kelly said: “No, I haven’t heard anything from them but I just don’t really want to comment on that.
“I’ll keep focusing on 2013, my year when I got back, and how I’m going to play and how I’m going to train.”
Filipinos Matt Srama and Kevin Gordon also scored doubles as the Titans ran in six tries before halftime. Kelly got his first in the fourth minute after backing up Brad Takarangi and his second two minutes before the break when he backed up the longest run of centre Jamal Idris’ career and finished a 95 metre moment.
“Everyone’s always known his ability – we’ve seen it in his short stints at other clubs,” said coach John Cartwright.
“But he’s been here since November now and he hasn’t put a foot wrong. He backs up, he’s a tremendous defender, he’s a competitor…..”
Kelly said he was “nervous to fail, I didn’t want to let anyone down”. “I had my doubts (about playing NRL again. I am always confident but I don’t want to get too cocky … it’s not that hard, you’ve just got to believe in yourself”.
Canberra completed only 60 per cent of their sets and made just two line breaks to their opponents’ 10. Coach David Furner described the performance as “worse than disappointing … pretty bad”. Captain David Shillington was asked about the impact of Dugan’s sacking.
“I don’t want to use it as an excuse but obviously it was draining and distracting for people,” the prop said. “But the Sharkies came up (against Gold Coast) last week after a bit of a horror week and they had a win.”
Furner added: “It would be easy to say it did affect us – but we’ve got to be bigger than than.
“The team, I probably have to have a look at again. I wasn’t happy with a few areas.”
Furner said the idea of restoring the errant Blake Ferguson to his team was “the furthest thing from my mind”.
GOLD COAST 36 (A Kelly 2 K Gordon 2 M Srama 2 G Bird tries A Sezer 4 goals) bt CANBERRA 0 at Skilled Park. Referees: A Devcich/H Perenara. Crowd: 12,267.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD