She’s Sandringham’s side-stepping machine, according to assistant coach Lisa ‘Kiwi’ Roper.
Keely Coyne is a smooth operator, with an incredible ability to weave in and out of heavy traffic. Always smiling, Coyne has the ability to “change a defensive play into an attacking one very quickly”.
She formed a fearsome inside midfield duo alongside Sofia Hurley for the Sandringham Dragons this year, averaging 21.2 possessions, five tackles and three inside 50s per match.
When she has the ball, it looks as though she makes time stand still. She is always considered in her disposal and one of Sandringham’s most reliable players.
Keely Coyne playing for the Sandringham Dragons. (Source: AFL Photos)
Coyne’s introduction to football came in the form of the powerhouse East Sandringham Zebras side, alongside several other Sandringham girls.
“I started at East Sandringham Zebras with a number of other girls who have also gone on to play for the Sandringham Dragons,” said Coyne.
Prior to football, Coyne played representative basketball for the Sandringham Sabres.
“I played rep basketball leading up to it, the Zebras were after more girls and my friend was playing and they just needed a girl to fill in every few weeks. I went down to meet all the girls and it started from there.”
Coyne fell in love with the game of Aussie Rules and that love has only grown.
“We won three premierships with East Sandringham and went through two or three undefeated seasons, that was really good.
“I made heaps of friendships out of it with people who I am still friends with today.”
She credits Greg Hipwell, dad of teammate and close friend Bridie, for fostering her early development and passion.
“Greg Hipwell was one of my biggest influences, he was really big on helping everyone to get better. Kiana Lynch, who was at the Dragons last year, her dad was also really influential too.
“Dad was really into sport as well, so he got me out kicking a lot, with my brother as well.”
From there, other opportunities came about in the form of Interleague and St Kilda’s Next Generation Academy.
Football clubs are often the heartbeat of communities and for Coyne, that was one of the major attractions to the sport.
“Basketball was very individual based, I came to footy and loved the environment and community feel, especially the togetherness.
“Everyone wants to get better as a group, not just one player trying to improve their own game, that was probably the major difference.”
Keely Coyne celebrates a premiership with her East Sandringham Zebras teammates.
The Sandringham Dragons have access to some top-notch talent in the region and Coyne was identified early on as a player to watch.
“I got invited through the SMJFL to try out for the Dragons. I came with a few of the girls to the try out day, I think there was a 2km time trial and some other fitness testing. Originally it was a development squad, before the Futures program started.”
Having been a part of the Dragons set up for several years now, Coyne believes there was a special aura surrounding this cohort.
“Previously it wasn’t as close of a group. The culture has gotten better, and all the girls have gotten closer and created a real bond and connected feel.”
She says that that early exposure to the talent pathways helped her to believe that making the top level was achievable.
“In my early years, there were a lot of good players. In my first year we had seven girls drafted, that was really like, wow, this can actually happen.”
With new coach Wayne Cripps at the helm this season, Coyne became an integral part of Sandringham’s engine room.
“I started my Dragons career as a forward, as the extra mid who would come up to the ball. I then played a bit of wing and towards the end of last season I got put in the midfield and have played there ever since.”
“We played her through the midfield to develop her game,” said Talent Manager Mark Wheeler.
“She is a very skilled young girl. Crippa came up with a great plan to get her to drive her legs and become a more dangerous player. She can play a couple of positions, that was the idea behind chucking her inside. She’s very brave, she can win her own footy and she proved that despite her size, she can be a midfielder at the next level.”
Keely Coyne looks to fire off a handball for the Sandringham Dragons. (Source: Rookie Me Central)
Coyne was one of five Dragons to be selected to represent Vic Metro in the Under 18 National Championships and said that the jump to Metro resembled the same jump she felt leaping from local footy to NAB League.
“It was similar to the transition from East Sandy to Dragons but an even bigger jump. All those Metro girls are very good and the best of the best in Victoria, the professionalism, and the different characters you get to work with and get to know brings everyone’s game to another level,” said Coyne.
“The intensity goes to a new level too; everyone has been scouted for a reason. All the skills are better, you are playing alongside the girls who all have the same hopes of getting drafted or improving.”
Roper, who is an assistant coach for Vic Metro too, said that Coyne really highlighted her versatility during the Championships.
“One of our quieter players with the oldest dance moves,” said Roper.
“As in, she is a sidestepping machine, always able to find the smallest gaps and weave her way out of trouble. She constantly carries a smile and loves what she does, and coaches love what she brings to the line-up.
“A small, inside midfielder who can sneak into the forward line and grab a goal or two. Definitely a few teams would do well with a player like Keely.”
Keely Coyne gets a handball away playing for Vic Metro. (Source: AFL Photos)
With the draft fast approaching, Coyne has loved every second of the draft process.
“It’s been awesome, the experience has been unreal, and I’ve really enjoyed going through that process. Especially with school it’s been a bit difficult to juggle, but just being recognised makes all the hard work pay off a little bit more,” she said.
“It’s been awesome meeting with clubs and them showing an interest in me, telling me about their game plans.”
When quizzed on what it would mean for her to be drafted to an AFLW club, Coyne’s mind immediately switches to those who have helped her to get to where she is today.
“I think it would be an awesome experience for everyone around me too. All the sacrifices mum and dad have made, dropping me off at places, it would be awesome for them too. All the hard work paid off; I’d get to live out my dream.”
The AFLW Draft will take place on Wednesday 29 June and can be streamed live via womens.afl.