FORGOTTEN AFL player Leo Connolly could yet resurrect his fledgling career.

The former Moe player is currently training with Melbourne this AFL preseason.

Connolly has not played an AFL game since 2021, and was delisted by St Kilda at the end of last season.

Despite this, the speedy half-back has not given up hope on an AFL comeback, and will spend this year with Melbourne’s VFL affiliate Casey.

In what turned out to be good timing, and given AFL clubs generally need surplus players to get through a preseason, the Demons dipped into their Casey list to see who might be available.

Connolly was, and now he is suddenly back training with an AFL club.

Connolly admitted him training with Melbourne was just to “fill in some numbers”, but he was grateful for the opportunity all the same.

“Loving it, been a change of scenery from the last four years, getting to know everyone, it’s a great club, organised really well, everything is on point, tough as well which is what you need preseason,” he said of his first impressions with Melbourne.

The 22-year-old has been training with Melbourne for the last few weeks, the Demons themselves coming down to Casey Fields in Cranbourne East to get ready for the season ahead.

After winning a drought-breaking flag in 2021, the red and blue have stumbled in successive finals series, bowing out in straight sets.

It is little surprise to learn just how professional one of the leading clubs in the AFL go about their business, as Connolly has experienced first-hand.

“That was one of the first things I noticed, honestly within the first 15 minutes of training, the way everything is done, on time, in order, when you need to, with intensity, the boys train very, very hard, even though it’s your own teammates,” he said.

“They go flat out, you can tell why they’ve been successful.”

Connolly has been able to rub shoulders with a few notable names in his short time running around in a Melbourne singlet, including 2021 Norm Smith Medalist Christian Petracca.

“Petracca is something to behold in person, it’s even more ridiculous in person than it is on TV,” he said of the midfield bull.

“I lined up on him at training and it was scary. Another scary one if Kozzy Pickett because you just have no idea what is going to happen at any given stage, and Max Gawn is probably the largest human I have ever met.

“They’ve been very welcoming, they love having us down to help out and are more than willing to teach us what roles we need to learn and what role we are playing.

“Had Gussy Brayshaw (Angus) playing half-back with me, he’s just talking to me the whole time, telling me where I need to be, what I need to be doing.”

Connolly has at least one familiar face training alongside him, with former St Kilda teammate Jack Billings now a Demon.

The man himself is set for an intriguing season, as he makes the transition from full-time professional to knockabout country footballer for the first time.

Where football was previously his job, the dynamic has now shifted, meaning Connolly will need to juggle a range of commitments playing for not only Casey, but for De La Salle in the Victorian Amateur Football Association on occasions as well.

“It will be interesting, I’m looking forward to playing for Casey, the people there have made it so welcoming, really easy for me to come in and enjoy my footy,” he said.

“De La Salle, they are a great bunch of lads, hopefully I can get a few games there and qualify for finals, but hopefully at Casey we are going all the way.”

As for an AFL return, Connolly is holding out hope to anyone willing to throw him a lifeline.

“That’s a fingers crossed sort of thing, I would love to get redrafted again, midseason draft is the soonest it can happen, ideal world that happens, but if not, there is also the end of the year,” he said.

“Just need to put a good year of footy ahead of me and hope for the best after that.

“After getting delisted it made me question if I wanted to take it seriously, after getting back into preseason, especially after training with Melbourne it’s certainly lit that fire back up.

“I’ll be doing everything I can.”

Connolly played seven games for St Kilda after being taken in the 2019 National Draft.

He joins a recent list of Valley exports with ties to Melbourne and Casey.

Current Moe Football-Netball Club senior coach Declan Keilty played for Melbourne, while Connolly’s old Moe and Gippsland Power teammate Riley Baldi played for Casey.

Morwell exports Aidan Quigley and Casey Sherriff are both premiership players for Casey and Melbourne respectively.

Quigley was part of Casey’s flag in 2022, while Sherriff played for the Demon’s in their AFLW premiership that same year in Season 7 (there was two AFLW seasons fitted into one calendar year in 2022).