A rejuvenated Albert Kelly has been backed to win the UK Super League's 2019 Man of Steel award and earn an NRL return after a troubled year.
The former Gold Coast playmaker has copped flak for returning to Hull FC's pre-season looking overweight after a nightmare 2018 marred by concussion dramas and an infamous drunken rant in a UK fast food restaurant.
The 27-year-old's immediate future at Hull FC also looked in doubt with England representative Jake Connor placing enormous pressure on Kelly to hold his starting spot this season.
But Hull FC chairman Adam Pearson has tipped Kelly to respond to Connor's challenge in 2019 and earn an NRL contract next year.
"He looks a completely different Albert Kelly. It's all rubbish all this talk about him being fat and overweight He's working very, very hard and looks great," he told Yorkshire Evening Post.
"I'm backing him to be right up there in the running for Man of Steel again.
"He is a complex character but I think Alby fires on Alby.
"I think he thinks he has another contract in the NRL and to do that he knows he needs a big year with us."
Kelly shone in his debut season with Hull FC in 2017 when he was nominated for the Man of Steel award - the Super League's Dally M Medal - but was restricted last season due to three concussions.
He also struggled with "feeling worthless" while sidelined due to concussion protocols and made UK headlines back in April for drunkenly abusing two women at a McDonald's.
Kelly was sacked by Cronulla early in 2012 and dumped before playing a game for Newcastle the next year for damaging a nightclub.
He enjoyed two seasons at the Gold Coast before being released in 2014 and heading for the UK where he initially linked with Hull Kingston Rovers.
"Alby looks like he's flying and that makes a huge difference," Pearson said of Kelly ahead of Hull FC's season opener in three weeks.