Saints stay so key for Kellaway as he gets set to win first Australia cap
Andrew Kellaway may only have made 19 appearances for Saints, but it's clear how much his time at the club meant to him.
That is because the first thing he did after being named in the Australia Test squad was reflect on his short stay in Northampton.
Kellaway credits his stint at Franklin's Gardens for making him the man and player he is today.
And that man was named on the bench by the Wallabies for their first Test against France on Wednesday.
"You spend so long running over this sort of moment in your head and I'm just super super proud and super super happy," said Kellaway after discovering that he was in line to win his first Test cap for his country.
"If I was lucky enough to get a Test, I'd have a lot of people in Northampton to thank.
"There are a lot of people to thank regardless, but particularly in Northampton. My time there was nothing short of a revelation for me.
"I went in there in a pretty strange place and I came out in a much better place so if I do get on the field, there's a lot of people there I owe a big thank-you to.
"It's super exciting."
Kellaway was far from a first-team regular at Saints but whenever he took to the field in the black, green and gold, he showed flashes of real promise.
He certainly knew his way to the try line and many supporters were surprised to see him depart after only one season at Saints.
He had arrived at the club in the summer of 2018 and looked set to become a key part of the first team before eventually finding himself playing more for the Wanderers than the Saints during the second half of the campaign.
Kellaway then departed, citing 'unfinished business' back in Australia, but in his farewell interview with this publication he had stressed how much he loved life at Saints.
“It was a short stay but a good stay,” Kellaway said at the time.
“I said to the boys just before I left that I didn’t anticipate I’d love it so much and want to stay by the end.
“It’s a place I knew nothing about other than what I heard from Rob (Horne) but I quickly learned about the community there.
“There are very few places in the world with a rugby community like Northampton.”
And that has clearly stuck with Kellaway to the current day.
Since his time at Saints, Kellaway has had a spell with NEC Green Rockets in the Japanese Top League before returning home to play for the Melbourne Rebels.
He only completed his return to the Rebels at the start of the Trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition and never really intended to play.
But the Rebels convinced him otherwise and he has gone from strength to strength ever since.
Kellaway explained to ESPN: "To tell you the truth, I wasn't going to play the Trans-Tasman games at all, I was just going to come back and take a bit of time off.
"I'd spent seven months away from my family and my partner, that was tough on me and tough on them, and at one point I was just going to come back and point the toes, more or less.
"But Melbourne were great in accommodating the whole thing and making it work and I was pretty happy with how I was playing, but at no point did I think that Wallabies was on the cards.
"Again, without sounding pessimistic, I was thinking that I was probably a bit too old to be in the mix there with the way things were going in Australia at the moment.
"So no, I didn't think it was an option, I had a holiday booked to Hamilton Island with my Mrs, so it was a little bit of surprise to be honest."
Whether Kellaway gets on against the French or not, with a Bledisloe Cup series, Rugby Championship and a spring tour to come in 2021, the Wallabies will require a big squad to see the year out.
And Kellaway is prepared to be patient, with his stay at Saints standing him in good stead to do that.
"I went over there at 22, and those English winters will put hairs on your chest at the best of times,” he said. “But on your own, at 22 years old, it's a tough old experience, you're forced to turn to your support networks and when you don't have them (nearby) it's you versus everybody else a little bit.
“But you learn a lot about yourself, you learn a lot about others and the way you need to do things in order to get them done.
"For me I think I came back with a really clear process, a really clear mindset around how I needed to prepare; how my weeks looked; I guess it's called 'maturity' in some senses of the word. But there's probably a longer discussion than what I can offer right now."
Kellaway was a star when he was come through the junior ranks, but he has certainly not had it all his own way since.
And the experience he has gathered means he is now in the right place mentally and physically to play for his country for the first time.
"If it was me (in the younger years) and the advice I would give to myself, it would be back yourself and be a little bit more confident," Kellaway said.
"Fortunately, unfortunately, it took me about four years and a trip around the world to work that out.
"I think the other thing is, we're seeing it so much more in Australia, that if you're over the age of 25, you're too old.
“The potential of younger guys is being used more and more, and that can be pretty deflating for some people.
“More and more, particularly over in Europe and other places, we're seeing that there is no substitute for experience.
"So go and get experience, if it's not in Australia it can be somewhere else. It's never too late to come back."