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The unavoidable news

When I was growing up on the farm at Stockrington, between Newcastle and Maitland, Aussie rules was around, but I wouldn’t say I was really into it.


I was one of those typical country kids who played three or four sports every weekend. It was a mixture of rugby league, AFL, soccer, cricket and I also played Oztag.


My main sport was rugby league and I was right into the NRL. To this day I still watch more NRL than AFL on TV and love the Roosters. 


My whole family are Newcastle Knights supporters. But, being a fullback, I became a big fan of Anthony Minichiello and followed the Chooks from there. It’s paying off at the moment! They’re doing really well. They train next door to us and their coach Trent Robinson is a terrific bloke. 



I was about eight or nine when I started playing Australian rules footy and was picked to go to the Swans Academy after playing at a national carnival when I was 12. Chris Smith sat down next to my Mum and I after I broke my hand in the second or third game of the carnival and made the offer.


We just thought, ‘Yeah, why not?’ It looked like a good pathway to possibly playing professional sport. Probably more important to me at the time, Chris gave me a guernsey and some footballs, which was pretty much all I needed to get me to go along. I went down to the Academy and loved it ever since.


Still, it would have been another couple of years before I could even name many of the AFL clubs. When the Lance Franklin trade happened, it was massive news and unavoidable, but I still wasn’t all that interested.


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On the board!

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Humility and hard work

I come from a pretty humble, hardworking background. Mum works in aged care and Dad was a butcher. Dad got into disability care and eventually went to work in the mines. Both my parents did hard hours and tough jobs, which weren’t paid well. 


My brother Beau finished an apprenticeship and his builder’s course and has gone out on his own now. There’s a lot of pressure with what he’s doing, too, coming to understand the ups and downs of workflows and all that. 


We didn’t have a lot when I was growing up, but we were very close and had a great network. 


Maybe part of the reason I admire Buddy so much is because he’s a bit like that, too. As a genuine superstar, about to play his 300th game, you could probably give him some leeway for having a big ego. But he’s nothing like that. 

People don’t realise how much work he puts in for the club, not just for himself. We’ve got a young forward line now, really young, and every single one of them is feeding off him. 


He does extras with the young guys at training and is always there for a chat, which I know from experience is a really big confidence booster. He gives his time up like a proper leader. 


It’s been five years since the amazing experience of sharing a bit of the spotlight with him when I made my debut. In the time since, I’ve worked really closely with Bud and got to know him well.


My overriding impression is that he’s just a humble and hardworking teammate. He also happens to be capable of doing things on the ground that no one else can. 


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