Travelling 3,400km to the other side of the country to pursue an AFL career can be a difficult adjustment for a young Indigenous person.
Thankfully for Hawthorn rookie Jermaine Miller-Lewis, he’s had the luxury of settling in with a host family since being drafted to the club. He’s living with Leon Egan, Hawthorn’s Indigenous Liaison Officer, and his wife Kate.
“We’re always having a conversation about who is and what he’s about” – Leon Egan
The 19-year-old recruited from South Fremantle isn’t the first player to have lived with the Egans – 21-year-old Jed Anderson also spent time with the family in his early days at the Hawks.
The host family has helped ease the pressures of homesickness, and has allowed the young Indigenous Hawthorn players to maintain a connectedness with their culture.
Featured in a story on SBS World News, Miller-Lewis said Leon made an instant positive impression on his family.
“When he came over, he walked straight into my grandparents’ house and introduced himself to everyone and from that moment on my nan, my pop and my mum had full confidence and trust in Leon looking after me,” Miller-Lewis said.
The young Hawk is yet to debut for the Hawks but has improved on-field in 2015, with the club recently saying his football is developing as his confidence grows.
He’s also finding his feet in a new city, and is feeling right at home with the Egans.
“We’re always having a conversation about who is and what he’s about. It’s an opportunity to celebrate his culture,” Leon said.
AFL Players’ Association General Manager of Player Development, Brett Johnson, says the positive influence Indigenous mentors can have on young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is invaluable.
“Our Indigenous players face unique challenges that not all players do, so it’s important we create environments that are inclusive.”