As footballers, Tom Nicholls and Aaron Hall couldn’t be more different. Nicholls, 21, is an athletic ruckman and Hall, 22, is a nippy half-forward. But as people, they share many similarities. They have both moved interstate to pursue their AFL dreams, played their first game in 2012 and have Fijian blood running through their veins – their mums were born in Fiji.
“He always says to me, he is my little big brother,” Nicholls says.
Nicholls’ mum, Connie was working as a Nurse in Fiji when she met an Australian doctor –Andrew Nicholls.
“The story goes they finished their shift and went home, but they both returned that night on the off chance they would catch each other, and they did,” Nicholls recalls.
Hall’s mum Naz, won a scholarship to study in Tasmania where she met former Sydney listed player Dale Hall.
Fiji to Tasmania is a significant climate change and “she still struggles now,” Hall laughs.
Both players are proud of their Fijian heritage and the recognition of the various cultures that make up the AFL playing community during AFL Multicultural Round.
“It is a part of me, as well as being an Australian,” Hall says.
“It’s massive to me, it’s part of my heritage and it’s pretty special to me,” Nicholls says.
“Multiculturalism sums up Australia, we are a multicultural country and it’s a massive part of footy as well.”
Hall grew up in Tasmania among a thriving Fijian community and with a strong sense of Fijian culture.
“I was introduced to that culture quite young; my father was open to the culture and loved the Fijian people as well. I can remember sitting around when I was younger having Kava (Fijian drink) with my family, playing guitar and singing along.”
Nicholls grew up in country Victoria before moving to Melbourne when he reached secondary school. There was one other Fijian family in the river town of Yarrawonga but as a youngster he recalls the games and chants his mum taught him and the Fijian words he would take to school. Connie’s Lamb Curry is still his favourite dish.
They both still have family living in Fiji and have been back many times. Hall hasn’t been back for five years now but is looking forward to hosting members of his extended family when they travel to the Gold Coast for a Rugby Sevens tournament later in the year.
The Nicholls family enjoyed a Fijian Christmas last year and every time he goes there he falls in love with the locals again.
“Their feel for community; they are just at one over there. You walk down the street and they don’t know you but they help you out as if you are their neighbour or best friend,” he says.
Hall recalls fondly a visit from his cousin at his home in Tasmania and how excited he was about the view from Hall’s bedroom; something he had stopped noticing in his day-to-day busy life.
“You sort of take it for granted, but I mean everyone over there is so nice and loving and humble and I definitely try and to bring that over here and carry that out in the way I act.”
Both Hall and Nicholls found it challenging to move away from their tight families to pursue their dreams, but having someone from a similar background, with similar cultural values has been comforting. They both describe their bond as “special”.
Off the field Nicholls elected not to follow in the footsteps of his parents; he is studying a double degree in commerce and law, “I’m not too good with blood and guts, I don’t know how Dad does it.”
Hall is half-way through a business degree and helps out at his local church when time permits.
“I really enjoy working with younger people and people less fortunate than I am. I like to communicate with people now and start to build relationships so people don’t just know me as a footballer but as a humble, nice person.”
2013 has been a successful year for both of them, Nicholls has played the last five games, thriving in the absence of Zac Smith and Hall has played every game this year, the highlight being a five-goal haul against Hawthorn in Round 9.
For these Fijian Suns there is plenty to smile about.