After five long years of waiting, the Ah Chee brothers – Brendon and Callum – finally took the field against one another last Saturday night. It was a special moment for the brothers, and their family watching back in Western Australia.
As the Brisbane Lions outlasted West Coast at the Gabba on Saturday night, there was a fascinating one-on-one battle taking place within the clash.
Finally, after five years together in the AFL system, the Ah Chee brothers locked horns for the first time and, fittingly, were tasked with playing on each other for the bulk of the contest.
However, elder brother Brendon, who played 27 games with Port Adelaide before crossing to West Coast at the end of 2017, once feared the moment would never arise.
“It always seemed that the stars would align for us not to play against each other,” the 26-year-old recounted.
“I’d either be in the ‘twos’ or Callum would be injured, or something would happen that would stop us from playing.”
It’s a view shared by younger brother Callum, who was drafted to Gold Coast with the eighth pick in the 2015 draft where he managed 45 games, before moving up the Pacific Motorway to join the Lions at the end of last season.
“It was weird, it’s only taken us five years,” he joked.
“I really enjoyed it and it was something that I dreamed of when I was little.
“We got the win, so I was pretty happy with that, and got the bragging rights, so it was good.”
While the Gabba matchup proved fitting, Brendon merrily reflected on a time the brothers might have made a famous name for themselves overseas.
“I thought the first time (they would face-off) was going to be when Port Adelaide played Gold Coast over in Shanghai, China,” he reflected.
“[Our] last name is Ah Chee and that’s a Chinese last name, so we were sort of joking about how we’d get an extra million fans by going and playing over there.
“But he (Callum) ended up having a sore back, so it got to the point where I was almost thinking it wasn’t going to happen.”
With both Callum, from the forward line to the backline, and Brendon, from the midfield to the forward line making positional moves, the brothers had the chance to actually go head-to-head.
It was a challenge they both enjoyed immensely.
“Obviously I tried to not let him get the ball, one because that’s what I’ve got to do for the team but two because he’s my brother, and I didn’t want him to be beating me.
“There was a little bragging rights game going as well. Unfortunately I didn’t get to kick any goals on him or take any marks on him, but we got a few contests in which was good.”
For Callum, the match-up required little homework.
“I knew how he played. I watch every game that he plays, and he’s been giving me tips since I was younger, so I know the way he plays,” he said.
Quizzed on whether he recalled any specific moments to win brotherly pride over Callum, a tongue-in-cheek Brendon bemoaned a missed free kick.
“There was an opportunity in the forward 50 where we were in a one-on-one (contest). I think he was trying to block for Lachie Neale, [which] in my opinion was a free kick, so I should’ve had a set shot at goal,” he said.
“That would’ve been brilliant, but unfortunately it was play on and he ended up tackling me once I got the ground ball.
“Afterwards we had a good joke about it.”
Back home in Western Australia, the Ah Chee family watched on intently.
“They (parents) sent us a photo of them dressed up in Eagles and Brisbane colours,” Brendon said.
“We’ve got a big family. When we play, we represent them, so for them to get dressed up and make a night out of it, it was probably just as special for them to watch us play.”
It’s a feeling echoed by Callum, too.
“It was pretty funny. Mum and Dad, it’s something that they’ve always wanted to see happen as well, so it was a big day for them,” he said.
“Dad always has a West Coast hat on or a ‘Brissy’ shirt on, but I’m just glad that those two finally got to see us play.”
Pic supplied: Dad Brendon Snr. and Mum Valerie enjoyed the match-up between their sons
Post-game, the Ah Chees took to Skype to soak in the moment.
“We had a laugh. We all jumped on that and started talking about it,” Brendon said.
“They’ve been waiting for a long time to see us play against each other.
“We weren’t sure it was ever going to happen, so to have it finally happen and have the family behind us all the way, it was pretty special.”
As Callum begins to secure his spot in a strong Lions line-up, Brendon believes his younger brother’s freakish ability is likely to be illustrated further.
“I got to watch him when he was under 13s under 14s, and he was a freak, he was the best junior player that I saw at his age,” he reflected.
“I just want him to be able to recapture that and show everyone what he can do, and he’s building to and he’s showing glimpses, but I know he’s working on his consistency.
“If Brisbane can get the best out of him, they’re going to be a pretty lucky club.”
Brendon is beginning to forge his own path of consistency, locking down a spot in the Eagles forward line after a strong pre-season, attracting Callum’s praise in the process.
“I’m so proud of him, he’s someone that I’ve seen as a massive role model,” Callum said.
“I’m glad that he’s happy playing footy and hopefully he cements his spot this year.”