A respectful and reserved young man, yet slightly different and a little alternative, but cut from same cloth as other league footballers.
That was the first memory I have of David when I called him after he was drafted to Fremantle.
I made a habit of calling Fremantle’s new draftees early in my career and I recall him being humble and even shy on the phone. That was the first insight into his observational and inquisitive nature.
The first time we met was on the edge of the Swan River in Mosman Park, WA. He was shy and it almost came across as if he wasn’t too sure what all of this AFL business was about.
When David first came to the club, Peter Bell coined the nickname Barra for him and that name instantly stuck – it’s one of the better nicknames I’ve come across in my time.
Your first memories are generally based on character. As a footballer, it then turns to on field. There is a vivid moment that sticks out in my mind about his first pre-season at Fremantle.
We were on the training track at Fremantle Oval and I was leading to him, he kicked the ball and it proceeded to hit me flush on the chest, I thought, ‘wow, this guy can really kick.’ For a first-year player, he was incredibly well balanced and skilled by foot.
He spent most of his first year playing for Subiaco in the WAFL across the half-back line where he won a premiership with them in his debut season.
I recall watching him just listening and absorbing throughout his first year and quietly maturing as a result.
Like most first-year players, while he was enjoying his football, he wasn’t quite sure where he would fit into Fremantle’s best 22. He needed to build up his endurance if he was going to become a midfielder and he wasn’t quite big enough to become a key position player. He had a lot to learn and improve on, but fortunately for Freo fans, there was a very sound base to build from.
It was obvious he had talent and importantly the necessary determination in spades to give himself the best opportunity to be successful.
As most players do, they can take a while to understand what’s required of them in terms of work ethic, discipline, determination and dedication when they start their AFL journey. Barra was no different, yet a very wise head meant he would always figure it out.
He was a steady and well-balanced young man who didn’t get too emotional about things – positive or negative.
It’s a great strength when AFL players can handle the ever present ups and downs. I’ve often thought if one can handle the roller-coaster that is the AFL, then they would generally have a lengthy career.
Barra has a unique perspective on things. His difference of opinion was invaluable when we began working closely together as part of the leadership group. Often, there can be a lot of similar thinking because of the nature of the industry that we are all in, but he would often come into a meeting with a different outlook.
Even though he was conservative and reserved, when he did hold court, he spoke with great authority.
Early on, leadership was thrust upon him and I think he wasn’t entirely ready for it, still working on his game during that time. It took him a while to warm up to leadership and to really understand the weight he carried and the capacity he had as a leader.
I saw him develop enormously during this time, to the point where he felt comfortable to stand up and lead.
While he is no longer captain, he’s an incredible leader and always leading by example. He’s worked closely with Nathan Fyfe in helping him harness those qualities.
Barra’s been a player of the highest quality for a long time.
When you walk down the race you want to be able trust those you walk next to implicitly. Barra was one of those. You always knew what you were going to get from him. Rarely did he let you down.
I remember Round 17, 2015 where he kicked a goal against Richmond at the MCG near on the siren to win the game. When he had the ball in hand, I thought to myself that he was the right person for the job.
He’s had that moment and that kick more than once. It typifies the sort of player he is. One who puts himself in those big moments, and one who wants the ball in such moments.
Typical of Barra though, his celebrations are always understated and unobtrusive. True to himself all the way. In a world where uniformity is expected, his authenticity is admirable.
To be such a steady and consistent performer over such a long-time means that he has strong integrity; he does what he says he’ll do.
He’s a great role model to his three children and the wider community.
There are not a lot of people, other than those boys he’s played with, that know him as a bit of a tightarse. To this day we joke that he still has the first dollar he ever earned. I can count on one hand the number of beers he’s bought me.
I heard him say earlier this week that he was just a kid from Seymour, with his eyes wide open when he first came to WA.
He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do away from football but after years of contemplation, he finally kicked himself into gear. He’s spent time working hard away from the field and has built a life with his wife Sally and university study.
Barra has grown both as a footballer and a man.
He has always been sublime with ball in hand and has been able to turn himself into a hard inside midfielder. He will be proud of what he’s achieved on field, but it’s what he is universally admired for at the Fremantle Football Club off field, that he should be most proud of. His unique self. Welcome to the club Barra.