Fans Players

Family and football in Frederick brothers’ DNA


It can mean a whole range of things. One definition is ‘a group of people related by blood’.

From a DNA perspective, Michael and Martin Frederick could hardly be closer.

They are twin brothers, in fact, and they grew up shoulder to shoulder. From the moment they found a football in their backyard, they rose — together — through Adelaide’s junior ranks.

Their parents, who moved from South Sudan to Australia in pursuit of a better life, have not seen any members of their blood-related family since they made the move back in 1998.

“They left all their family behind,” Michael, who has now played 15 games for Fremantle, explained. “My Mum still hasn’t got the chance to go back to South Sudan.

“She sacrificed a lot of things, her and my Dad, to have a better life. In the end they had us two (Michael and Martin), and I guess we’ve probably had a better life than they had when they were our age.”

But for the Fredericks, the concept of family extends far beyond merely blood relation.

“We have no blood relatives at all in Australia. We have a lot of people that my Mum grew up with in Africa who live in Adelaide, and we call them family. Any Christmas function or get-together, all of us are always there. We have a lot of respect for our elders who came here and allowed us to have a better life in Australia,” Michael said.

Martin, who made an impressive debut for Port Adelaide on Sunday night, speaks just as glowingly of the South Sudanese family-driven culture.

“A lot of people came over at the same time as my Mum, and we would call those people aunties and uncles, or cousins,” he explained. “It’s pretty special that we have so many people we call our brothers and sisters or aunties and uncles.”

“Pretty special” is also how the speedy half-back, nicknamed ‘Flash’, described the pre-game moments in Port Adelaide’s changerooms, as one of his childhood heroes, David Rodan, presented him with his jumper.

“He was one of my favourite players,” Martin said.

“It was a pretty special moment for me. My brother, being on FaceTime, was pretty good. He was supposed to come over that weekend but with Perth going into lockdown he couldn’t. But he was still there (over Facetime), which I was happy about.

“I couldn’t believe it, to be honest. Words can’t describe it.”

Michael had planned on flying into Adelaide for his brother’s debut after the Dockers’ win on Saturday night. Perth’s snap COVID lockdown, though, meant he could only be virtually present.

But for Michael, it would not dampen the occasion.

“Port Adelaide Footy Club got me on FaceTime, so I still got to watch his guernsey presentation which was pretty cool,” he said.

“David Rodan, one of his childhood heroes, was able to present him with his first game jumper. I still got to experience it with him, Mum, and his girlfriend.

“Being a Port supporter, he said it was like the cherry on top being able to finally play his first game. It’s been a long time coming, he’s been on their list for three years, and then finally got his chance on Sunday. I think he went pretty well.”

“She sacrificed a lot of things, her and my Dad, to have a better life. In the end they had us two (Michael and Martin), and I guess we’ve probably had a better life than they had when they were our age.” – Michael frederick

A composed debut across half-back, Martin gathered the ball 23 times and disposed of the Sherrin at a near flawless 95 per cent efficiency. Praised for calmness under pressure, he credits his composure to his well-trained mind.

“It’s something I’ve worked on,” he said. “I was probably a bit hectic when I first came to the club. I was probably not sure of myself all of the time.

“Recently, when I had time away from the club, I worked on some mental stuff to make sure I don’t dwell on mistakes and I’m able to move forward quickly. That’s probably helped me become more free-minded and more comfortable, so it looks like I’m relaxed. I’m playing freely.”

That the 20-year-old was not overawed by the occasion is all the more impressive when considering Martin, a childhood Power fan, was debuting in front of a crowd he was once a passionate member of.

“For me, for that to come true, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” he said.

“Just to play a game in the jersey means a lot. You learn about the history when you’re younger. As a kid, when you’re footy obsessed, you research everything about the club. It’s pretty insane to think that I was a kid that did that stuff and now, I’m a kid that’s played for the club as well.”

Indeed, in speaking to the Frederick brothers, another key theme becomes obvious: neither has lost touch with their childhood footy romance.

“I personally think it’s so surreal being on a big platform, but at the same time, I know there’s a lot of fans out there that idolise a lot of people in the AFL, and I still feel like I’m a young kid as a fan of footy,” Michael said.

“I’m always grateful for the position I’m in.”

And it may not be long until half-forward Michael plays on half-back Martin. Intriguingly, at 183cm, Michael would have a five-centimetre height advantage, when for much of their childhood, Martin was the taller of the two.

And at 20, could Michael still be growing?

“I thought I was, but maybe it’s just my hair,” he joked.

Neither brother knows who would win the match-up.

“He’s pretty strong, he’d be stronger than me,” Michael conceded. “[But] I think my fitness is better than his now and I’m maybe a bit quicker, so I could run him up and down the ground and get him tired. But he’s strong and he’s got good burst run as well, so I don’t know.”

But it is not in the Frederick twins’ nature to contemplate battling one another. From the moment that football landed in their backyard, they rose together as brothers, and they rose together as family.

“We started kicking it around and thought, ‘Oh, this is not too bad’,” Martin recalled.

Not too bad at all, as it has turned out.