When Max Gawn first arrived at Melbourne at the end of 2009 he was as raw as a ruckman could be, with a checked injury history.
Fast-forward a year and a half and he makes his debut against the Bombers ahead of schedule — still raw and developing his frame.
Three years and 25 games later and Gawn forces his way into a young side and starts the upward trend to becoming the game’s most dominant big man.
While a lot has changed in his output in recent years, Gawn said he’s developed a lot as a person and owes it to a former Demon legend and Brownlow Medallist.
“An 18-year-old Max Gawn who walked into the football club is definitely not the person I am now,” Gawn said on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 on Wednesday night.
“My personality might be the same but there are a lot of things that have changed like professionalism, work ethic and stuff like that which I owe to him.
“I’m not too worried about me as a footballer when it comes to Jim Stynes. He sort of created some of the person I am now. I can be proud of how I act as a person.”
So when the opportunity came up to donate $5,000 from the Demon’s AFL Players’ Care fund, Gawn jumped at the chance to send the money to the charity Reach.
Reach was co-founded by Stynes and is a program that encourages every young person to receive the support and self-belief they need to fulfill their potential.
“Reach is a program where youths lead youths, it’s similar to football in that peers lead peers into making the best decisions, so I see that the correlation is strong with Reach and football and Reach in Melbourne with Jimmy.
“The Reach charity means a bit to me personally. I was very lucky because I had Jimmy for two years and a lot of people probably didn’t get to meet him and I still see the legacy of Jim in Reach. So the more we can get Reach out there, the more people will get that bit of Jim Stynes that I got.”
The AFL Players’ Care program is the players’ official charity initiative and was established in 2014 when the male playing group voted to increase their match fee charity contributions from $25 to $50 per player, per game.
While $25 per game per player is still donated to the AFL Players’ official charity partner, Ladder, to help tackle youth homelessness, an additional $25 per game per player is now contributed to the AFL Players’ Care fund.
$180,000 of this fund is then equally distributed among all 18 male AFL clubs each season giving each team the opportunity to support one or two charities of they are passionate about.
This donation was the first AFL Players’ Care handover for the year for the male players after the AFLW players donated the entirety of their funds to beyondblue.
On Sunday, the Demons will play their Reach game against the Blues, and they’re asking all fans to donate $11 by texting ‘11’ to 0455 021 021.
Each year, 30,000 people aged 10 to 18 years old experience Reach through workshops that are entirely youth-led. They are designed and delivered by Reach.