“I just loved seeing the looks on the young kids’ faces. They were so happy. That’s been the highlight of the week for me.”
The past few days have been a whirlwind for Perth local turned Gold Coast draftee Jarrod Garlett.
“Just seeing all the players like Goodesy, Shauny Burgoyne and the Hilly boys, it gives the kids something to look up to” – Jarrod Garlett
The 18-year-old has been on the Suns’ list for less than three months, but has already had the opportunity to learn from the likes of Adam Goodes, Shaun Burgoyne and teammate Jarrod Harbrow at this week’s Indigenous Camp. On Friday night, he’ll play his first AFL game alongside players he grew up idolising.
While Garlett says he’s enjoyed every day of Indigenous Camp, Thursday’s visit to the Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Service centre in Perth will stick with him for a long time.
“It was a great experience for me and all the community members who are back here, who don’t get this often,” Garlett told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“I loved it, especially getting around the young kids and trying to inspire them, because a lot of them down this way don’t go to school and don’t have much.
“Just seeing all the players like Goodesy, Shauny Burgoyne and the Hilly boys, it gives the kids something to look up to. Seeing the smiles on their faces just made my day.”
— AFL Players (@AFLPlayers) February 19, 2015
While all players who attended shared a similar sentiment, the experience was extra special for Garlett because of the memories it brought back.
“I had a similar experience when I was younger,” he explained.
“I got meningitis when I was three months old and it got to the point where they couldn’t really do anything. They told all my family to prepare for the worst because I wasn’t going to make it. That’s how bad it was.”
“I got meningitis when I was three months old and it got to the point where they couldn’t really do anything. They told all my family to prepare for the worst” – Jarrod Garlett
During this time “a couple of the Fremantle boys” visited him, “and from then on got me a membership with the Dockers.”
Though he was obviously too young to remember the visit, learning about the players’ gesture when he was older struck a chord with Garlett, who says it inspired him to follow in their footsteps.
“Ever since I was little [being an AFL footballer] was something I wanted to be and wanted to do. I’ve worked hard for that ever since. I’ve been taking it seriously since I was about nine.”
There’s a beautiful sense of cyclicity in Garlett’s story, given he remembers “asking guys like Goodesy for signatures and photos when I was younger, and now kids are asking me” – but the cycle doesn’t end there.
Garlett was raised by his “Nan and Pop” since the age of three and admits he has them to thank in part for his success to date. As chance would have it, his pop – Nyungar elder, Reverend Sealin Garlett, who some may recognise from the ABC’s Enough Rope program – performed the Welcome to Country ceremony at today’s visit.
“I’ve got a really big family back here in Perth so just about every Aboriginal around is connected in some way down the line. Everyone’s some sort of relation,” Garlett explains.
“It’s so big. Sometimes you go to other states and it makes you feel like the whole world’s so small, because you go there and meet people and could be related to them. It’s happened to me a few times. It’s just crazy.”
Now that he’s an AFL player, Garlett knows there’ll be plenty of people looking up to him – relatives, children and people from the Indigenous community. He wants to forge a reputation through “playing games and trying hard.”
“I just want to do my best with everything so that I’m a good role model for the young kids coming up.”