AFL football isn’t everyone’s code of choice in Queensland, and Gold Coast rookie Max Spencer knows that better than most. He penned an AFLPlayers.com.au column about his unlikely transition into the AFL.
It was difficult at school up here. Being a rugby state you cop it from people who don’t really know a lot about the sport. But I eventually found mates with a similar passion.
Despite some ribbing from my schoolmates, it was my dad who drove my love for footy.
He’s originally from Victoria, and he and mum moved up to the Gold Coast before I was born. Dad played footy all over Australia and that influenced me when I was a little boy. I’ve moved up through the ranks from loving it as a kid to where I am now.
I never really thought I would make it as an AFL footballer, until the inception of the Gold Coast Suns.
I wasn’t the kid who was destined for greatness, I didn’t even make the Queensland side until I hit under-18s and that was due to my academy selection, so being a part of the Suns academy was the ultimate stepping stone to being able to get to the AFL.
When I was growing up there were no AFL teams around and there wasn’t much of a clear pathway for aspiring footballers — you had to find your own way.
But now with the Suns academy, we can make our way through the ranks to the state sides.
Once the Suns came into the frame, there was something realistic to aim for, and a way to measure your goals and strive towards something that provided an end path.
I’ve climbed my way through the ranks of football in Queensland to now playing senior football in the AFL, including more than 30 games in the NEAFL with the Suns.
Playing in the NEAFL at the age of 16 provided me with a lot of confidence. I went back to Palm Beach Currumbin and used those lessons to fast-track my development.
It was a huge factor in being drafted.
The NEAFL is underrated and it doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s up there with other reserve leagues like the VFL, WAFL and SANFL and I gained a lot of confidence playing against bigger bodies and talented AFL-listed players.
Having the comfort of familiar surroundings has been huge for me. I’m still living at home and have my friends and family around. I’m continuing to study nursing, which is something I will be forever grateful for.
The challenge a lot of guys face is having to move away from home and even interstate and to adjust to a new life as well as new surroundings, but taking that part out of the process has made life so much easier for me.
I joined the Suns academy when I was 17, so I have spent four years here, learning and growing.
The obvious highlight was debuting in Round 19 against Richmond. But it came in unfortunate circumstances, with Steven May getting injured.
Getting that call up was a pretty surreal experience, it’s only really just starting to sink in. To now play in three games has been amazing.
Steve is a vital piece of the team and our co-captain, so it was obviously a huge task but the club made me fully aware that they didn’t expect any miracles. I just had to go out and play my role and give it everything I had.
He echoed that sentiment when he spoke to me before the match and gave me his full backing. He actually pulled me aside and gave me a lot of reassurance and told me to have confidence in myself and to not go into my shell, to take the opportunity I had and use the nerves and adrenalin to my advantage.
To be honest, I’m pretty happy that Jack Riewoldt didn’t play, but I’m sure I would’ve learned a lot from matching up on someone of his calibre.
That Saturday night will forever be remembered. Feeling the adrenalin pump through my veins, I felt like I was floating through the air. I could even hear my family and my mates yelling from the crowd!
I’ve since come back down to earth, and I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve got over the last few weeks in the senior team.
After each game I’ve pulled up sore, but not any worse than usual. In the end you just go back to reality, the sun comes up the next day and you just keep on going.
We’ve got the Bombers at home this week, and I’m really hoping we can get another win before the season comes to a close.