The workload imposed by football commitments saw Jermaine Miller-Lewis turn to painting as a means of relaxation.
But in the last two years art has become much, much more than that for the 18-year-old as he moves towards this year’s draft.
Miller-Lewis remembers as a kid watching his father Haywood paint but never joining in, so when he was 16 and stressed out about Western Australia’s state training, he picked up a paintbrush and gave it a go.
At first he started with dot paintings, but kept trying different things.
“And then I found that I was good, so I kept doing it,” he told AFL.com.au.
Photo: AFL Media
He did more and more, and now it has become his source of income, as well as pride. Miller-Lewis has been contracted to paint, and earns between $1500-$2000 for each painting he sells.
But it has meant more than that, especially as for the best part of the two years, Miller-Lewis has been injured.
“It’s kept me happy. It’s something to look at, and be confident that I can succeed. If I didn’t do art, and I’m injured and I’m not doing anything special outside of footy, I don’t feel special in any way,” he said.
“It makes me feel good about myself that I am good at something besides footy.
“Looking at my own artwork, and pieces that I’m doing, and at the end of it thinking ‘I just did that’. That feeling, getting those shivers, that’s what I love about it.”
The attacking South Fremantle prospect keeps a folio of sorts on his iPad, which he bought from the money earned from the paintings.He likes dot paintings – they represent his indigenous culture and some familial storylines – but continues to see if anything else works.
“I’m exploring. I’m still young. I’m moving towards more styles with colours now,” he said.
Miller-Lewis was a standout for his state as an under-16, but injuries have kept him from showing his best since then.
A shoulder injury came at the end of that year, before a shin stress fracture was detected towards the end of last season. He hasn’t played since, and is still recovering now, running water for teammates on the AIS-AFL Academy’s tour of Europe.
He’s still eight weeks off playing after six months on the sidelines, but thinks he’s past the worst of it and can’t wait to get back out there, hopefully bringing some speed, skill and aggression to his state’s under-18 carnival.
“I’m thinking of it in a good way to do a bit of conditioning. I’ve noticed running back home that I feel real strong through the legs and the core,” he said.
“I try not to think about missing footy. I just miss competing. Since the under-16s I feel like they haven’t seen much of me. I haven’t exposed myself the way I would’ve liked and it hasn’t gone my way.
“I know I can play good footy but I do feel behind because I’ve missed a lot. I get tingles thinking about [playing again].”
Getting fit has led to another thing for the exciting flanker: returning to his dance troupe. Jobs pop up here and there and they perform cultural dances.
“It’s a professional group,” he said.
“I might get a gig in Mississippi later on this year if it doesn’t collide with footy commitments. If it does I won’t go.”
This article was originally published on www.afl.com.au and can be accessed here.