After being delisted from Fremantle at the conclusion of the 2018 season, Brady Grey joined crosstown rivals the West Coast Eagles in the WAFL. The utility, originally from Tasmania, spoke to AFLPlayers.com.au about his desire to return to the AFL and his work with the Wirrpanda Foundation.
Kavisha Di Pietro: You arrived at Fremantle from Tasmania and your football journey to that point wasn’t exactly conventional. Can you take me through the early parts of your football career?
Brady Grey: I grew up in Tasmania but was probably more soccer and cricket orientated until I was 17. At that stage I got a few footy opportunities through the Tassie Mariners and then had a crack at playing in the Tasmanian State League (TSL) with Burnie. The opportunity then came to play in the National Championships, which I decided to take up. I was considered a very rare, outside chance of getting picked up in the Draft. I was lucky enough that Fremantle took the chance on me back then. I finished Year 12 the day of the draft and was on a flight across the country to Western Australia two days later. It all happened pretty quickly and within two days I was having to settle in to life in WA. I’ve been over here for six years now and am loving living over here. The weather is certainly different to back home in Tasmania, but I wouldn’t change it. Looking back, I was incredibly fortunate in my pathway that the Fremantle recruiters were making their way to Tassie to watch a few other games and stumbled across me.
What piqued your interest in football at 17 given you had such a strong soccer and cricket background?
When I was younger I had more opportunities through my soccer and cricket pathways, but I was lucky enough that my high school football coach took on the role with the Burnie under-17s and basically dragged me down to training. I was still playing footy when I was at school but not really taking it as seriously as I was taking cricket and soccer. It eventually got to a stage where I had to make a decision on what was more realistic in me succeeding in at the top level. It was a tough decision to make at the time but I decided to go with footy and have a crack for a year focusing solely on football. I played some good games a the right time and was lucky enough to catch the eye of recruiters and get the opportunity with Fremantle. I was playing all the way through as a junior, but my passion for other sports was a bit higher before I decided to pursue football. I was fortunate to play in a couple of flags, but got dropped for the state league Grand Final in 2012 which really spurred me on to come back the next year and try to make the team and win a flag in my draft year. Unfortunately, we ended up losing the Grand Final by nine points! I’m still chasing that senior premiership (laughs).
You joined West Coast’s standalone WAFL team this year. What has it been like to be part of their group from their inception into the state league?
It was an interesting period leaving Fremantle and weighing up my options about whether or not I was going to stay in Western Australia or not to continue chasing my footy dream. Through discussions with my manager, we struck up conversations with the Eagles’ WAFL team and once they were granted a licence I signed with them. It was definitely an interesting time having played for Fremantle in the AFL and the derby history between the two clubs. I definitely had to consider what it would be like to fit into that group, but the opportunity came and there was a really specific role for me within that team and I felt it suited me for what I was looking for both from a leadership perspective and where I wanted to go post my playing career. The idea that if I play good enough footy and there being an opportunity for me to get back on a senior list was really important too.
In terms of that desire to continue an AFL career, what does that look like for you?
All the way through I have wanted to play at the highest level. I’ve really enjoyed my time in the WAFL this season, but my desire to play AFL is still burning within me. I was lucky enough to have five years at Fremantle but I still want to play at the top level and I still feel I have something to give there. I turned 24 in July and the fact that there are a lot of guys who are still picked up as mature-age recruits spurs me on. I know what’s required and I feel like that is one of my greatest strengths. I was lucky the Eagles were in the mix for the WAFL finals and being part of a successful team will only help me to continue chasing my dream. It’s been a different focus being part of the Eagles’ WAFL team and helping the first and second-year guys settle into the AFL system and offering more of a different leadership role on game day.
You’ve been involved in a number of different coaching roles through your time as well. Does your love of leadership and teaching others filter into that?
When I first moved to WA it was something I thought about. As much as I love playing footy, I also understood that a career, even if you do have a long one, might finish at 30. The reality is the guys like that are few and far between so throughout my time at Fremantle I completed the AFL Coaches’ Association ‘Next Coach’ course and received my Level 2 accreditation. I was involved with Fremantle’s AFLW team, which was a great experience that helped not only my own footy, but also helped me to understand what is required and how coaches and players can work together because we both see the game so differently. It’s also allowed me to use some of the tools I’ve learnt through those courses whilst I’m out on the field or at training. It helps me to guide the players I’m playing with and offer them the best possible level of support.
What were some of the things you learned while playing football that have helped shape you but also equipped you with tools to take the next step in your career, whether that’s with another AFL club or continue in the WAFL?
It was about trimming it all back. I’m working four days a week now and doing more coaching and educational work. I pulled my focus back to the love of the game and why I played rather than worrying about results. It’s become now about going out there and having fun and playing my best footy. Rather than focusing on what I can’t do, it’s about focusing on what I can do and trying to have the greatest impact as a team player. When I was at Fremantle there was an element of worrying about what I couldn’t do as well as other guys and what I couldn’t control. I now understand that competitiveness and the will to win are two of my greatest strengths and that’s become the perfect fit for me at West Coast within the role I play there.
As a proud Indigenous man you’ve been doing some work with the Wirrapanda Foundation. What does that entail?
I’m a VTEC employment mentor, which means I focus on Indigenous employment seekers. We assist with ensuring they’re job ready, help to arrange interviews and help reduce and work through any cultural or family barriers that might impact them. Once they are job ready, we support them through gaining employment and once they do gain employment, offer support as they navigate that in a mentoring space. Any support an individual needs we’re able to offer for six months post-placement, so that might be onsite or via phone calls, emails, or visits to our office. Working in this space is incredibly rewarding, naturally it has its challenges too, but as an overall being able to see the success and the joy once we place people in jobs that they might not have thought they were capable of getting is extremely rewarding.
When you go from playing football full-time to working with the Wirrapanda Foundation, how much do you appreciate what you’ve been able to achieve and experience?
The opportunity for me to play football and have a full-time job was never something I took for granted. I really cherished my time. Now using what I learnt through my football career and being able to relate it back to real life and bring to the Indigenous communities has been really beneficial. Some of the work these people are doing in their Indigenous communities without any recognition are things I wouldn’t have been able to do, like supporting entire communities. Their actions are heroic for their communities, and so it’s really important that we’re able to support them. Being in the position I am in and being able to offer support and trying to find that empathy piece, which is something we do in footy a little bit. But when you leave that bubble of the footy world you can forget what other people are experiencing and the challenges they’re faced with.
What do you wish you knew when you were drafted that you know now?
We always talk about ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ but being part of two elite AFL clubs with Fremantle and West Coast, to an extent, the differences in the clubs and the different way people go about things leads to the different successes. Using those football experiences, both at Fremantle and now at West Coast, is something I’ve taken into my role as a mentor but also the business development side of work I do. It’s what we do in footy but it’s been something important to follow into the real world, per se, of understanding that my strengths as a mentor are different to the strengths of our other mentors but each role is equally important. It’s about understanding that everyone plays their role either within an organisation, or team, or whatever situation you’re in. Footy is a by-product of the real world. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be a full-time footballer. A lot of people take being in the system for granted and the support network that they have around them.
This time of year can be challenging for players who begin the transition process. What was that experience like for you?
It’s an interesting two or three months and it’s really dependent on where you’re at and what you’re chasing. You might be ready for it to be over or you want another opportunity but whatever the case, it’s about understanding the situation. For me, it was about not dwelling on it. I can’t control the past, but I can control what I do in the future to work towards another shot in the AFL. As soon as the decision came at Fremantle that I was going to be delisted my mates rallied around me and they’ve stuck by me the whole time. Leaning on my networks – friends and family – was really important. I gathered as much information and advice as I could in order to make an informed decision about my next step. It’s about understanding the resources you have available to you – the AFLPA and your club Player Development Manager – but also understanding that whatever happens you’ve got to focus on the next steps. It’s about working out what you want to achieve and for me, the Christmas break was a key milestone. I used it to determine what I wanted to achieve in 2019. Don’t be afraid to speak up – you’re not the first person to be delisted and you certainly won’t be the last. Utilise the resources around you because people are there to support you and more importantly, they want to.
Thanks for your time, Brady. Good luck with what lies ahead in your football journey.