Bradwell Dick and Richie Barba are two teenage boys out to kick some goals in life.
In Bradwell’s case, this is the literal truth. A gifted AFL player, he has his sights firmly fixed on a professional sporting career.
Richie, on the other hand, wants to head straight to university to study engineering.
Both boys, who are Year 12 class mates at Djarragun College, are determined to succeed—and share that success with their families and communities.
On the ball – Bradwell
Bradwell Dick hit the ground running within days of moving from Mornington Island down to Djarragun College to become a boarding student at the beginning of last year.
“On my first Friday here, I played mid field for Pyramid Power (Gordonvale’s AFL team) against the Trinity Beach Bulldogs,” said the enthusiastic 17-year-old, his eyes lighting up in memory.
“I kicked four goals and got voted ‘best in the game’ by the umpire. I was happy.”
The second youngest of six children, Bradwell’s sporting career kicked off in Alice Springs where he spent much of his childhood living with a cousin, after his mother died on Mornington Island when he was four.
The youngster took to AFL like a duck to water.
“It’s in the blood,” he said proudly. “I grew up with the sport. My family played, the whole community played, every day.”
Family of champions
For the Dick family, which has produced several gifted players, AFL is not just a recreational pursuit, it’s a professional calling.
Bradwell still remembers the day, as a small child, that his father told him his brother, Brad Dick, then living in Perth, had been drafted to play for the Collingwood Magpies in Melbourne.
“As soon as I heard the news, I knew I had someone to look up to. It became my dream too,” said Bradwell.
His ambitions were spurred on in 2013, when his nephew Jake was drafted to the Port Adelaide team, followed by this year’s news that his cousin’s eldest son had been snapped up by the Adelaide Crows.
Bradwell himself, has been no slouch in making his mark in the sport.
He progressed through the ranks, from under-nine to under-15 teams in Alice Springs. He was selected to play for Northern Territory Thunder at the Under 18 National Championships in Melbourne, in 2012.
“I remember watching a Western Bulldogs training session and going to the MCG. I couldn’t believe I was there. I thought I was dreaming,” he said, wide-eyed.
Bradwell re-joined his father on Mornington Island in 2013, where he completed Year 10, but didn’t play much AFL.
“Nah. That’s a rugby league place,” he said with a shrug.
He leapt at the chance to move down to Djarragun College near Cairns in 2014.
“There are many more opportunities here,” he said.
Now a valued member of Pyramid Power, Bradwell was selected to join an under-17 Cairns representative team, the Cairns Lions, which travelled to Melbourne in April. There they took on the Riddle District and Ballarat teams at the annual Goldfields Match.
“I was rapt,” said Bradwell. “It was my first opportunity to represent Cairns.”
It probably won’t be the last. He may soon face the prospect of leaving the Far North to pursue his sporting ambitions in south-east Queensland or interstate, if he is drafted—as his coach, Brett Kennelly, confidently expects.
Wherever his sport takes him, the ambitious youngster vows he will not forget his community.
“While I was in Melbourne, I met Eddie Betts, who plays for the Adelaide Crows,” he recalled. “He told me that he sends money back to Geraldton, in Western Australia, to help build his community there.
“That’s what I would like to do,” Bradwell added earnestly. “Send money home to make my country strong.”
Bradwell’s spirit and determination is already doing just that.
Role model – Richie
Fellow Year 12 classmate and Pyramid Power player, Richie Barba, has a quieter, but equally strong, sense of purpose.
“I want to be a role model for my siblings,” said the 17-year-old, who has two younger sisters and a little brother.
For Richie, this is as much about what he doesn’t want to do, as what he does want to achieve.
“There are people in my community that like to drink and fight. I don’t want to be like them,”
What he does want to do is study engineering at university, then secure a good job, so he can assist his mother financially and pave the way for his siblings to follow him.
“My mother always helps out when someone is in need. I want to be able to help her,” said Richie.
He has been attending Djarragun College as a day student since his family moved from Thursday Island to Cairns in 2007.
While he enjoys playing AFL with Bradwell and Pyramid Power, Richie primarily views sport as a way to “keep in shape” and make him fitter to pursue his career goals.
His single-minded determination to become an engineer received additional fuel in January last year. Richie was one of two Djarragun CollegeYear 11 students selected to spend a week exploring the engineering faculty at the University of Queensland campus in Brisbane.
“It was brilliant,” exclaimed Richie. “We stayed on campus and got to visit the class rooms. The lecture auditorium was bigger than my house.
“That’s where I want to be. I want to finish school and head to uni.”
One of Richie’s uncles, his Mum’s big brother, Sailor Wuruki, already lives and works in Brisbane,.Another uncle, Richard Wuruki, “drives giant trucks” for a mining company in Port Edmund, Western Australia.
Richie fancies a job as a diesel plant fitting engineer.
“Hands-on and good money, so I can help my family,” he said enthusiastically.
In the meantime, he will continue to apply himself to his Year 12 studies and persevere in his efforts to be a good role model for his siblings…even if they don’t appreciate it yet.
“They’re a handful,” he said, rolling his eyes.