Liam Ryan, a Yamatiji man from Geraldton, Western Australia was the 26th draft pick last year for the national AFL draft in November.
The 22-year-old was scouted by the West Australian Football League (WAFL) in 2016 and moved 430 kilometres south to Perth to further his promising sporting career.
Mr Ryan says the adjustment to the big city has been hard.
“It was a big move for me… I just knew what I had to do: play footy. I had the talent to make it where I am today, so I just moved down and I played football,” he told NITV News.
Ryan had a high chance of being picked up by the AFL draft in 2016, during his WAFL debut year, but he himself has admitted he had lacked focus.
Recently welcoming his first child, a baby girl, Liam Ryan says he’s now settled down and focused.
The new dad says he’s always wanted to play football.
“I always grew up around footballers, so I always wanted to play in AFL club — that’s my dream,” he said.
Despite being a Hawthorn supporter growing up, Liam Ryan was picked up by Eagles in the second round of the AFL draft last November.
His goal for this year is to play as many games as he can.
“There is a lot of pressure to perform well, but my coaches say, 'go out and have fun' … I can’t wait for [the] Indigenous round! Hopefully, I’ll be playing in that, I’m gonna have to wait and see,” he added.
The former forward for the Subiaco Lions won last year’s WAFL’s Bernie Naylor Medal after ending his 2017 WAFL season with 73 goals in 23 games.
Ryan also won Mark of the Year after earning four out of the five nominations in 2017.
“It’s just nature in my leap,” he said.
He says he feels no pressure for being a role model and looks forward to it.
“I looked up to a lot of boys, my uncle and my dad when I was growing up, learnt a lot off them. It will be good to be a role model for kids around WA and Australia.”
Many Indigenous players end up leaving the game due to homesickness and yearning for country.
Ryan says living just four hours away from his country has been a blessing.
“Most of my family comes down. My nan and pop come down and watch me play over the last 2 years that I’ve been at Subiaco and always kept me on my toes and stuff,” he said.
The Eagles rookie’s advice to up and coming Indigenous football players is to continue doing what they do.
“Kick the footy, play how you’re playing and work hard,” he said.
The AFL Premiership season kicks off later this month with West Coast facing off against Sydney Swans with a home game on March 25.