Suns spread the AFL word
GOLD Coast Suns rising star Charlie Dixon's assurance to students at The Cathedral College that "you don't have to be a giant to play in the AFL" was music to the ears of 13-year-old Brandon Harrison.
Suns players and staff members were in Central Queensland over the weekend spreading the AFL gospel in "rugby league country".
Assistant coach Ken Hinkley was quite prepared for silence when he asked if students knew any AFL players but delighted when young Brandon recited a lengthy list of stars.
Hinkley and Suns players visited schools in Rockhampton, Gladstone, Boyne Island and Yeppoon raising the awareness of Australian rules football and giving youngsters an insight of the requirements for a professional football career.
The Suns are trying to expand their presence north of Brisbane and took players like Rockhampton's Zac Smith, who met students at North Rockhampton High School yesterday, and Dixon who is originally from Cairns on the road.
Dixon came through the AFL identification program but Aussie rules was not his first choice sport.
"I was playing basketball until about 2003," he said.
His brother was playing Aussie rules and talked Dixon into having a try out, which he did successfully making it into representative football as an under-16 player and then a Queensland representative at under-18.
"I decided to drop basketball and have a crack at AFL," he said.
After following his brother and playing footy in Brisbane, Dixon was picked up by the Suns and gained a contract with the club. Now the youngster is living the dream.
"It is not a bad lifestyle," he said. "I'm playing the game I love for a living."
The trip to Central Queensland is proof that young players, like Smith and Dixon, don't spend all their time on the football pitch with a percentage of their off-field activities involving talking to the public and addressing the media.
Dixon said the transition was not too bad but there are still times when he prefers being quiet rather than talking publicly and also combating nerves when facing a large group or having a microphone stuck in front of him.
Playing football in front of big crowds is something else the 21-year-old key forward is getting used to.
"Big crowds are good, the nerves are gone after the first bounce," he said.
The big man is looking forward to getting out on the park for the 2012 season knowing the team proved something last year despite ending up on the bottom of the ladder.
"People didn't expect us to win three games last year," he said. "But we always knew we had the talent even though we didn't expect to be able to compete against teams like Geelong.
"Last year we were unable to run over the top of teams, we couldn't run out four quarters of footy."