Esava Ratugolea reflects on his journey to becoming a professional AFL player for the Geelong Cats.
"Back home there is a lot of talent and these athletes that are untouched. Once you can get these people into a professional environment, you are going to see what they are able to do. I would love to do that."
Esava Ratugolea [00:00:05] I was always a really sporty kid and I had a lot of mates playing footy in school as well, so that's probably where it began. I remember when I first was introduced to the AFL, they used to sell these little Smiths packet of chips and footy cards in them and opened up one and the first card ever got was Adam Goodes. He was playing for Sydney Swans. That sort of gave me a bit of a spark and I thought this guy seems pretty amazing. So I kind of watched these highlight on the internet and back there were internet cafes. So I went to the internet cafe and my auntie was on a Facebook and I'd watch a couple of YouTube videos of Adam Goodes. That's probably when I sort of got inspired I guess.
Esava Ratugolea [00:00:46] I had no idea what I was doing. The first game I did. I treated it like rugby, really. Like I was playing league. The first position I got, I ran too far and I had no idea, but they blew the whistle, but I kept running. So I was one of those ones kind of go through things and now I'm for myself here.
Esava Ratugolea [00:01:08] Going to an AFL club is so intimidating as a 17/18 year old. So this place completely changed my mind about that from day one. You know, the the biggest stars are almost the most humble blokes in here. And right here we have Graham 'Polly 'Farmer, an indigenous icon for a lot of our Indigenous players as well. I've got John Sam Newman here. He will actually number 17 as well and all wear number 17, so. This is Corey Enright another great of the football club. It was actually one of my coaches a few years back. He was a defender most of his career, but coached me as a forward and to this day, probably one of my favourite coaches ever coached me as well.
Esava Ratugolea [00:01:58] These are really big boards cut out as footie jumpers, and the club has got all our fans and supporters to sign these boards. This is so good for us boys as well. Just shows us how much support we get within the football club. And it's it's pretty important.
Esava Ratugolea [00:02:16] We get the go and then we run out onto the field and this is the this is the way we get out as well. It's always so good to be coming out here because as we're all lined up, they're ready to come out and then they open the door and then go to the fireworks and we've got the flame throwers out. And it's pretty exciting, like. You work towards this as well. And a lot of the boys have families and I myself have my family here to watch me play as well. And it's always so special coming here and you get a good feeling of good community and good family around us. And like this football club is so good with supporting us with that as well.
Esava Ratugolea [00:03:01] 17 is probably when it really kicked in where, Jeez, this could be something. Mum had no idea. Nan had no idea about the sport as well. So I guess when my draft year comes along and I'm 18 years old and all these clubs start coming to the house, she sort of she has no idea how actually big it is. So.
Esava Ratugolea [00:03:23] In my first game, I was I was very nervous and very anxious. It was a huge milestone first, first round for us. Bouncing off the walls in the changerooms. But I remember Harry Taylor coming up to me and saying 'mate, Just just relax. Like it's just another game, just on a bigger oval.' First quarter, I took a marker, remembers Smith. At the time of the ruckman. Kick the ball to me, took a mark, and I pretty much just went to my return and kicked the goal. And that was I was I was a really special moment. I mean, it was good to get out of the way just to get the nerves out of the way as well. But I'm pretty proud of being in that club.
Esava Ratugolea [00:04:05] A lot of ups and downs. As my first year, I struggled a bit. Second year I debuted, but then I broke my leg in round eight. The main thing for me was just trying to build confidence throughout these these few years, I reckon. And injury sort of helped me back a bit, but I've learned a lot about myself through the way the things that are needed and required to be able to put your body back out on the AFL oval. It takes a lot of time and effort and dedication, but I've definitely matured a lot since I've been at this club and I wouldn't know myself right now if if I walked in here on day one.
Esava Ratugolea [00:04:42] I definitely want to do something in football and give back to my people as well. So that's probably something that I'm pretty passionate about. Back home, there's there's a lot of talent and a lot of these athletes that are there untouched. So once you can get these people into a professional environment, you go you've got to see what they can be able to do. So. I would love to do that.
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