By JUSTIN LILLECRAPP
Our unique football league spans over two states and two territories, with players coming from far and wide before they set foot on the NEAFL stage.
Humble Beginnings is a six-part series featuring players from each non-AFL club, uncovering their journey from junior football to NEAFL.
NEAFL footballers dedicate themselves to months of pre-season work, cold nights on the track during winter and lace the boots up on the weekend, all while holding down a full-time job or study.
For Aspley’s Henry Joyce, his life away from football as a personal trainer and business owner gives him a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction.
Hailing from Townsville, Joyce began his footballing journey at the Hermit Park Tigers.
In a rugby league dominated town, it was his neighbour who introduced Joyce to the local AFL club at the age of eight.
The rest is history, as they say.
At the age of 17, Joyce moved to the Gold Coast to pursue his footballing dream when chosen in the Gold Coast SUNS Academy.
Later that year, Joyce made the state team, meaning another move, this time to Brisbane.
After moving to Brisbane, Joyce began playing for Morningside, joining his older brother Andrew at the club which helped him settle into life away from Townsville.
Morningside left the NEAFL competition at the end of season 2013.
But Joyce was fortunate enough to receive a phone call from one of the greats of Queensland football, Aspley head coach, John Blair.
Joyce’s footballing influences range from his father, Ian, to current coach Blair.
“I got a call from John (Blair) and he told me to come down to Aspley and have a trial run down there and I have been playing there ever since,” Joyce recalled.
“John Blair at Aspley has had a big influence on me in the last four years.
“He has really pushed me to be not only the best footballer I can be, but the best person I can be.”
Joyce’s best footballing memory comes as no surprise. In his first season at his new club Aspley, they achieved the ultimate prize.
A premiership against a Sydney Swans side laden with talent in one of the greatest NEAFL Grand Finals. Joyce had 11 disposals and kicked one goal in the two-point victory.
“We were down by 31 points at three-quarter time, and I suppose you don’t want to say you are down and out, but you are sort of thinking that at the time,” Joyce said.
“When Dan (Smith) got the mark on the final siren and you watch it go through, the emotions at the time are obviously high and it is a happy time.
“But I think afterwards just enjoying the company of your mates after winning a premiership is probably the best feeling.”
Away from football, Joyce runs Project Health and Fitness. A company with two gym studios in East Brisbane and Morningside Football Club specialising in personal training and group fitness.
“I joined the fitness industry because I love helping people and seeing people achieve their goals in life,” Joyce said.
“I get enjoyment out of seeing people be healthy and fit and doing things they thought they could never do, so that is the reason I do what I do.”
Joyce has been running Project Health and Fitness for four years and plans to continue building his client base.
“The goal is to hopefully one day open a bigger gym then I have now and having more staff working under me,” he said.
Joyce has been putting together another strong season at Aspley, averaging 17 disposals per game.
He has enjoyed having Andrew Swallow and Jake Spencer join the club in 2018, particularly as Spencer played his junior football at the Hermit Park Tigers, the same club as Joyce.
“I personally know Jake through home, it has been good having him at the footy club,” Joyce said.
“I would say it has been really good for the club having two blokes of that calibre come in and change the footy club.
“Their leadership and what they bring to the club has been good.”
Enjoying another successful season at Aspley, in which the side sits fifth, Joyce plays Australian Rules simply because he loves the game.
“I suppose just the love of the game has made me want to push and play at the highest level I can,” he said.
As Joyce continues to kick goals off the field, he will be hoping to again taste the ultimate success of a premiership on the field as the memories of that special day at Graham Road in 2014 remain alight.
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