By JESS WEBSTER
At first glance, Southport defender Ethan Reeves seems like any other young footballer finding his feet at senior level.
The Sharks rookie earned his spot in their first game of the year, and has played all 10 games since – featuring among Southport’s best players in five of them.
But what makes Reeves’ 2018 season even more remarkable is the fact he’s barely touched a football in two years.
Reeves is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and returned from serving a church mission in Vancouver, Canada, only in December last year.
He made the big decision to leave home at 18 while he was a member of the SUNS Academy and represented Queensland at the National Under-18 Championships.
Although a tough decision, Reeves said it was one he wanted to make.
“It was a difficult decision, especially since it’s been my dream ever since I could remember to play at AFL level. But I thought that I’d still go and then give it a shot when I got home,” he said.
“I’m the oldest of six kids so I definitely missed the family a lot. That was the challenging aspect of it, but I felt like I learned a lot about myself, grew up a lot and learned discipline and accountability which obviously helps with my football aswell.
“It brought a lot of peace to my life, and I thought at that age of 18 I could go and give back, and help anyone else that is maybe looking for that in their life.”
When Reeves returned to Australia at the end of the last year, he immediately contacted Southport football manager, Jarrod Field, and express his interest in joining the Sharks.
The first few weeks of pre-season training were eye-opening for Reeves, and he knew there was a mountain to climb if he were to earn a place on their playing list.
“When I left, I knew I would come back to it (NEAFL) even though a lot of people had opinions that it would be really difficult. I knew that. When I was over in Vancouver I didn’t touch a footy, I did no training,” Reeves said.
“I was definitely out of shape and the biggest concern for me was whether I was going to be fit enough.
But I was lucky enough that they gave me a shot to come train with them and I had to work my butt off to fight for a spot on the list.
“I just decided myself that if I was going to even be a chance of making it on the list, I had to do a lot of training myself outside the club. I started getting up a lot earlier and going for runs and trying to get my hands on the footy with my brother and just trying to catch up.
“When they offered me a contract I was stoked.”
The Broadbeach junior made his NEAFL debut back in Round 5, 2015, and played nine games that year in his only taste of second-tier football prior to this year.
Reeves admitted he thought he’d start the year in the QAFL but did enough to impress coach Stephen Daniel to be selected in their season opener clash against Canberra, collecting 21 disposals and six tackles in a 62-point victory.
“Being away from the game for two years, a lot had changed. I was nervous but I really had nothing to lose,” Reeves recalled before his first match.
“I have a lot of great mentors at the club with a great coaching staff. We have a real family environment and they’ve taken me under their wing.
“Guys like Ryan Davis, Seb Tape, Mike Manteit and those guys – they’ve been patient with me. I’m glad they had my back.
“I am definitely proud that I’ve played every game but I’m also extremely aware that I’ve still got a lot to work on and improve. I’m just trying to do what the team wants me to do.”
Reeves has largely flown under the radar this season but has progressively pushed his claim for a Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star nomination, which he earned his week after a 25-disposal performance against Redland at Scottsdale Park.
Now 20, Reeves – who works as a real estate agent whilst studying a double degree in law and commerce at Griffith University – has a steely resolve to give the AFL his best shot.
“At the end of the day I’ve got a long way to go, just being patient is the hardest thing,” he said.
“I’ve got my goals in real estate and my uni, but footy is still my number one goal right now.
“I’m definitely putting the most time in to footy, just doing a lot of extra stuff and I’m still very determined to have that opportunity to play at AFL level.”
The Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star is awarded to the most promising young talent in the NEAFL competition.
Nominees must be under the age of 21 and played less than 20 senior games (excluding games as AFL Academy players) at the start of the 2018 season.
Keep track of all our 2018 nominees here.
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