By the time he turned 18, Josh Williams had lived in four different places.
Three of those were with his family, but one – which could turn out to be the most important chapter of his life – was on his own.
At the tender age of 17, Williams made decision to leave the family in Townsville, and head to the Gold Coast (under the watchful eye of the Gold Coast SUNS Academy) to have a crack at being drafted.
“I moved down at the start of this year. It was great to be given the opportunity by the Academies,” Williams said.
“It was a difficult thing to comprehend at the start. I moved down late last year just to trial it, but I had a great group of support around me, and the SUNS did make the move a lot easier. It was great to have the boys from Cairns like Jack Bowes and Daniel Charlesworth coming down with me, and the boys already down here like Brad Scheer made me feel very welcome.
“I was living with family friends at different stages, but it has been really good for me on the independence side. I learned to cook and clean and a few other things you wouldn’t necessarily do living at home, so I think it has been really good for my development as a person.
“I’ve got two younger sisters, so it was initially a bit hard on them, but they, along with my parents have been so supportive of me. They have always ben there for me along the way and help me take everything in my stride.”
The ability to move down to pursue a footy dream doesn’t happen without a back-story. It’s not something that happens over night.
Williams was born in Adelaide. Even though he wasn’t there for long, it was a place that fostered his love for footy.
From Adelaide, the Williams’ clan packed up their bags and headed for Rockhampton, where he began playing football with the Glenmore Bulls.
They didn’t hang around there too long though. When Josh was six the family was on the move again; this time to Townsville.
That’s where Williams found his football home, the Hermit Park Tigers.
Staggeringly, if Williams name is read out this Friday or Monday, he will be the fourth AFL player drafted from Murray Stadium, following in the footsteps of Josh Jenkins, Jake Spencer and Braydon Preuss.
While Hermit Park and AFL Townsville played a huge role in getting Williams to where he is today, 2016 was the year he was discovered on the national stage.
Once arriving at the SUNS, it was clear he was destined to pull on the Q jumper.
“Coming down from Townsville I probably thought I knew 50 per cent of what football is about, but I quickly learnt I knew about five,” Williams laughed.
Playing in the NEAFL this year with the coaches like Skinny Lappin and Aaron Rogers, they have been amazing. The amount of development we go through has been incredible.
“Then being able to play with and against the Brisbane boys in the Queensland Academy, and having the high performance coaches like Adrian Fletcher is incredible. It’s a really good experience rubbing shoulders alongside everyone.”
His Queensland work led to an Allies call up, and some serious time in the SUNS NEAFL side.
“I’ve been happy with my performances. Obviously there is still a long way to go with my strength and endurance, but I hope that my assets like my speed has been getting me noticed,” he said.
Williams – who has been compared to Isaac Smith with the way he moves – is lightning quick, breaks lines when he tucks the footy under his wing, and gains valuable metres all over the ground. That’s what he says he would bring to a club.
“I think my speed and finishing off would be the two biggest things. Whether that’s hitting a target after a 50-meter run or kicking a goal, that line breaking ability and finishing off are my biggest strengths,” he said.
“The competitive side of me is what gets me up in the morning. Knowing that there are others out there doing extras, you have to do more. The term I use with my dad is GST. Giving that extra 10 per cent. I have to keep doing those extras to make myself a better player and a better person.”
There is one passage of play that is burnt into my mind from this year, and no doubt burnt into the mind of every recruiter who was at Metricon Stadium for the Queensland game against Tasmania.
Williams gathered the ball on the half back flank on the interchange side of the ground and put his skates on.
One bounce… two bounces…. three bounces… four bounces… before kicking from 40 and slotting the goal. It was breathtaking, and he made it look easy.
“If someone has never watched AFL before and you show them that play, I think that sums up my game and probably the excitement of the code in general,” he said.
So now, in just three days time, Williams will sit down with his family in Townsville hoping to hear his name called out at the 2016 NAB AFL Draft.
“It would mean the world to me. The support around me has been so good and I know it will be even better on the night. If I were to get picked it will be an amazing feeling. For 18 years you’ve had a footy in your hands, and now it could all come together,” he said.
And if it does, he will have one person in particular to thank.
“Dad is my role model. The amount of support and advice he gives me on everything, not just football, he has been so good. He is always up for a phone call, and will always have time for me. He has definitely made the transition down to the Gold Coast really easy for me.”
The NAB AFL Draft takes place this Friday night, November 25, before the NAB AFL Rookie Draft on Monday.
By Andrew Wiles