When it comes to multicultural influences in the QAFL, UQ young-gun Jonathan Macanawai ticks all the boxes.
On the field, Macanawai, 18, is in the conversation as one of the best young players in the league.
Off the field, he brings a plethora of different cultures to the game.
Before he had turned 13, Macanawai had lived in four countries.
He was born in New Zealand, where he lived for two months before the family moved to Samoa, which was where his mother was born.
They lived there for two years, before packing up again and heading to Fiji, where he father was born.
When Jonathan was 12, they moved to Australia, so his father could continue his PHD studies, and that’s when he was introduced to the game.
Despite all the different sports available to him growing up, it was Australian footy he fell in love with.
“I first played footy for my primary school team, Ironside State School. I really enjoyed the inter school competition,” Macanawai said.
“After that, my friends invited me to the local club (Wests Juniors), and after a few training sessions I loved it, and I’ve loved it ever since.”
So why did he keep playing? Why did he move into senior footy, and put his hand up for the QAFL?
“I love the comradery of being in a team environment. Playing footy, there is a lot of skills that’s involved, speed, agility, endurance, and I wanted to become the best at what I could,” he said.
While it didn’t take long for Jonathon to not only pick up the game but starting dominating, his parents were a little less familiar with the ins and outs of the game.
“My parents didn’t know a lot about the game, it was mainly driven through me. I wanted to play the game so I taught them a few roles, and explained to them how it’s played,” Macanawai said.
“They are definitely fans now. When I play they support me. Even if they can’t make the game, I feel their support and their love. That’s what I appreciate most about it.”
“It was my mum who played Netball for her country, so that was an influence. She was supporting me though all of this, so I’m really grateful for that.
Fast forward to today, Macanawai is in his second year of senior footy after playing two games last year as a 17-year-old.
Shouldering a big chunk of the load would be a big deal for most 18 years old… but not for Macanawai.
“When I hit the field, all of the factors go out the window. All you want to do is play footy. I find confidence from my teammates. Whether the opposition is 40 years old or 18 years old, that is at the back of my mind,” he said.
“All I can do is do my best, for them, at the end of the day we want that win,” he said.
He holds the dreams most kids playing footy do, but is very mature in his outlook to what the next few years hold.
“I do want to play at the highest level, but first I’ve got to take each game as one at a time at QAFL level,” he said.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in a few months, I don’t know what’s going to happen in a few years, all I can do in control what I can, which is play in the QAFL to the best of my ability and compete with the big boys.”
Keep an eye out on this kid, he is going even more places that he has already been.
By Andrew Wiles