By Ant Wingard @AntWingard
At just ten years old, future draft hopeful Keidan Coleman packed his bags and travelled half way across Australia in hope of fulfilling his Australian Rules Football dream.
Now, Coleman finds himself among a select group of 85 youngsters assembled on the turf of Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium for the NAB AFL Draft Combine this week and just over a month removed from finally accomplishing his life-long dream.
Coleman was born in Katherine, Northern Territory, about 300 kilometres south-east from Darwin.
After discovering the sport at a tender age, Coleman knew it was something worth pursuing but in a region populated by a mere 6000 people, there was little AFL infrastructure to utilise and more relevant to Coleman, not Under 10 side to play for.
Instead, he moved to Brisbane to live with his aunty and began playing with the Wynnum Vikings in Brisbane’s South.
“My mum knew I loved footy, so she sent me down to Brisbane to live with my aunty. I got into school and started playing junior footy,” Coleman told aflq.com.au.
“It was my decision to move to Brisbane. I went there for a holiday over Christmas and I really liked it, so it was a good experience and good fun to move to another city.
“Mum knew I loved footy and knew anything that makes me happy was a good thing, so we made it happen.”
Despite making the move at a young age, Coleman wasn’t nervous to relocate but admitted he did miss some aspects of life in the Top End.
“I enjoyed it up there. I have a lot of family members up there. There was very good weather, and I always enjoyed hunting. That’s something I don’t get to do here in Brisbane,” he said.
Family was still with him in Brisbane though, and they and played an instrumental role in his rapid progression as a junior footballer.
After excelling with the Vikings and winning the premiership during his Under 12 season, it was his Uncle who suggested Morningside as a likely destination to further his career on the southside while his Aunty also played a significant role of her own.
“She has done everything for me to be honest. She would take me to training and to games. Anywhere I’d need to be she’d be there. She’s very supportive,” Coleman recounted.
Since moving to Jack Esplen Oval with the Panthers, Coleman climbed up the division and joined the Brisbane Lions Academy several years ago.
This season was a breakout year for the 18-year-old who featured for the Lions in the NAB AFL Academy Series as well as his inclusion in the Allies throughout the NAB AFL Under 18 National Championships.
Coleman was also given an opportunity to learn from his potential teammates through eight games with Brisbane in the NEAFL including the Lions’ only finals appearance against Aspley.
There, he was able to forge rapports with a handful of Lions players in preparation for the pointy end of the season.
“Tom Bell messaged me after the season and mentioned that I had a good first year at NEAFL level and I did some wonderful things, but he also said the work wasn’t over yet.”
“I played a few club games [with Morningside] after the NEAFL and he came down and watched a few games.
“I always saw him after the games and he gave me a bit of feedback which I was very pleased with.”
Earlier this week, Coleman and the remainder of the Queensland invitees arrived in Melbourne for the Draft combine.
That moment, arriving at the stadium for testing, proved to be an awakening of sorts for Coleman, who said he has finally realised just how far he had come since the decision to leave Katherine eight years ago.
“It was a bit exciting to be honest when we rocked up at Marvel Stadium knowing my footy journey has taken me here. Now that I’m here I’m a bit nervous.”
“It’ll mean everything [to be drafted]. If they did choose me, it’d be a blessing and real humbling experience.”
Coleman is one of four Queensland products at the draft combine in 2018 ahead of the NAB AFL Draft in late November.