By Terry Wilson
MACKAY product Nick Kempe is determined to take full advantage of an opportunity handed to him as a kid from the country to make the grade in Australian rules football.
A speedy, skilled wingman/flanker type, Kempe is the QAFL’s Round 12 Rising Star award nominee after a string of strong performances for the Broadbeach Cats.
Kempe, 20, has played nine games for the Cats this year, plus one for Southport in the NEAFL, where he is listed.
Getting much more game time for the Sharks is Kempe’s immediate priority but, like most hopefuls who have gone through the Suns academy, a spot on an AFL club’s list is the ultimate dream.
Take it for granted, Kempe is most appreciative for being given the chance to learn and develop under the SUNS, and now the Sharks and Broadbeach.
“There are not many opportunities for kids up in Mackay,” he said.
“Since I’ve been with the Suns I’ve learnt heaps. Everything there was so good, it was the best opportunity for me so I tried to do as much as possible in as short a time as possible.”
But now the focus is on firstly the QAFL with Broadbeach, then with Southport, where he hopes to get another chance to build on his one NEAFL: game for the black V this season.
Kempe likes it at Broadbeach although he finds having to train with both the Cats and the Sharks, to fit in with different styles, can be confusing at times.
“Broadbeach is a good team but it can be so hard trying to please your NEAFL club as well as your QAFL club,” Kempe said.
“You have to essentially learn two different game plans yet you get only one training run with your QAFL team.”
In his two years at the Suns academy Kempe played 20 NEAFL matches In 2017 Kempe played NEAFL for the SUNS and has had just the one NEAFL game for the Sharks this season.
That was when the Sharks thumped the Northern Territory Thunder at Wally Fankhauser Reserve, which brought back memories of a painful NEAFL debut in 2017.
“I broke my jaw early last year against the Thunder in Darwin,” Kempe said. “Exactly a year later I played my next NEAFL game – against the Thunder.”
So how did Kempe get into Aussie rules in a north Queensland city that is predominantly rugby league territory?
My Dad Neil was a Geelong boy and he sort of got me into footy as spoon as I was born,” Kempe explained.
“Anyway, Aussie rules sort of suits my athletic skills.”
In Mackay Kempe played in a seniors grade premiership with the Eastern Swans before heading to the Suns.
His learning curve then extended to being a member of the Broadbeach side that lost a thrilling QAFL qualifying final to eventual premiers Palm Beach Currumbin.
I still want to get drafted,” Kempe said.
“I had a tough couple of years with my jaw and getting used to a new environment at Southport.
“I’m still only 20 and I believe I have attributes for the AFL but I know there are a few things I have to work on.”
In the meantime Kempe is studying a double degree at Griffith University aiming to major in criminology and human services.