By Beth Newman
At the age of 12, Didymus Blanket made the choice to move from Badu Island to Melbourne, to chase his footballing dream.
Three years on, the AFL Cape York Scholarship student, said it was one of the best decision he’s made.
Blanket is in his third year at Melbourne’s Scotch College, representing the school in Aussie Rules as well as playing in TAC Cup side, Oakleigh Chargers, development squad.
He has become a regular fixture of the Queensland representative team, playing as a bottom ager in 2012 for the Under-16s and selected for this week’s nationals once again.
Blanket said he was already reaping the rewards of his move, but admitted it was a major change going from Badu Island, with a population of only 784, to the second biggest city in Australia.
“It’s developed me as a person and as a footballer,” he said.
“It was pretty tough leaving home at the start of year 7 and going down there.
“I hadn’t been to a big city like that before, it was pretty challenging but I ‘m glad I took the challenge.
As one of the players with previous nationals experience, Blanket will take more expectation into this year’s championships, but said he was excited at the prospect.
“As I was in last year, I try to take on a similar role to what I had last year and try and step up a little bit more, with the leadership stuff,” he said.
“I try to talk to all the boys, and the boys I don’t know and help them out.
“I’m feeling excited for this year and hopefully we’ll do well.”
At 186cm and 82kg, Blanket is not built like a typical 16 year-old, and his physical presence makes him strong in traffic, something which set him apart in the U16 state championships earlier this year.
Living in Melbourne, the North Queenslander joined the U16 squad relatively late, only able to train in the last week before the championships, but he is used to slotting into teams with little notice.
As part of the North Queensland Kookaburras side this season, the entire team came together only days before their state championship tilt, and managed to reach the final.
A number of the players from that side were also selected in the U16 Scorpions side, which should make the transition easier.
Coming from a predominantly rugby league area, Didymus said the greater opportunities available in footy drew him towards it.
“Growing up, I started playing the game more and more and I really liked it and got into it,” he recalls.
“Rugby league’s bigger at home but I saw footy had more opportunities so I took those.”
Blanket is following in some pretty prolific footsteps as a Scotch College scholarship student, with Hawthorn’s Cyril Rioli a previous recipient.
The 16 year-old said his time at Scotch had been hugely beneficial, saying English and Sport Science weer his favourite subjects.
He is right at home in footy-mad Melbourne, going to AFL matches whenever he gets an opportunity, nominating Brendan Goddard as his biggest footy role model.
“I like the way he plays and try to relate it to how I play as well,’ he said.
“For a midfielder, he can mark so well, and his delivery is really good.”
With experience under his belt, Blanket is keen to get back to Sydney and have a crack at helping Queensland defend their U16 title.
“The ground is really different to the ones here (Queensland) and in Melbourne so having played there and with some of these boys, that should help.”
Having spent so much time away from his family, the teen said his dream would be to be drafted to a Queensland AFL club, but was jut hoping for a good performance in this week’s championships.
“Yeah, my dream is playing that level (AFL),” he said.
“Not too fussed about where I would go, but I’d probably like to be at Gold Coast or Brisbane, closer to home.”
The Queensland U16 Scorpions continue their nationals campaign tomorrow, in their Rd 2 clash against Tasmania.