“I didn’t really want to play footy.”
Incredibly, Indigenous talent and Next Generation Academy (NGA) member Josiah Kyle had little interest to pursue footy when he moved to Melbourne from his native Queensland three years ago.
Fast-forward to 2020, and the 17-year-old utility is one to watch in this year’s NAB League, plying his trade with the Dandenong Stingrays and local club, Carrum Downs.
And it’s been St Kilda’s Matty Parker who has played a pivotal role in sparking Kyle’s passion for football.
The livewire forward and Indigenous Saint has been heavily involved in the AMC Indigenous Scholarship program, sharing his story to the next generation to ensure they’re on the right path.
The connection between the two covers their shared heritage, similar, difficult upbringings and now, their love of the game.
“I told him a little bit about myself and I think he realised he’s not the only one going through that type of stuff," Parker told saints.com.au.
"I went the hard way and took a while to get here, whereas he can come in as a 17-18-year-old and could play 10-12 years."
Parker's guidance has come through the Dungudja Wowa – or 'Big Brother' – program; an initiative overseen by St Kilda's Nathan Lovett-Murray which allows Indigenous AFL players to mentor their Academy counterparts.
“Big thing is if they see us do it, then they’ll follow in our footsteps."
Kyle has taken Parker's advice in stride, and has thrived as a result.
“Having him as my mentor has bloody helped heaps with me lately,” Kyle told saints.com.au.
“We’ve pretty much been through the same thing with family distance and stuff, so it’s really good having him in my corner.”
READ: Parker's point to prove
After moving south, Kyle earned a spot in St Kilda’s NGA before becoming a recipient of the AMC Indigenous Scholarship.
But Parker hasn’t been the only one guiding Kyle to the elite level, with his older brother, Joshua, just as important in his upward surge.
A promising footballer himself, Joshua made the trek down to Melbourne, before inspiring Kyle to follow in his footsteps.
“Me and my siblings never really had a father around, and my brother was like our father figure,” Kyle said.
“Having him come all the way down here was pretty hard, but it was for the best for him. Since I’ve come down, we’ve become heaps closer.
The code conversion and landmark move down south have paid off, and it’s not an opportunity he’s going to let slip.
Kyle recently completed a two-day camp with the NGA, where he relished the broad education of on-field discipline, skills and focus.
Most significant was the traditional smoking ceremony to begin the second day of the camp at RSEA Park.
Kyle’s people are the Yidinji from far north Queensland; a great warrior tribe stretching from Cairns to Yarrabah, and as far inland as Lake Barrine.
For the far-from-home recruit, last week’s smoking ceremony served as a cultural reawakening.
“I haven’t really had much connection with my culture for a while, so that was really good to experience that,” Kyle told saints.com.au.
“It’s great that a lot of people are starting to recognise our culture and what our ancestors have been through.”
Now, with the chance of a lifetime in front of him, Kyle is intent on making the most of it.
“Not many people get the opportunities that people get in the NGA,” Kyle said.
“They’ve helped me improve so much. They’ve helped me become a better person on and off the field.”
And while there’s a long road ahead for the prospective youngster, he’s got his eyes set on just one thing.
“I’m just keen for the footy season to start.”