He's a rising star of the AFL, but Jeremy Cameron's 2014 season has been cruelly cut short by injury. By Richard Cooke.


Straight shooter: Jeremy Cameron, 21, AFL player

At just 21 years of age, Jeremy Cameron is a rising star of the AFL. He was named in the 2013 All-Australian side, and came third in the race for the Coleman Medal. Last week, the Greater Western Sydney full-forward had surgery for a season-ending ankle injury.  

Richard Cooke You’ve had two ankle injuries and a perforated eardrum this season. It’s taken you a while to get this surgery.

Jeremy Cameron It’s been a frustrating year and the time is right to get surgery now and avoid injuring it more. Getting it done now means I can be up here for the rehab, get through it, then go home and spend a bit more time with my family before the next pre-season. 

RC You never played football until you were 14, and started your first game at full-forward, the position you play now. And you’d never been on a plane until you were 17.  

JC All of that’s true. Never played football until I was about 14 going on 15 years old. And I mean never played. I always played golf and cricket, that was it. My mates got me into the football. They pretty much said, “Come over and have a kick”, and one day I did, now I’m here. So it’s all happened very quickly. I never even went to a live AFL game until I was 18.  

RC A lot of people who become recruits later on – maybe switched from another sport – might be great natural athletes, but the aspect they struggle with is reading the game. It seems like that was never a problem for you.

JC I’ve played pretty much every sport that I could get my hands on so I just really like trying new things. And when AFL did come along I really enjoyed it, because it has that team aspect. To me that really got me over the line. So the more I got into it, the more I wanted to challenge myself to get to a higher level, whether that was from club footy to TAC Cup and then TAC Cup to AFL. I just enjoyed every moment of the journey. 

RC Do you think that if you hadn’t had that invitation from your mates we might’ve seen you at Augusta or Lord’s one day?

JC That’s interesting, because I was really getting into my golf more. From the age of eight I was into golf and by the time I was 11 I was down to an 11 handicap and playing golf interstate. I went to a few different championships. So it would’ve been interesting to see where that ended up. I still get out on the course now, obviously not as much as I want to, but I really enjoy it.

RC This might be a strange question, but does golf help your set-shot kicking?

JC It’s not a silly question, no. When you think about it, when you swing your golf club you want to be really fluent and just nice and steady. It’s kind of the same when you’re kicking a goal. You want to swing your leg and just be nice and fluent through the ball, swing through it the same as in golf. 

RC Do you enjoy playing in an era when the big, old-school full-forward is making a bit of a resurgence?

JC It’s true. Although I think these days, you can’t be just good at one thing. Some players are good at one on one, some guys are quick, some guys judge the ball better. But these days you’ve got to have a different range of things. Take [the Sydney Swans’] Lance Franklin, for example – he’s so strong one on one, he’s quick, he kicks goals and he’s got that goal sense like all forwards do. So I think you’ve got to have a lot of different strings to your bow and that’s what I’m working on.

RC With the back lines, what are the rivalries that you look forward to? Who are the defenders you most enjoy taking on?

JC I don’t really have a defender that I enjoy coming up against, it’s more I enjoy playing on the best one. I don’t judge them on how good they are throughout their whole career, I judge them on how they’re going at the moment. For example, [the Swans’] Teddy Richards might be coming off the best month of his career, so I look forward to playing him. But at different stages of the year there might be someone else. So whoever I’m coming up against, I just can’t wait for the challenge and I do a lot of homework on them.

RC Do you appreciate that there’s less public pressure, playing for GWS? You don’t have that life in the fishbowl Victorian players can find difficult.

JC Yeah, you’re right. I enjoy a bit more privacy up here but at the same time if you’re not going well, people are going to know and still talk about it. So there’s a lot of expectations. But when you look at it with your teammates and your coaches – I sat down with them at the start of the year and went through all this, and they wanted certain things from me. On the outside it might look like I haven’t kicked as many goals, but there are a lot of things on the inside that we know that we’re all doing as a team. And this year we’ve got Tommy Boyd and Jonathon Patton, both fit and raring to go. Last year there was only me, and that’s why I kicked a lot more goals. I’m sure Boyd and Patton can finish the season off well together, but unfortunately I can’t be out there with them.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on August 2, 2014 as "Straight shooter".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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