Port Adelaide’s Brendon Ah Chee on his unusual surname and improving the Indigenous space in the AFL. By Jack Kerr.

Power supplier: Brendon Ah Chee, 23, Australian rules footballer

Ah Chee? It’s a pretty unique surname. There were three Chinese brothers that came over here – this is going back a few generations – and there’s Ah Chees all over the joint because of them. I think one went over to the east. Another one went to Darwin, and his family is spread from there to Alice Springs. And the other one came to the Kimberley to work, probably on the pearling ships, I’d say. That’s my ancestor. Any time you hear the surname Ah Chee, you can guess that we are going to be related somehow.

I was born in Derby [Western Australia], and lived there for about seven or eight years. Then the parents moved down to Perth, to the city. The AFL had its Indigenous camp in Broome this year, so I went up a bit earlier to come home for a bit. I stayed with one of my nan and pops in a really remote area, and I got to check out some of the old stuff in Derby as well.

I had a pretty slow start to my career. This is my sixth year at Port, but my third since I debuted. I had a lot of things to learn. But I think I’m at the stage now where I’m really comfortable knowing that I can play AFL footy. So it’s now just a matter of performing consistently when I do get the chance in the big league. Or in the SANFL, if that’s where I’m playing. We have a pretty talented midfield, and I just want to be a part of that group.

The big thing for me to work on now is my stoppage work. Being inside and winning the hard ball, that’s what I enjoy most about the game, and I need to be doing that consistently and helping blokes like Robbie Gray and Travis Boak. If I can learn to become elite in the stoppage stuff, and add a string to my bow with the outside run and getting some uncontested marks and using my skills there as well, that will go a long way to me having a consistent year. 

Running has been a weapon of ours for the past three or four years. So the pre-season has been tailored around that. That, and skills. There’s some pretty glaring statistics from last year with our skills. We like to take the game on, but you can’t do that if you’re not hitting your skills. So we’ve been working on that. We’re looking pretty good, but you never can tell until you start playing games. It’ll be good to finally get back out there and play.

We’ve learnt what we could from last year. There hasn’t been an overhauling of strategy, just fine-tuning a few things we need to work on. Hopefully that will have a pretty positive effect on how we play. What we’ve learnt from Kenny [coach Ken Hinkley] since he’s come over here is the foundation of what our identity is and how we play. We haven’t really spoken about expectations for this season too much. Finals is the aim – we obviously don’t go out there to lose – but it’s a week-to-week thing. If we win enough games, we’ll be there.

We’ve got nine Aboriginal players on the list at Port Adelaide. Us and Fremantle are the two biggest teams for Aboriginal players, for sure. All the teams seem to look to us for advice on how to improve the Indigenous space in the AFL. Retention is part of it – if the club has got the measures to cater for the issues, or challenges, that some boys might have, then they are going to stay. I think a lot of Aboriginal kids, especially in South Australia, are growing up thinking they’d love to play for Port Adelaide, because they know they’d be happy and welcome there.

There are never any drummers and there are never any bass players at footy clubs. But we’ve got a few guitarists. I’ve been playing for a little while now. I think I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was about 13. Because I’m left-handed, and back in my high school days I used to have a bit of a curly afro, I guess I looked to Jimi Hendrix. But no one can really emulate what he does. Jack Johnson’s really good, too. I like the acoustic stuff. Me, Aidyn Johnson, Matthew Lobbe – we all play. But I think that’s where the musical talent ends. We listen to a few tracks in the gym and not many boys can sing, so I don’t think we’re that musical.


This week’s highlights…


AFLW: Grand final – Brisbane Lions v Adelaide Crows

Saturday, 1pm (AEST), Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast

AFL: Sydney Swans v Port Adelaide

Saturday, 4.35pm (AEDT), Sydney Cricket Ground

Soccer: A-League – Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory 

Saturday, 6.50pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 

NRL: Parramatta Eels v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

Saturday, 7pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Netball: NSW Swifts v Collingwood Magpies

Sunday, 1pm (AEDT), Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre

Motorsport: F1 Australian Grand Prix

Sunday, 4pm (AEDT), Albert Park, Melbourne

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 25, 2017 as "Power supplier". Subscribe here.

Jack Kerr
is a journalist and documentary maker.