Jetta Sets Goals on Mentoring After Football
For Neville Jetta it is probably one of the most pivotal decisions he’s ever made. Having quit school along with his cousin Lewis at the end of year 10, after a year in the work force they decided together – as they did most things – to return a year later to complete Year 11 and 12.
Their decision was inspired by second cousin Leeroy, playing with Essendon at the time, and the success of others enrolled in the Clontarf Academy under the guidance of former Fremantle coach Gerard Neesham.
Their decision paid off and two years after deciding to return to school Neville, now 23, was drafted to Melbourne and another year on, Lewis was drafted to Sydney. In the five years since, the two boys have enjoyed mixed fortunes. Lewis famously kicked 19 behinds before kicking his first goal and played a starring role in the 2012 premiership triumph.
Neville’s career has been marred by bad luck. While his crash and bash style and brutal tackling has endeared him to his teammates, it has also caused plenty of damage to his body. In five years he has managed just 41 games.
He hasn’t yet made his mark on the AFL but he has learned plenty, so each time he stood up in front of a group of Indigenous kids at the Koran Gamadji Institute this year to tell his story, the message was simple – you have to sacrifice to get where you want to go.
“I just tried to get across to them how important school and their education is and also making sacrifices along the way to get where you want to get,” Jetta says. “In my younger days it was not going out and concentrating on my footy – it has got me where I am today.”
This year Jetta completed 160 hours of Indigenous mentoring through the AFL Players’ Association and AFL SportsReady Next Goal program. Jetta stepped into enemy territory at the Punt Road-based KGI one or two days per week to assist with the running of its programs and provide mentoring for Indigenous kids aged 13 to 17, including those involved with the Laguntas football program.
“The thing that impacted me the most was working with the Laguntas program. Sitting down and speaking with them and watching how they go about it, I could see myself in them as they come through the ranks and try to get the best out of themselves.”
Mentoring is something Jetta sees himself doing in the future and it may be his life post footy, that’s no surprise given his mentor at the demons since day one; Aaron Davey.
“He was massive from the time I walked into the footy club. Myself, Jamie and Liam Jurrah, we all got drafted in the same year, he put us under his wing, he is a massive role model and helped us out as much as he could while still looking after his five kids,” he says
“He showed us the way and we listened and looked towards his actions on and off the field and tried to follow the best we can.
“He showed us the way and we listened and looked towards his actions on and off the field and tried to follow the best we can” – Jetta on Aaron Davey. “He’s played ten years, was one of the marquee players of the AFL and had a great career. If I can be half as good as him I’ll be happy.”
Coming from a small community like Bunbury, the guidance of Davey was a huge factor in helping Jetta settle into Melbourne and the AFL lifestyle. The other was having another Bunbury boy by his side in Jamie Bennell.
But according to Jetta, once the initial excitement of his new life wore off there were inevitable bouts of homesickness and withdrawal from the family and friends he had been with “24-seven” his whole life.
A complicating factor to that was the string of injuries that plagued Jetta during his first four seasons. Jetta’s family moved over for three years to support him in this time, which he described as both massive for his confidence and massive in terms of his family history. “Dad had only been out of the state of WA once… It was massive for them to come across from Bunbury, Dad was too scared to drive in Perth and now he is driving everywhere.”
This component of his story is another side of his journey he has found value in sharing with the kids at the KGI. “I would tell my story to the kids of similar backgrounds and who are going through the same sort of stuff I went through and showing them that they can get to where they want to get in life,” Jetta said.
Jetta hopes the injury woes are behind him and he can finally get the chance to showcase his obvious talents. 2013 was his first full preseason and subsequently his first full season.
A three game suspension hindered his momentum at AFL level but he was dominant as a small defender at VFL level.
Jetta is currently out of contract but there is no doubt Paul Roos will love his tackling and attack on the ball. In the absence of Davey, Jetta will be the senior Indigenous player on the Melbourne list and will fill the role admirably; after all, he’s learnt from the best.
DATE: Monday 21 October, 2013
IMAGE: Neville Jetta
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Courtesy of AFL Players’ Association