PORT Adelaide midfielder Sam Powell-Pepper says moving in with teammate Travis Boak has changed the course of his life.
Powell-Pepper credits Boak for helping him overcome a troubled 2018 AFL season which included a suspension for an alcohol-fuelled incident outside a nightclub.
“Obviously last year I had a few challenges and I learnt quite a bit in a short amount of time and had to mature quite quickly,” Powell-Pepper told reporters on Tuesday.
“Having him (Boak) there, to lean on him as well and learn everything about footy but also life is pretty good.”
West Australian born Powell-Pepper arrived at Port Adelaide when recruited in the 2016 national draft.
Port’s Aboriginal programs director Paul Vandenbergh said Powell-Pepper came to the AFL club after treading a familiar path to many indigenous players.
His parents split up and Powell-Pepper lived with his father until the age of eight – he loves his dad but has described him as a “mean bloke” with alcohol and drug problems.
Powell-Pepper moved in with his a grandmother, then his mum, and various other families in Perth – when he was drafted, his mother was in prison.
“Pep’s story is quite common in our communities,” Vandenbergh told reporters on Tuesday.
“But Pep’s example of getting through adversity … where he has come from, and where he is now, hopefully it’s a prime example for others to follow.”
Powell-Pepper moved in with Boak early last year but his season was marred by a drunken nightclub incident.
He was suspended for three games, initially by Port for being drunk in public and breaking team curfew, then by the AFL for “being intoxicated in a public place and … making inappropriate contact with a female”.
Powell-Pepper said Boak’s counsel helped him emerge wiser from the incident.
“Boaky and I worked hard in the preseason, doing everything right, we bounced off each other,” the 21-year-old said.
“We don’t talk too much about footy. It’s more just like having a laugh and joking around, we’re like brothers.
“I pretty much just copy whatever he does – eats, recover, everything.”
Powell-Pepper has designed Port’s indigenous round guernsey and said being in the AFL had given him a greater understanding of his culture.
“I wasn’t 100 per cent sure about my full identity and my culture because … I was kind of taken away from my mum’s side,” he said.
“And then when I met Pauly (Vandenbergh), he just got me in tune with who I am, my culture and who my people are.
“Coming to the club as well, all the community work he does and all us boys buy into, it just really opens your eyes to what has happened out here and who you are.
“Port Adelaide has really helped a lot with that.”
© AAP 2019