Jesse Joyce is an AFL Footballer for the Gold Coast Suns. Playing 64 games in his 5 year career so far, Jesse has defied expectations that were put on him as a junior footballer. Jesse has reflected on how adopting self-belief through his teenage years has been integral in pushing his AFL Career forward.
I find the phrase “What advice would you give to your younger self?” an extremely ironic question when reflecting on my life. As much as I’d love to go back in time to shake myself out of a funk, I don’t think I would have learnt the valuable lessons that came from the crossroads I met along the way. For me, this was a heavy battle with the belief in my own ability – especially as an aspiring footballer in one of the most important periods of my career.
As a young lad, I was so driven by the dream of one day playing AFL football which was fuelled by my Victorian-bred Dad and his potentially overwhelming belief in me. My first goal was to represent the state of NSW in the U12s team, and after years of obsessing over this, my name was called upon to be the second player from the Polding district to don the sky blue – the first being Jarred McVeigh. From this, opportunities arose to cross the NSW border and join Palm Beach Currumbin High School on a football scholarship, allocating footy as one of my six subjects a week. It all seemed too good to be true!
The 'Hard Part'
From here, little did I know the lesson on resilience and commitment that I would have to overcome to reach my dream. Over the next 5 years, I worked so hard to continuously fall at what felt like the final hurdle in the quest to represent my state. My passion for a sport had never been questioned so intensely. 7am speed sessions with the school’s sprint program, weekly 2km time trials around the block and at the footy club and playing at both school and representative levels. However, this seemed to still not be enough to get me across the line. In hindsight, I can see that my delayed growth spurt was making me struggle to compete. Little did I know that once I overcame this and started to have a strong belief in myself, I could fully unlock my potential.
Fast forward to my draft year and I’ve put on 7 kilograms – not all muscle – and have found a way to compete like never before. I think a lack of size throughout my junior career thus far had allowed me to find different ways to use my body to compete. Now with a newfound size, I felt stronger than ever. Following the consistent setbacks to date I found myself shocked and almost in disbelief to finally be named among the U18’s Queensland squad. This reaction showed in the days following, as I struggled to come to terms with the commitment required to first, make the final 22 and then putting myself on an AFL list.
I had an overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t good enough and almost forced myself to trip at the hurdle before I had even begun. I can only describe this moment as an attempt to stay on the road of familiar disappointment, rather than venture onto the unknown journey of what seemed like unlikely success.
When I reached this fork in the road, I made a last-ditch effort and met with my school & senior footy coach, Chad Owens, and talked him through my predicament. Long story short, what shone through was an undoubted lack of belief in myself, which was probably a result of years of hard work for ‘no cigar’.
The voice in my head kept saying: “Why would this time around prove any different?”
What Chad made sure to be crystal clear until I left the conversation, was his belief in me. He made it obvious that even if I don’t believe in myself, that I needed to do this for his belief and investment in my career and that there are so many more people on this journey than just myself.
It was about the people of the Coolangatta Blues, Palm Beach Lions, footy staff of PBC High, Gold Coast and QLD development coaches and more importantly the years sacrificed by my parents and indirectly my younger siblings travelling up and down Gold Coast because of their confidence in my ability. Upon reflection, this support brewed inside of me, to grow into what became an undeniable belief in myself.
A moment of this support was highlighted to me on the day of my first QLD squad session. To get to training in Burpengary, there was a two-hour long drive ahead of me and my teammate Max. However, we didn’t even make it 10 minutes into the drive before we broke down on the side of the road. At the drop of a hat, Dad sacrificed his car for us, while he waited 3 hours for a tow truck to arrive. This gesture by Dad showed the level of his belief in me.
Fast forward to the present and I am closing in on my fifth season of AFL. A season that could be described as underwhelming, given the fact that I have been held outside of the senior side for a longer stint than before debuting in my first season. Although it hints at similarities of my disappointing junior representative attempts, what has stuck out at me amidst the circumstances, has been the belief in my own abilities.
I am more confident in the player I am than ever before and I believe this is largely due to the lessons I have learnt along the journey. As if on cue, I have received texts in recent days from Chad showing his support for my situation. Who knows what lays beyond this year! However, I am confident that this road has a while to go yet.
So, if someone asked me that ironic question today, I think I’d just tell myself: “It may be bumpy (especially on the way to Burpengary), but enjoy the ride. Those hard parts are what make success all the worthwhile.”