by Paul Akkermans
Australian Story: Making his mark – Marlion Pickett
When Marlion Pickett took to the field in the AFL Grand Final late last year, it set the scene for one of the most heart-warming moments in the sport’s history.
For Pickett it was the triumphant high point of a journey that began more than seven years ago when he was behind bars in WA’s Wooroloo Prison Farm.
“Some people say what’s happened to me is a fairy tale but if you’re looking for a change and a better life then it’s up to you,” he says.
Marlion Pickett grew up in Western Australia where the rate of Indigenous incarceration is the highest in Australia.
By the time he was 21 he’d spent more than three years in jail and his dream of making the AFL looked out of reach.
He credits partner Jess Nannup and his four children for creating the incentive to turn his life around. “If me and Marlion wasn’t to have children, I'd say he would be still be a troubled person and probably be in and out of jail,” says Jess.
Although scouted as promising talent, Pickett was overlooked in successive AFL drafts, year after year. It wasn’t until Richmond coach Damien Hardwick took a punt on him that his fortunes turned around.
“We don’t have to fit the same box, we can let people be who they are, we can embrace them for the person that they are,” says Hardwick.
Pickett didn’t let his coach down in last September’s AFL Grand Final, kicking a famous first goal in front of 100,000 at the MCG.
Now, as he gears up for the new season, all eyes are on what he will achieve next, both on and off the field.
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