FOR most high school leavers, finishing schoolies week just three days in would represent a nightmare. But for the determined Joel Amartey, it was a dream come true.
Indeed, on day three of the celebratory week, the Sydney Swans used their 28th pick in the rookie draft to select the key-position prospect.
A talented basketballer, the athletic 195cm-tall was forced to choose between an American college pursuit and the Australian game.
“Definitely, basketball was a goal of mine until I was 17-18,” Amartey said.
However, the decision to chase an AFL dream may have been the smoothest part of the bumpy road the Sandringham Dragons product was forced to overcome, which eventually saw him land at the Swans.
Amartey’s father, a talented sportsman in his own right, having played professional soccer in Ghana, was struck by two strokes in 2017. Then came an after-the-siren Tac Cup Grand Final miss, leaving the Dragons just two points short of glory. Not long later, on National Draft night, the former Mentone Grammar ruckman was snubbed by all 18 clubs. All this, and the academic pressure of year 12.
The Swan’s courage did not tremble, though.
And it all paid off on the 27th of November.
“[Getting drafted] was rather overwhelming, really, I didn’t know how to react or what to say, just the whole idea that football was about to become my full time job was amazing,” Amartey proclaimed.
Additionally, it was the fortitude of Amartey’s father who played a notable role in the journey to an AFL list.
“Seeing him fight the negative circumstances he faced after having two strokes last year was a huge inspiration, Amartey revealed.
“Seeing him fight the opinions of doctors who said he would not be able to walk again, to now where he is- able to walk with the aid of a walking stick.”
Overcoming adversity is a common theme in the Amartey story, pointing to the attitude of former NBA star Allen Iverson as further inspiration.
“His good attitude and ability to fight through pain, opinions and negative media to play to the best of his ability each week and get the best out of his professional career,” Amartey identified as a strong influence.
It is the same persistence, resilience and mettle that should see the athletic 18-year-old flourish in the AFL environment.
While Amartey was not selected for the Swans in the JLT series, he may not be far from a senior debut, with the Bloods facing an undersupply of big men heading into round one- potentially paving the way for an AFL berth.
The Sydney Swans launch their campaign against West Coast on the 25th of March at Perth’s new Optus Stadium, while the reserves kick-off their season against the cross-town rival Giants on the 7th of April at the SCG.
By Owen Leonard