August Free Chapter - Brave Heart by Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk | Australian Rules Football | Copyright

Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

BRAVE HEART
LESSONS LEARNT FROM LIFE

BRETT & HAYLEY S. KIRK

Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

A Random House book Published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060 www.randomhouse.com.au First published by Random House Australia in 2012 Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S. Kirk 2012 The moral right of the authors has been asserted. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian Copyright Act 1968), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Every effort has been made to identify individual photographers and copyright holders where appropriate, but for some photographs this has not been possible. The publishers would be pleased to hear from any copyright holders who have not been acknowledged. Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at www.randomhouse.com.au/offices. National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry Author: Kirk, Brett Title: Brave Heart: Lessons Learnt from Life / Brett Kirk and Hayley S. Kirk ISBN: 978 1 74275 325 6 (pbk) Target Audience: For secondary school age Subjects: Kirk, Brett; Kirk, Hayley S. Sydney Swans (Football team) Sydney Football Club (N.S.W.) Australian football – Biography Australian football players – New South Wales – Sydney – Biography Other Authors/Contributors: Kirk, Hayley S. Dewey Number: 796.336092 Cover photography: front by AFL Images Krystle Wright; back by AFL Images Cover, internal design and typesetting by Liz Seymour, Seymour Designs Printed and bound by Midas International Ltd

Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

For my mum and dad, who did all the hard yards of laying my solid foundations, for showing me that with hard work and resilience anything is possible. To my Socrates, Jay McNeil – the wisdom you shared I continue to learn from every day. And for all of the young people who feel lost on life’s path – may this book be your Socrates. – B.K.

For our divinely spirited children, who make our hearts smile and our souls sing every day – even if we do have to ask you 100 times to pick up your toys. May the messages in this book help you to grow into confident young adults who take risks. Enjoy your journey to its fullest. To all my teachers along the way . . . your lessons have been for life, thank you. – H.S.K.

Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

INTRODUCTION
‘This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever and in its place is something that you have left behind . . . let it be something good.’
ANON.

Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

WELCOME TO THIS BOOK . . . WELCOME TO CHANGE!
First of all, let me start out by saying that this book isn’t just about me. I know that’s probably not what you’re expecting, and some of you might even be thinking that I’ve had one too many knocks to the head during my AFL career, but I truly mean it. This book is written for you and about you. You might think of me as a confident, strong leader who can communicate well and someone who has lived his ultimate dream. But I have not always been the person you know today. My evolution as a person, of which I am proud, has been the result of a culmination of life experiences, events, failures, connections, mistakes, lessons, love and heartbreak – it is an ongoing process.

MY TRUE SELF IS CONTINUALLY CHANGING
I want to take you through some snapshots from my life and the experiences I have had. I want you to know how I struggled at times, and how the road to my AFL dream was, on many occasions, a bumpy one. I want to share with you some of my innermost thoughts, because I understand how hard it is to work out who you are. I chose to write this book with my wife, Hayley, because she knows me better than anyone else. Hayley makes me a better person. She is not only my best friend, wife, and the mother of my children, but is also my confidant, and a wonderful writer who has helped me express my thoughts throughout my career. Together, we have invested a great deal in bringing this book to life. This was not a self-serving, ego-boosting way to pass the time – we wrote this book because we want to make a difference. As we reflect on the many lessons I have learnt in my life, we both believe we are all born with a shining light inside of us. This light is unique

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and special to each individual; everyone has his or her own talent and gift that they are destined to share with the rest of the world. Along life’s path your shining light – your gift – can be nurtured and encouraged to help you be the best person you can be, achieving incredible feats. On the other hand, your shining light can be overshadowed or even extinguished, which can lead to a life path of unfulfilled dreams and disappointment, where you will never reach your true potential. You are currently learning, growing and changing in the midst of a technological society preoccupied with material possessions. Add to that a win-at-all-costs attitude that exists in everything we do and life can seem overwhelming at times. Are you a late bloomer? I was. If you happen to be a late bloomer, not showing your unique gifts early in life, or if you lack the confidence and supportive environment to nourish your gift, I implore you NOT to move quietly to the side and hide in the shadows of others. We want to help you work out who you are, to celebrate why you are so unique and why you shouldn’t accept the mediocre expectations others might have of you. We want to make a difference to YOU. Through this book we hope to guide you on your own special journey with the lessons I’ve encountered in life, along with some helpful strategies that Hayley and I have found to be very formative in our experiences. We want to assist you to find the tools and strategies that keep your light shining brightly. We challenge you to challenge your own feelings and habits. We urge you to find what it is you are passionate about and to follow your heart.

MAKE A COMMITMENT TO YOU! WE BELIEVE IN YOU!
Light, peace and joy,
BRETT A ND HAYLEY S. KIRK

I N T R ODUC T ION

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Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

GROWING UP COUNTRY

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Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

‘Brett was always so competitive; he strived to play in representative teams, so it was pretty fullon. But that was how Brett liked it; he did not like to be idle, he liked to be on the go. As a teenager most of the sport Brett played was with guys in their twenties, and that made it difficult for us to feel in control. Brett was never an angel, but we know he has grown into a fine young man.’
– NOEL AND SUE KIRK, BRET T ’S PARENTS

Previous page: Brett, aged four, with younger brother Jason, playing cowboys in the backyard.

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How did I arrive right here, at this point in my life? To gain a greater understanding of me and my story, I need to take you back in time, to where it all began . . . even before I took my first breath.

MY FOLKS
My parents both grew up in Albury, NSW. They both came from middleclass families, where hard work and perseverance were the keys to getting that little bit ahead. It was a life where nothing came easy and nothing was given to you. It was about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. My mum has a very caring nature and a huge heart, but she struggles to sit still for any length of time. She is the second eldest of four children. There were plenty of times when things were tight when she was growing up, but her mum (Nan) and dad (Pop) would do just about anything to provide a roof over their heads and food on the table. At a young age Mum was given the task of helping care for her
Brett, aged nine, and Jason with their parents Noel and Sue.

younger brother, as my grandparents worked really long hours. Mum used to tell me about how she just got on with it, instead of worrying about missing out on the young person’s life she should have been enjoying. So with this added responsibility Mum learnt how to become self-sufficient at an early age.

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Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

My dad grew up just around the corner from my mum. When he was only four years old, his life changed forever. While at his uncle’s farm he was involved in a freak farming accident when he was left unattended with a machine that minces meat for dogs. Despite instructions
Brett’s dad Noel, aged eight, at school.

being not

given to touch

strict the

dangerous machine, being so young

he thought he was helping out by continuing to push the meat through the mincer in his uncle’s absence. Dad was unaware of the strength and force of the machine. As he put the meat in, it took no time for his small hand to become caught.

IN A MATTER OF SECONDS MY DAD’S HAND WAS A MANGLED MESS OF SKIN AND BONE
And because of the limited medical technology of the 1950s, the doctors decided to cut his hand off rather than make the extremely difficult attempt to save it. After such a tragic and horrible accident, my grandparents were forced to deal with my dad in the best way they knew how – they moved forward and got on with things, and in no way did they give Dad any special treatment. They had exactly the same expectations of him as they did the rest of their children (he was the third eldest amongst his seven siblings).

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They wanted to stop my dad from thinking of himself as disabled, so they treated him like any other ‘normal’ kid. Growing up, my dad had plenty of obstacles in front of him, but he always managed to work his way in, over, under, around or through them. He would end up getting in fights frequently as a result of kids harassing and teasing him for being different. Backing down was never an option, and this led to regular visits to the principal’s office, where he was given the cane. I remember him telling me the cane was usually given half on one hand and half on the other, but for Dad, he had to take all whips of the cane on his right hand. This happened more than once. Having one hand did not deter my dad from having a go at the sports he enjoyed. While being extremely talented at tennis, it was the lure of the football club and team culture, as well as the sense of belonging to something, that really appealed to him.
Special father-and-son time. Noel with Brett, aged three.

When he was eighteen, Dad was told by the coach in his local team that ‘a bloke with one hand couldn’t play the game’. This was like waving

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Copyright © Brett Kirk and Hayley S-Kirk 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

a red flag at a bull, and afterwards, Dad told the football club to stick it up their bum (I’m sure there were more choice words used then). He headed bush to the Burrumbuttock Swans footy team – a country team outside Albury – and this was where he spent most of his playing days. His career here was well decorated – Dad was runner-up in the club’s Best and Fairest Awards seven times in a row, proving his knockers wrong. As a kid, people used to tell me that my dad, given the right opportunities, could have played
Brett as a toddler.

at the highest level in the AFL if he had two hands.

The Burrumbuttock Swans was where my love of the red and white and my deep passion for footy began. My dad was my hero!

MY EARLY DAYS
It all started for me in Albury, and ever since I can remember, Australian Rules football has been a huge part of my life. During my first years on Earth I was bundled up in a blanket and taken on a chilly winter trek, following my dad around the countryside as he played the game he loved. Once I was old enough to be active and running around everywhere (Mum always reminds me that I found it hard to sit still for too long), going to watch Dad play football became a great learning and growing environment. My brother Jason came into the world two years after me, and we became the best of mates. We would do everything together, and it was at the

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weekend footy where we developed a strong bond. My brother and I had a typical brotherly relationship of love, fight, love, love, fight, fight. We would climb trees, kick the footy, eat packets of salt and vinegar chips, drink fizzy drinks, and have an absolute blast with the rest of the kids whose parents were involved in the football club. At the end of the game we would race into the change rooms and find my dad. I would sit with him and enjoy everything that went with being part of a team – regardless of the win or the loss. Looking back now, it felt more like a tribe. These men had created a unique connection through playing this contact sport. And there was the smell, one that will be with me forever. Each time I step into a change room or massage room that has that distinct aroma of deep heat, massage oil and sweat, I am easily transported back to my childhood days at Burrumbuttock, and it makes me smile. Once the footy was finished, we would go to the pub to enjoy the festivities of another game done and dusted. The kids would run around with much delight and mischief. Most of the time, these celebrations of community would go deep into the night. Mum would always be the one driving us home, and there’d be times when we would be sitting in the
Growing up, Brett and Jason were the best of mates.

car, waiting for Dad. I know I get my last-person-to-leave-the-party-notknowing-when-to-stop character trait from him.

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MY BROTHER AND I HAD A TYPICAL YPICA OVE, BROTHERLY RELATIONSHIP OF LOVE, T FIGHT, LOVE, LOVE, FIGHT, FIGHT
Mum and Dad both worked multiple jobs early on to get ahead and make ake ve sure Jason and I did not miss out. (Now, as a husband and father, I have a greater respect and appreciation for their sacrifices, which I am truly grateful for.) This meant my brother and I spent a good chunk of the school holidays with an older couple who would look after us. Every now and then we would hang out with Nan and Pop, especially if we were sick, and we were suitably spoilt with the most special chocolate milkshakes and trained in the card games of poker and euchre. I still laugh when I think about those times sitting on the couch, where Pop would be teasing Nan about shuffling the cards so much she was going to shuffle the boobs off the queens. Nan would just tell him not to be so silly.

SCHOOL
My primary schooling took place at Lavington East Primary School in School l e. Albury. I had quite a crush on my kindergarten teacher, Miss Cottee. This Cottee. T than was the first time I had feelings towards a female other than my mum. Even though all my teachers through years one to four were female, I four ere a special. Sh remember Miss Cottee as being someone extra sp al Sh was young She an e attra ttrac ra and very kind. I think it was her caring nature that attra attracted me to her. Yea ix mar Years five and six, my last two years of primar y school, had the biggest of p m primary n me. During e Duri g ur per od m te eriod riod ea impact on me. During that period my teachers were both male – Mr Bevan ov and Mr White. They loved going outside to teach, integrating sport and

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physical activity into the day as much as they could. While they had different teaching styles, they were equal in their ability to harness my great supply of energy and to keep me focused on my love of sport and the importance of an education. As a young boy I knew I wanted to play in the AFL and emulate the efforts and successes I witnessed on the TV every weekend. It was Mr White who made me stop and think about more than just a future consumed with sport – even if it was
Brett loved the social aspect of school, especially the sport.

just for five seconds. He could see my love and passion for footy, but he could also see that, with the right focus, I had potential in the classroom. His remark on the bottom of my report card in year six had a lasting impression: ‘Perhaps university, not just sport.’ Mr Bevan and Mr White had such an influence on me that I invited them to my twenty-first birthday celebrations. Entering the intimidating arena of high school was a huge step and change in terms of social structure and acceptance. But it didn’t take long for me to establish a group of friends, both male and female, that I would hang out with during recess and lunch. It was the first time I was really exposed to peer pressure as such, and I found it hard to stand out in the crowd. I also befriended guys a year older than me, who I had gone to primary school and played football with. I enjoyed being around them, but it meant that I experienced things earlier because of my relationship with these older boys.

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Brett’s year-six school report from one of his favourite teachers, Mr White.

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My high-school days passed without too many massive highs or considerable lows. I was an average student. I tried hard most of the time and tended to cram for exams at the eleventh hour, which meant I got through okay. But with a more conscientious approach and better organisation, I know I probably could have done much better.

Brett, second from left, was inducted as vice-captain of Murray High School in 1994.

Sport continued to be my main focus, even though I did not make many talent-identified teams throughout this period. (Kids who excelled were invited to do intensive training and coaching, and were provided with opportunities to play in representative teams.) My efforts and endeavours could never be questioned – it was my ability and weaknesses that held me back. As year twelve came to an end, it was time to start contemplating what was next for me. While most of my friends were deciding on their

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university preferences, I was thinking about being drafted and fulfilling my dream of playing AFL. I did, surprisingly, have a back-up plan if my AFL career did not happen straightaway. All of my university selections centred around service, people and relationships. My first choice was PE teaching, followed by primary school teaching and then nursing. That same year, in 1994, my name was not called out at the AFL National Draft. Disappointed but optimistic, I left home and went to Wagga Wagga to attend Charles Sturt University, where I did a Bachelor of Education to become a primary school teacher. I decided to continue to play football in North Albury, where it all started for me. I would travel home to Albury each weekend from Wagga Wagga to play in the Ovens and Murray competition, which I felt was the strongest competition in country New South Wales and Victoria.

UNIVERSITY
It was during my first week of orientation at university that I spotted a girl who caught my eye. I was instantly drawn to her short blonde locks, gorgeous smile, khaki army overalls and Doc Martens. It was love at first sight. I discovered quickly that she was in my course, but she wasn’t staying on campus. I told some of my close friends that I had seen my future wife. It didn’t take me long to find out her name, but it did take me twelve months to have a decent conversation with her and to discover we had a lot in common. We had a special connection and seven years later, in 2003, we got married. Her name is Hayley, and we are still the best of friends! Even though university life gave me a newfound freedom, I struggled through my first six months – I missed my family and the way my mum would dote on me. I was a mummy’s boy, and Mum would wait on my brother and me, hand and foot.

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After a while, though, I slipped into uni life fairly seamlessly, with time dedicated towards training hard for my football dream.

IT WAS DURING MY SECOND YEAR OF UNI, IN 1996, THAT I GOT A TASTE OF AFL LIFE
The Sydney Swans AFL team (the team I had barracked for as a kid) invited me to play in the reserves. AMAZING! I would go to uni during the week, and the Sydney Swans would fly me to games in either Sydney or Melbourne on the weekends. Playing in the reserves for an AFL team was such a different arena to the country football I had become accustomed to. Firstly, the pace and the toughness of the game were a step up from what I had experienced in Albury. Secondly, Paul Kelly was human! Who knew? He was my idol as a kid and it was unbelievable to be around him, even if it was just sharing a change room. I also found out pretty quickly that if you try and take a ‘specky’ (a flying mark) when you should punch and defend, you will cop an almighty verbal spray from the coach. And lastly, I learnt that you play as hard off the field as you do on it. I bunked with some young guys who loved the party life, and for me it was easy to want to fit in and follow their lead. My AFL footballing adventure in 1996 was short-lived. I didn’t get another crack at my dream until two years later, after I had finished my Bachelor of Education at the tender age of twenty-two. Even then there were no promises made – I was put on the Sydney Swans rookie player list, on very little money, living in a huge city with my big dream. But it was an opportunity, and that was all I needed . . .

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Brett and Hayley graduated university together in 1998 – a proud life achievement for them both.

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