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Port Power’s Sam Powell-Pepper on Being a Rising AFL Star

Sam Powell-Pepper
Photos: Daniel Purvis

When Sam Powell-Pepper moved to a new primary school in Perth, he made a friend on the first day.

Sam thought Dylan was “pretty cool” and so he knocked on his door and asked if he wanted a kick. They’ve been best mates ever since.

When Sam made his AFL debut for Port Adelaide against the Swans in Sydney in March, Dylan and other friends sat among Swans fans in Power jumpers with No. 2 on the back – Sam’s number.

When Sam, 19, won a Rising Star nomination on debut, Perth friends Karen and Greg De Lore were also there to see it. Sam played junior footy with their son, James, and Karen drove them to training.

“But then I just put my head down and worked hard. A lot of people made sure I didn’t get a big head.”

She also took an interest in Sam’s life, helping him get into Wesley College on an Indigenous scholarship. They watched the 2016 National Draft on TV together.

Sam remembers being nervous – and also helping to clean up the De Lore house as they were having people around.

Fremantle or West Coast were expected to pick him, but it was Port who took him at pick 18.

“It was the best feeling I’ve ever had,” Sam says.

“But then I just put my head down and worked hard. A lot of people made sure I didn’t get a big head.”

A cult figure at Alberton already, Sam played in the match in Shanghai – so he played in China before he had even played in Victoria.

Sitting in the empty stands at Adelaide Oval after training, Sam is wearing Port’s Indigenous guernsey, designed by team-mate Nathan Krakouer.

Port has nine Indigenous players; only Fremantle has more (10). The biggest AFL Indigenous star is Crows player Eddie Betts.

“He is just a freak,” Sam says.

Last year a Port fan threw a banana at Betts; he was also targeted by racists at the last Showdown.

“It is disrespectful and should not be tolerated,” Sam says.

“People need to learn a bit about the history.”

He wants to be a role model “but for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people”.

Sam’s father is English and his mother is a Torres Strait Islander. They lived apart and Sam moved between homes before his grandmother took him in.

“Nan taught my brother and I about the little things in life like eating at the table and manners,” Sam says.

Sam Powell-Pepper

“Sometimes Nan couldn’t cope, but Karen was always there to help.”

Sam started having “a bit too much fun” in the school holidays.

“I became rebellious. I was clashing with Nan, so I moved back in with Mum.

“As an AFL player now, I’m determined to do the right thing.”

He says his unsettled family life has made him independent and resilient.

“It’s taught me to be hard at it with my footy. It’s also taught me to never give up.”

Sam adores his niece Lakietah and nephew Chris.

“I’ll help them where I can,” he says. “I want them to have the best experience with their uncle. I’ll do anything for those I love and respect.”

Including his girlfriend Amy, who is studying to be a dental nurse in Perth.

“We’ve been together since we were 15,” Sam says. “She has been a great support. Her mum Julie has, too; she taught me how to drive a manual.”

Amy and Julie have been to some of Sam’s games. Sam’s mum and dad have, too.

“I still love Mum and Dad with all my heart,” Sam says. “And they love me.”

 

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