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Suns’ Jeffrey relishes Darwin AFL return

A return home to Darwin has come at the right time for Gold Coast’s Joel Jeffrey, who grew up in the Northern Territory kicking goals with his brothers in the front yard, including ones like the major that propelled him to an AFL Rising Star nomination.

The 20-year-old’s bag of five in a losing cause against the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat had added meaning give he opted to play in the week of his niece’s death.

And the goals were far from regulation, one coming with his back directly to the posts able to put a smile on his family’s face ahead of a Darwin return with the Suns against Hawthorn on Saturday.

“I did a few of those before I got drafted and did them for fun in the front yard with my brothers,” Jeffrey said of his acrobatic major.

“I had a tough week with my niece passing. It was a big week for me and my family.

“I sat down with Dewy (coach Stuart Dew) and he said ‘the ball’s in your court to play or not’ and I said ‘yeah I’m mentally ready. I’ve got something to play for’.

“Bloody oath, I love playing for family.”

The Suns will also play North Melbourne at TIO Stadium next week in what looms as a crucial fortnight for a side flirting with its first finals appearance.

Jeffrey’s return adds another layer, given his father Russell’s club legend status at Wanderers was earnt after a VFL career with St Kilda and Brisbane.

“Dad put me on the right step to play AFL footy,” Jeffrey said.

“I’ve just idolised him all my childhood and Mum’s been a big influence too.

“They’re grateful that we’re coming up there and Dad’s been ringing me every day this week – he’s keen for us to put on a show.

“It’s unreal, a childhood dream. I’ve grown up playing on that field so to play an AFL game on that ground will be very special.”

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