Carlton’s Jack Martin delves into his upbringing — being left at kindergarten as a kid; the corroborees as a young boy; why he went to boarding school — as he tells Glenn McFarlane about life as a proud indigenous Australian.
The Blues star also touches on the inspiration of Jarrod Harbrow and Eddie Betts; why he’s studying real estate; and his belief the Blues are on a pathway to success.
“We’re not too far away,” Martin said despite the Blues coming up short against the Swans.
“The tide will turn. We have to keep working hard and we know it will turn.”
Martin, 26, is in his second season with Carlton after six years with Gold Coast, with his 114 games coming without a finals appearance to date.
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Given his close relationship with his family back home in Western Australia, he has found it frustrating that his parents, Suzette and Christopher, have been unable to see him wear the Navy Blues so far, given the Covid pandemic which impacted on 2020 and now 2021.
He speaks to his mum regularly, but not as often as she would like, revealing that she once rang Blues coach David Teague to ask him to get Jack to contact her.
Martin wants to become an indigenous role model for young AFL players, mindful of the impact Gold Coast’s Jarrod Harbrow and Carlton’ Eddie Betts have had on him.
Glenn McFarlane: What indigenous nations are you connected with?
Jack Martin: I am from Western Australia, in the north west. My people are the Yawuru. That’s my Mum’s (Suzette Edgar) clan up in the north. My Dad (Christopher) is a Yamatji man, from Geraldton. Both of them are quite far apart, one is up north and one is down south. I probably have more of a connection to my Yawuru heritage because I was born and grew up in Broome.
GM: What does your heritage/culture mean to you?
JM: It means everything to me. It grounds me. I guess when I go back out there and I get back to country, it reminds me of who I am and where I am from and who my people are. You can sometimes get caught up in the big cities and in the footy bubble, but at stages you need to go home and you need to reconnect with your people. I try to do it as often as I can. Mum and Dad are still in Broome. Dad met Mum in Broome about 20-odd years ago and he never left.
GM: My favourite custom from my heritage is …
JM: From a childhood memory, we used to get painted up and dance when I was a kid. A couple of times a year we used to do the corroboree. I haven’t done it for a number of years, obviously leaving home when I was young for schooling and being picked (by Gold Coast) when I was 17. I haven’t been able to get back and experience all that. That’s a part of it I miss.
GM: Something not many people know about me is …
JM: I suppose it would be that I have two long-haired dachshunds, that’s about it. They are called Honey and Bella. Honey is five and Bella is four this year. They keep us on our toes, which is good. Brittany (Forster, his partner) and I walk them regularly but with the weather in Melbourne, you don’t know what it is doing sometimes.
GM: My earliest memory is …
JM: Mum leaving me at kindergarten and me crying the place down. That was my earliest recollection in life, I think. I won’t forget that.
GM:One piece of advice I would give my teenage self is …
JM: Listening to your parents. The man I am today comes from how they disciplined me. I would say listen to your parents and the people around you in your close circle.
GM: The best advice I have been given …
JM: Respect people and people will respect you. You treat people how you want to be treated. Never put yourself above or below anyone and treat everyone as an equal. I remember (Gold Coast’s) Jarrod Harbrow saying it to me one day. It sat well with me and still does. Jarrod helped me a lot. I am not there anymore but he made my transition from the west over to the east a lot smoother, living with him and having him around. I’ve got a close connection with Eddie Betts at Carlton. Eddie and Harbs are pretty much the exact same people. The one thing you can take from those two guys is the care they have for the people around them.
GM: If I wasn’t in sport, I would be …
JM: In real estate. I am studying an online course at the moment, so I would have to say that. I don’t know whether that’s what I will do after footy or not yet. I have got a property in Queensland and real estate sort of grabbed my interest. I haven’t bought one here (in Victoria). It is so expensive here. I don’t know how some people do it.
GM:A common misconception made about me is …
JM: I think people may think that I am quiet and reserved. I am in a sense, but once you get to know me, I sort of open up a bit and have got a bit of a sense of humour. I have a good joke with some of the boys at Carlton, like Eddie, Mick Gibbons, Zac Fisher and Jack Newnes. I’ve got a few guys at the Suns I am still in close contact with.
GM:When I cop abuse I …
JM: It’s hard to answer this one because fortunately enough I haven’t been in a situation where I have copped abuse. In terms of how I would respond, I think everyone does it individually. I am sort of one that brushes it off and tries to move forward without drawing too much attention to it.
GM: When people see me, I hope they think …
JM: I am a respectful person, who is level-headed and humble. I guess that’s important to me. I would like to be seen as a role model too. Coming in from another club, and having a little bit of experience, I am always happy to help out the younger guys.
GM: Family means …
JM: Everything. You can say it is the number one value in my life. It is who you are. It is the most important thing in your life. My parents have been amazing for me. I’ve got three sisters too — Jennifer, Melissa and Kirsten. They are in WA.
GM: A word or phrase I use too much is …
JM: ‘I’m buggered up’. It’s from our little lingo back home in Broome. It means I am tired. You have to say it with a bit of slang … ‘I’m buggered up’.
GM: My weird sporting superstition is …
JM: Eating pasta the night before every game. I always cook it myself at home. It was something I have pretty much always done since I started in the AFL. It was Maccas before AFL (laughs).
GM:My sporting hero is …
JM: I was a massive Essendon supporter growing up but I loved watching Chris Judd. Even now to this day I will get on YouTube and watch him. He was an amazing player. I met him last year at a dinner at the president’s house. He was really down to earth, easy to have a chat to, and a real nice guy.
GM:Which sporting moment carried the most significance to you?
JM: I would relate it back to my footy. I think it was the Great Northern Football League Grand Final in 2012. We won the Grand Final that year. I think we lost the year before or a couple of years before. It was my last year in Geraldton and played league that year and we ended up winning the Grand Final. I was playing for Towns Bulldogs. I think I was OK in the game. I think I was 17 at the time. It was pretty tough competition. Country leagues are pretty tough. But the experience really helped me. The celebrations were good, but I made sure I was at school on the Monday.
GM:What is it like being an indigenous athlete today?
JM: I am very honoured and privileged to be an indigenous athlete. I think I am able to create a pathway and to help set an example for the next group of young sportspeople coming through, whether it is AFL or not. That’s how I feel about it.
GM: Have you encountered any racism or unconscious bias against you in your career?
JM: You always cop a bit of criticism with the sport that we play. It comes with the sport. That doesn’t really bother me at all. I tend to sort of brush it off and worry about the people within the four walls that matter. But racism is different. I haven’t really copped any of that. I feel for those who cop it, like Eddie has. It is simply not fair. For the amount of work that the guy does in the community, I just can’t fathom it. I don’t get it. I don’t agree with it. It needs to be ruled out of our game and all sports.
GM: How do we improve support networks for indigenous athletes coming through the ranks of professional sport?
JM: Every club needs an indigenous officer, I think. That’s the first step, we still don’t have one at Carlton. I think the sooner the AFL and the clubs can get onto that, I definitely think that would help improve things.
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GM: What are the reflections on your career highlights?
JM: Obviously I have still got a few more years to go. I think the biggest one was running out last year in my 100th game and getting that win over Geelong. I think that was a massive career highlight for me. My family couldn’t be there obviously due to the pandemic. They are still yet to watch me play in the navy Blue. Hopefully we can get them over at some stage this year and they can watch me run out. I don’t have great memories of my first game (with the Suns in 2014). I did my shoulder in the first five minutes.
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GM: Who put you on your pathway?
JM: My parents are clearly No.1. Obviously Broome is a pretty small country town and it is always hard to stay disciplined and easy to get caught up with what’s going on around town. But my parents instilled that discipline in me at a young age. When I was 12, they were like ‘we need to get you away from Broome and get you down south for schooling’. That was good from a sporting point of view as well. At the end of Year 7 I went down to Geraldton and did boarding school there. It was tough at the time, but I will be forever grateful for what they did for me. It certainly helped that my Dad was from down there and had some (family) there. My sisters were down there as well. Jarrod Harbrow has been massive for me. We are still in contact today, we have kept our relationship.
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GM: Who is your inspiration?
JM: It has to be my parents again. Mum and dad inspire me every day to be the best person and the best footballer I can be. My mum says I don’t speak to her enough, she tries to call me every day. Sometimes I don’t answer her calls and then she calls David Teague. She has done that once before — last year. She pretty much rang David and she said ‘Can you speak to Jack and can you get him to call me’. Then David said to me: ‘Mate, ring your mum’.
GM: What is the key priority to improve player and leadership opportunities for the next generation of indigenous athletes?
JM: There is probably a growth area for indigenous coaches. Imagine the day when we see an indigenous AFL coach. That would be awesome. In terms of whether I would want to coach, down the track possibly.