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Garlett: Why I'm all in

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We’ve got a fair few Indigenous boys now, and for the whole club to take time out and learn about our stories, who we are and the food we’ve lived on was actually really special.
Jarrod Garlett

IT’S mid-interview at the Carlton Café on Tuesday and Jarrod Garlett can’t stop looking at his watch.

His eyes remain fixed on his left wrist as he answers one question in particular, the restlessness getting the better of him.

But he doesn’t have anywhere to be. The 21-year-old knows that at any minute this week, a call could come from his partner that will lead to a life-changing event.

“He could come along any day, at any time,” Garlett says when asked about the imminent birth of his first child. 

“The doctors have said he’s pretty much ready to come out. We’re just looking at our watches and watching the days go by, seeing how much he grows.”

While the clock ticks on the arrival of his son, the focus on footy provides a healthy distraction. 

He’s in the squad for tonight’s JLT Community Series match against St Kilda and desperately wants to run out in the No.21 Carlton guernsey for the first time.

A first-round selection in 2014, the talented forward left the Gold Coast Suns in late 2016 to return home to WA to be closer to his terminally ill brother, who had suffered a burst blood vessel on his brain. 

Garlett’s AFL prospects may have seemed in tatters, but his luck turned.

His brother made a miraculous recovery while Garlett shone for WAFL club South Fremantle – his determination to return to the big league growing by the week.

Carlton’s interest was spiked, and on November 24 last year the Blues used the final pick of the national draft to secure the former Sun.

“I didn’t appreciate what I had until I was out of the AFL system. You have to get back out there and find work, and it can be a bit of a struggle,” Garlett admits.

“But inside I always felt that’s where I should be and I’ve been wanting to get back in, but have had to wait.

“I’m just so happy to get a game with a new team.”

In the three months since he joined the Blues, Garlett says he’s gained “so much respect” for his new club.

One of five Indigenous boys at Ikon Park, he was honoured to share his culture alongside Liam Jones, Jarrod Pickett, Sam Petrevski-Seton and Kym Lebois in a whole-of-club Indigenous barbecue last week.

“It was something I really took in and appreciated from the Club,” he says.

“I’ve never really heard of many people doing this sort of thing. We’ve got a fair few Indigenous boys now, and for the whole club to take time out and learn about our stories, who we are and the food we’ve lived on was actually really special.

“The Club really embraces who you are and what you do outside of football.”

Jarrod Garlett speaks to Carlton staff and players during the Club's Indigenous barbecue. (Photo: Carlton Media)

Also helping Garlett’s adjustment to life at Carlton is his powerful bond with cousin Pickett.

The excitement machines are set to line up together tonight for the first time since their childhood days in WA.

“I stayed with him (Pickett) for the first few weeks when I got here,” Garlett says.

“We really drive each other to get better. We’ve always had that competition to see who’s better. It’s good for us - we play in similar positions and we can help each other get better. When we get better, the team gets better, and it’s really exciting to see what we can both do in the same team.”

Jarrod Garlett closely follows Jarrod Pickett (centre) and fellow Indigenous teammate Kym Lebois during the Blues' pre-season camp on the Sunshine Coast. (Photo: AFL Media)

While a year away from the rigours of AFL can pose its challenges, Garlett feels he’s better placed than ever to produce his best footy.

He used his year with South Fremantle to “put a bit of weight on and get stronger in certain areas”, arriving at Ikon Park in impressive condition.

“When I came to Carlton, I knew what was expected from an AFL player. I took things day by day and had my small focuses, like getting as fit as I can. I feel ready to go and the body’s feeling terrific.”

Garlett credits his grandfather for the shape he’s in today.

He says regular 6km runs with his grandfather as a teenager were behind his aerobic prowess, which saw him post an impressive score of 15.2 at the 2014 draft combine.

“It was an everyday thing before school. He’d wake me up at five o’clock every morning just to take me for a run,” he says.

“He kept me on the road to football and staying fit and it rubbed off on me. When I get back home, he still does it with me.”

As the interview comes to an end, Garlett’s attention returns to his watch.

It’s been 557 days since his last AFL game and nearly nine months in anticipation of the arrival of his son.

He’s unsure which wait will end first, but one thing that’s certain is that the proud Garlett is determined to give his all in footy and fatherhood.

“My family is really important to me, especially now that I’ve got my little boy on the way,” he says.

“That’s (fatherhood) something for me to step up to in order to support them, and it’s through football. As long as I do my best out there on the field, then I know I’ll be doing OK.”