Ipswich apprentice carpenter Alex Kitching is working hard in his job while chasing an AFL opportunity.
Ipswich apprentice carpenter Alex Kitching is working hard in his job while chasing an AFL opportunity. David Nielsen

Lifestyle won't stop sport dreams

WHEN Alex Kitching's dad Mark was running around for the Brisbane Bullets in the 1980s, it was normal for elite athletes to work full-time jobs and play on the weekend.

Those days are long gone for most elite Aussie Rules players.

But some, like Kitching, are still living in the past as they chase their football dream.

The 19-year-old from North Ipswich spends his weeks balancing his desire to make it to the AFL with his need to earn a living as a carpenter in Ipswich.

On weekends, he plays for the Brisbane Lions Reserve grade team in the NEAFL alongside Lions draftees earning up to $100,000 a year.

During the week he works as a fourth-year apprentice carpenter for an Ipswich builder, training and doing gym work after eight hours on the tools.

It's a schedule that would have even the toughest athletes searching for a Sunday morning sleep-in but this Ipswich teenager is living one dream while chasing another.

For every young footballer lucky enough to secure an AFL contract through the national draft, there are hundreds more who dreamed of the same thing.

North Ipswich resident Alex Kitching may have only taken the game up at 15 but his development in the past two years has him embracing his own AFL dream.

The 19-year-old apprentice carpenter is doing it the hard way, working a full-time job while also committing six days a week to his AFL future.

Normally an on-baller with the Western Magpies in the SEQAFL Division 1 competition, Kitching doesn't see much of his Magpies team mates these days as he plies his trade for the Brisbane Lions Reserves in the new NEAFL competition.

Kitching is one of a number of Lions "top-up" players who are available for selection in the Lions second tier team for weekend games where he regularly plays with some of the lucky few young AFL draftees.

His form was so good last year. Kitching not only played the whole season with the Lions, he was named the best "top-up" player for the year.

It's a pretty impressive effort considering he did it all while finishing his carpentry apprenticeship with Apprenticeships Queensland.

"It's pretty full on," Kitching said of his schedule that includes a full day's work Monday to Thursday, all-day Lions training on Friday, Lions gym session or Magpies training Monday to Thursday nights and a weekend game.

"I have to admit it's starting to take its toll on me working and footy.

"A few other guys do the same as me but most of them are at uni. . . I'm the only tradie."

His form last year drew interest from the Brisbane Lions football department, raising the possibility Kitching may have to trade the hammer for a Sherrin full-time.

Unfortunately, he was overlooked by the AFL club for a contract this year, but with more and more mature age rookies getting a chance at AFL level, Kitching knows he's only one good game away from a shot at the big time.

"They (Lions) hinted at it last year but nothing really came of it," he said.

"They talked about me doing a pre-season with them but they signed a lot of kids this year.

"They were all very similar to me so that made it pretty tough for me this year at least."

While the Lions chose to overlook Kitching last year, the possibility of a professional footy career has the teenager considering a shot at the draft this year.

"I'm thinking about it this year," he said.

"If I get a contract, that would be perfect.

"At Brissy, anywhere would be nice. It's one of those things if you make it, you make it, if you don't, you don't.

"It really only takes one good game with the right selector there to get noticed. That's all it takes."

Until then, the son of former Brisbane Bullets championship player Mark Kitching will juggle his full-time job and his footy dream.

That challenge of work/sport balance becomes crystal clear each time he pulls on his Lions jumper.

"I get $50 a game at the moment and the boys I'm playing with are getting $100,000 a year," Kitching said.

"That's fine though, I love being a chippy so if footy doesn't work out, I've always got that."

Kitching recently represented the Queensland under-21s against ACT/NSW and is recovering from a rib cartilage injury before resuming with the Lions Reserve grade team.



Alex Kitching 180cm, 81kg

Position: Midfield/small forward.

Former WestMAC student who grew up playing rugby league for Norths and rugby union for Rangers.

Represted Qld in AFL in under-16s and now in under-21s.

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