Callum Ah Chee is a proud Indigenous Brisbane Lions player who recently played against Collingwood in the AFL Grand Final – a game which was described by some as one of the most insane grand finals ever seen.
Callum’s humble beginnings started in Derby, Western Australia where he was born on October 9, 1997 to parents from the Nyoongar (mum’s side) and Nyikina & Yawuru (dad’s side) tribes.
The fourth of six children, all of whom are boys, Callum was brought up in Armadale and describes his childhood as hectic, loving and supportive.
“Growing up with five brothers was hectic but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I had the most amazing upbringing,” he said.
All the boys in his family played competitive sports in Western Australia, including a then six-year-old Callum who dabbled in footy, Australian rules, basketball and athletics before deciding to focus on Australian rules in his teenage years.
The now Manly resident was inspired by his older brothers to make something of himself during his early teen years.
Having grown up in a household full of boys, Callum said, “that’s where the competitiveness and love of sports came from.”
“When I turned 13, I started taking AFL more seriously, put my head down a bit and worked hard.
“My older brother Brendan was drafted to the AFL when I was 15 and when that happened, that was a turning point for me.”
Having no plan B, the now 26-year-old only wanted to play AFL and make a career out of it with his parents’ backing.
“My parents were fully supportive of my career path. Mum and dad made it a priority for us to graduate high school but also believed in our aspirations and never pressured us,” he said.
“They gave us guidance instead of pushing us which worked.”
Callum dedicated his time in high school to playing AFL and all the hard work and sacrifices paid off a few years later.
His big break came a couple of months after graduating high school at 18 years of age when he was drafted to play for the Gold Coast football club for four years where he worked hard and honed his skills before becoming a Brisbane Lions player.
The road to success was a challenging and arduous process and he credits his parents for most of his success.
“I remember mum and dad would drive me to training and then pick me up which was hours’ drive sometimes,” Callum said.
“Some days I just sit back and wonder how they did it with all six kids. If it wasn’t for mum and dad I wouldn’t be where I am now for sure.”
Callum, father to two-year-old Iver, says nothing gives him more joy than being with his boy.
“He’s brought so much perspective into our lives, and he doesn’t care about me playing footy,” he said.
“I’m just his dad and he wants to hang out with me when I come home, which is great.”
Finding the balance with his career and his family life has been one of his biggest challenges so far.
“The game is pretty mentally challenging and it’s a juggling act at times with footy, family life and studying,” Callum said.