By Megan Hustwaite
September 20, 2023 — 12.45pm
When Carlton return to nan Gabba successful Saturday night’s preliminary final, erstwhile Blue Tom Williamson will beryllium watching from nan family location successful Ararat pinch his feet up aft a week moving astatine nan section situation and pinch a premiership of his own.
The 24-year-old, who was nan Blues’ unused sub successful past year’s opening-round triumph complete Richmond, walked distant from nan AFL successful mid-2022 to attraction connected his intelligence health, deciding, aft 44 games and astir six years successful nan system, that nan apical tier wasn’t for him.
He moved location to Ararat and past play was portion of nan squad that won nan club’s first emblem successful 21 years, nan Rats defeating nan Greater Mallee Giants. When Ararat past claimed nan Wimmera League premiership, Williamson was nan three-year-old squad mascot carried done nan banner by his dada Allister, who played successful nan win.
Today, Williamson not only has a badge astir his neck, but he’s rediscovered his emotion of nan game, is thriving backmost location successful nan Wimmera surrounded by family and friends and useful successful attraction astatine Hopkins Correctional Centre, nan town’s medium-security prison.
“Where I was astatine past year, footy wasn’t going well, I was distant from family and mates and I deliberation I was successful a mediocre spot mentally. Coming backmost location allowed maine to person a bully support web astir maine and nan Ararat footy nine has been massive, wrapping their arms astir maine from nan connection go,” he said.
“I can’t speak highly capable of my family [parents Allister and Janeen and sisters Courtney, Jess and Lauri] and nan activity they did successful that clip to assistance maine retired of nan small spread I was successful and bounce back, truthful that’s why this is moreover much typical to me.
“It’s nan alteration I needed and nan correct fresh for me.”
Like truthful galore kids, Williamson grew up wanting to play astatine nan highest level but amid nan trim and thrust of master football, he realised what really made him happy – surviving and playing successful nan country.
“I’ve dreamt of playing successful a emblem pinch Ararat my full life. Stepping distant was nan correct determination for maine and to now travel location and acquisition what I person this year, I wouldn’t alteration it for nan world,” he said.
“I wouldn’t spell backmost and play AFL footy now if I had nan chance, I conscionable don’t deliberation it was correct for me. Outside looking successful you mightn’t deliberation it [because I’ve played AFL] but nan past fewer months person been nan champion of my life.
“In Melbourne, really I felt anyway, it was fundamentally a occupation and I was truthful anxious pinch capacity anxiety. Here, you play for your mates, your municipality and community. You stone up, cipher cares if you had a bad game, your mates are still your mates and everyone who loves you for who you are not because you’re a footballer.
“When nan siren sounded connected expansive last day, I was an affectional mess, conscionable crying. Everyone ran connected nan ground, family travel up to you, your partner, hugging my closest mates consecutive distant is conscionable thing I’ll ne'er forget.”
Williamson is simply “Tommy” astir municipality and astatine activity cipher cares what he utilized to do for a living.
“Scott Turner [Ararat fable and erstwhile 144-game Richmond player] useful astatine nan situation arsenic good and nan first fewer mates of days he asked maine if anyone knew me. They didn’t,” he said.
“It’s a very absorbing job, evidently I hadn’t been wrong a situation before. I’ve been into a fewer cells and immoderate person each Carlton worldly connected nan walls, it’s a spot weird.”
By sharing his tale, Williamson hopes those struggling mightiness pat into their ain courage.
“I deliberation there’d beryllium athletes each complete nan world, and conscionable group successful general, who consciousness similar, you unrecorded it and do it each time and it becomes you and I deliberation that’s wherever a batch of nan struggles travel from because there’s a personification down each that and that’s nan astir important bit.
“At Carlton, it was ever ‘you’re a personification first and footballer 2nd truthful put each your clip and effort into that first and footy and your life will amended disconnected nan backmost of it’.
“You’ve sewage to conscionable perceive to yourself, cognize what you’re emotion and person nan courageousness and support astir you to activity retired what it is that’s making you unhappy and make changes to your life.”
Williamson and his dad, a erstwhile Richmond protagonist who became and remains a passionate Bluebagger, will tune successful together connected Saturday evening.
“I still support successful interaction pinch a fewer group and look, you conscionable can’t miss what they’ve done this season, it’s been beautiful amazing. Hopefully they tin get into a expansive last and past anything’s possible.”
Keep up to day pinch nan champion AFL sum successful nan country. Sign up for nan Real Footy newsletter.
Most Viewed successful Sport