KICKING AHEAD: Charlie Cameron brings out the motorbike handlebar celebration after scoring a goal against the Suns at the Gabba in round 21 .
KICKING AHEAD: Charlie Cameron brings out the motorbike handlebar celebration after scoring a goal against the Suns at the Gabba in round 21 . DARREN ENGLAND

Charlie Cameron hitting top gear for Brisbane Lions

THINGS could have turned out very different for Charlie Cameron - a world away from the Gabba where he is now sending Lions fans into a frenzy.

If he hadn't decided to give Aussie rules another crack in his late teens, the AFL's most electrifying forward might well be working alongside his dad, mining in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

Or maybe tinkering under the bonnets of cars in Perth.

"I was an apprentice mechanic before being drafted," Cameron recalled. "I think that would have been the avenue.

"And playing local footy - league or union."

Cameron's journey to AFL super stardom is becoming folklore. He was born in Mt Isa, grew up on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria and boarded at union-centric Marist College in Brisbane before his family ventured west.

Though he'd had a previous brief stint with the Lions' academy, Cameron would only join the Newman Saints Aussie rules club because there were no league or union teams in the mining area, about 13 hours' drive from Perth.

League had been his first love. In particular, the Melbourne Storm. "Still support them now," said Cameron, who grew up idolising Greg Inglis.

 

Marist College Ashgrove old boy Charlie Cameron celebrates kicking a goal during Brisbane’s Round 11 win over Hawthorn. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos/Getty Images
Marist College Ashgrove old boy Charlie Cameron celebrates kicking a goal during Brisbane’s Round 11 win over Hawthorn. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos/Getty Images

 

But, within a year he was an AFL player. Though raw, WAFL club Swan Districts swooped on him in 2013. And while he was overlooked in that year's national draft, Adelaide picked him up as a rookie.

After four years with the Crows - his last appearance in the 2017 grand final - Cameron's journey came full circle after requesting a trade to Brisbane.

He admits there was some pull to reunite with his parents and brother and sister back in WA.

"There was a bit of talk. My partner (Sari) is from WA," he said. "But we made the choice to come to Brisbane and we haven't looked back.

"I've got aunties and uncles and cousins that I'm pretty close with who live here."

Then there's more of the extended family 1800km away on Mornington Island.

"Had about 30 come down for the first game in round one this year. It's always good to catch up with them," he said.

Cameron misses certain aspects of the lifestyle in the remote community up north.

"Going out fishing and hunting with my family," he said.

But right now the 25-year-old is loving the big-game hunting he's spearheading for the Lions.

Luke Hodge and Charlie Cameron enjoy a Brisbane win. Picture: AAP
Luke Hodge and Charlie Cameron enjoy a Brisbane win. Picture: AAP

They had just collected the wooden spoon when he arrived. Now they are top.

Cameron enjoys the relative anonymity in Brisbane - a far cry from AFL-mad Adelaide.

But he has become the biggest drawcard at the Gabba with his ability to burn opposition defences with his pace and snag a miracle goal.

"Last week (in round 21) against Gold Coast they were chanting my name when I was having those set shots. That was pretty electric," he recalled.

"I'm trying to make the most of my opportunities. The first half of the year I was struggling in terms of finishing my work off, but accuracy after the bye has been pretty good."

After a season cut short by a foot injury, he has played every game in 2019, passing 50 goals for the first time in his career.

He kicked 21.21 in the first 12 games and 31.7 in the next nine, all of which the Lions have won to surge to the top of the ladder.

"I had goals going into this season. I wanted to play every game, and I wanted to kick over 50 goals, or be around that mark. I've done that. Just personal little milestones along the way that I've just ticked off."

As scary as the thought might be for opponents, Cameron is only getting warmed up. There is improvement to come.

"You wanna try and match it with the best defenders in the game, try and find different ways to beat them each week," he said.

"I'm trying to keep my fitness up, and also trying to get a bit stronger, working in the gym."

At Adelaide, he was fifth in the attacking pecking order behind mentor Eddie Betts, Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins and Tom Lynch.

Charlie Cameron and Josh Jenkins. Picture: Sarah Reed
Charlie Cameron and Josh Jenkins. Picture: Sarah Reed

He is the main man at Brisbane, which as a collective is clear No.1 for scoring. It's not all about Charlie. "We want to play a selfless brand of footy, try to get each other into the game. Dan McStay doesn't kick many goals but he plays his role, crashes packs and creates a contest. That's all you can ask for."

The Lions overcame the league's most miserly defence last week, Geelong, with Cameron bagging five majors, though Cats coach Chris Scott had initially, and controversially, played down his influence.

"Everyone was commenting on it during the week. He's entitled to his opinion," Cameron said. "It's all good, doesn't bother me."

It's onwards and upwards for Cameron is looking forward to taking on a formidable Richmond tomorrow in a finals dress rehearsal at the MCG.

"We've only played one game at the G this year. We don't get to play there very often. We'll try and make the most of it. Go from there."

They might be back in a few weeks.

A win would secure the club's first minor premiership, an effort expected to be matched in the NRL by his beloved Storm.

The Lions are top. The Storm is top. Life's good for Cameron.

"I can't complain," he says. "Even though we lost to the bloody Raiders last week."

News Corp Australia

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