Timakoi Bowie hears the words echoing all the way down from the Torres Strait. They drive him forward, even as the goalposts he worked tirelessly towards for almost five years have moved.
Timakoi, 19, is studying towards a Bachelor of Business at Bond University on a Blue Sky Alternative Investments Indigenous Scholarship.
Originally from Badu Island, 60km north of Thursday Island, he moved to Cairns at the age of five.
Rugby league was always a passion but Timakoi caught the eye of a rival code after moving to AFL Cape York House, a boarding facility and mentoring program for Indigenous boys while they complete high school in Cairns.
“I got into AFL after a footy camp with the Cape York Crusaders,” he said. “I was benched a lot at the start but got better and better and in my first year I ended up being chosen for the Queensland Under 16 AFL team. It was pretty weird going from one sport (rugby league) to the other and then being picked for a state team.”
State selection put Timakoi on the Gold Coast SUNS’ radar but, as he approached Year 12 at St Andrew’s Catholic College in Cairns, he was also thinking about his academic future.
“One of the other boys (from AFL Cape York House) had been to Bond and he had a little chat with me. He said it had a really strong Indigenous program.”
His football career was also on a fast-track. He joined the SUNS’ Under 18 Academy and was taken under the wing of SUNS’ star and fellow north Queenslander, Jarrod Harbrow.
Timakoi aimed to make the AFL draft at the end of last year – but it was not to be. That’s when the words came to him.
“Whenever I go back to Badu my family tells me, ‘keep going, don’t give up’,” he said. “It was disappointing not to make the draft. I’d played for the SUNS all year. But that’s business, you’ve just got to move on. I still hope to make it into the AFL as a mature age player.”
In the meantime, Timakoi is pushing ahead with his studies and will this year play for the Southport Sharks which has been a reliable pipeline of talent for the AFL, producing the likes of Dayne Beams (Collingwood), Dayne Zorko (Brisbane Lions) and Lachie Weller (Gold Coast SUNS).
Having the support of Blue Sky Alternative Investments is both comforting and motivating, he said.
“It feels like someone is encouraging me and supporting me, kind of like my parents would. I’ve got people standing behind me on my journey.”
Timakoi has settled into Gold Coast life – “I like the beaches – no crocodiles!” – but misses diving for crayfish with friends and family on Badu.
He has discovered a passion for marketing and if a career as a professional sportsman does not eventuate, a job in the marketing department of an AFL team would be a goal.
Timakoi is on track to graduate next year and would be the first in his family to hold a university degree – something his mother had hoped to do herself. “
She went to uni but she didn’t finish because she had me,” he said. “So doing this (graduating) would be like paying her back.”