By Evin Priest

Watching one of the AFL’s most prolific talents boot seven goals against defending premiers Hawthorn this year, one could imagine a young Jeremy Cameron having a lifelong obsession with Aussie Rules.

Yet while other kids were sleeping with a Sherrin under their arm and dreaming about emulating their AFL heroes, a 10-year-old Cameron was busy digging a putting green in his backyard in country Victoria.

VMowing the grass at his Dartmoor home short enough to putt on, Cameron recalls how he drilled a margarine container in the soil so he could devote countless hours to refining his short game. This is the reality of Jeremy Cameron’s childhood, a modern day football hero whose career could have been very different if his grandfather Lloyd Mattrass had got his way.

“My Pa got me into golf when I was eight years old,” Cameron tells Australian Golf Digest. “I started playing golf and I just fell in love with it, really.”

The Greater Western Sydney Giants star first picked up the Sherrin aged 6, in the AFL’s Auskick program. But given Dartmoor has a population of less than 300, junior Aussie rules matches required car trips of several hours.

Until the age of 15, Jeremy Cameron was all about golf.

“All we did was go down to Dartmoor Golf Club. I can remember digging my own putting green in the backyard, whacking a margarine cup in the ground and practising my chipping and putting,” says Cameron.

And as you can expect from an athlete selected in the All-Australian side after only his second season of AFL, Cameron got very good at golf – very quickly.

“When I was 11 years old I got down to an 11 handicap,” says Cameron. “When I was 12 and 13, the lowest I got was 10 but I plateaued. I couldn’t hit it far, so I focussed on the short game. I couldn’t get below 10 for a long time.”

Cameron’s love for the links prospered at the nine-hole Dartmoor Golf Club. He speaks nostalgically of rounds played with his Pa.

“I really love Dartmoor; it’s a nice course,” says Cameron. “The greens were nice and they changed up the tees so they’d go from par 4s to 5s to keep it interesting.

“Pa’s mates thought I’d hold them up on the course, but I picked the game up fairly quickly. I travelled around (rural Victoria) a lot with my Pa just to play golf.”

Now living 1,200 kilometres away in the bustling Sydney metropolis, the 21-year-old’s golf partners include Giants teammates Tim Mohr and Jacob Townsend. Calling the golf hotspot of western Sydney home has Cameron and his fellow Giants hopping between North Ryde, Castle Hill and Twin Creeks golf clubs.

When the opportunity arises, Cameron also heads down with mates to Thirteenth Beach Golf Links, in Victoria’s picturesque Barwon Heads region.

And when the siren one day sounds on his already phenomenal career, ‘Jezza’ plans to travel the world in search of the game’s greatest layouts.

“After footy, I’ve thought about really having a crack travelling around and getting a taste of golf courses all over the world,” says Cameron. “I’ve talked to a few people who have played St Andrews and it’s something I’ve always thought about.”

But until then, does all this golf affect the performances of the AFL’s best young forward? With 144 goals from 58 games (at the time of writing), Cameron says golf actually complements his footy.

“Golf helps a footballer to relax; it takes your mind off AFL,” he says. “We train five days a week and then play a game, so it can become quite taxing if you’re always training and playing and thinking about AFL. There are guys who love that and some who need an escape. Golf is a great way to have fun.”

Cameron admits to having dreamt, occasionally, of a professional golf career as a teenager. But GWS came knocking after seeing Cameron’s breakout season for North Ballarat in the Under-18s TAC Cup.

In the end, he chose AFL – because it allowed him to play golf.

“When I was about 15 I got into the reserves,” says Cameron. “That’s when I chose footy. I chose it because I could still play golf. Whereas if I chose golf I couldn’t play footy.”


The Region

“I think the different range of courses is what makes western Sydney golf so good; Castle Hill Country Club is quite hilly and it’s good for the longer hitters. I like to smash it as long as I can – which is probably not a great thing – but Castle Hill has some shorter holes to tempt you. There are so many different tracks in the region and the variety is really good. I originated from country Victoria and it’s pretty damp down there, so the fairways can get a bit soggy and the greens get damp. Up here I found the courses hard because the greens are so slick. It was something I had to get used to.”

The Courses

“I live pretty close to Concord, so I get out and play North Ryde a fair bit. I quite like that course; they’ve done some renovations and I really enjoy playing my golf there. With the team, we normally get a couple of groups up to Castle Hill Country Club on our day off but it depends on how many from the club are keen. If I’m by myself I’m playing North Ryde. I’ve played Twin Creeks and it was quite nice. I really love trying different courses. Last year I was injured so I couldn’t play but now I’m getting back into the swing of things.”

The Rounds

“Since my professional footy career has kicked off, I play once a week in Sydney, sometimes two or three times if I’m lucky. It’s dependent on our day off, which is Thursday. I’m lucky there are a few other Giants players who love their golf.”