It’s quite the tale: Marlion Pickett, a young bloke from Perth, makes his AFL debut in this year’s grand final, wowing the crowd with his raw talent and a dream goal. His backstory is even more remarkable, writes Konrad Marshall.
The first glimpse the wider world got of Marlion Pickett was not on an Australian rules football field in Melbourne. He was neither bathed in sunshine doing a balletic blind turn in front of 100,014 spectators, nor buried by his Richmond Football Club teammates after a cool, calm but dramatic (almost cinematic) grand final goal. He was not wearing yellow and black. He was not 27 years old.
He was 20. He was 60 kilometres east of Perth. And he was behind bars.
Pickett was a character – identified only as “Marlion” – in a five-part 2014 TV documentary called Outside Chance, about an innovative 2012 criminal justice program, in which inmates of the minimum-security Wooroloo Prison Farm were allowed to play football matches against local teams in a regional league, outside their razor-wire confines. The aim was best summed up by the tagline of the series: “Winning their redemption, one game at a time.”
With 12 months left to run on his sentence, he watched an awful lot of AFL matches, and those of the lower-level state league, the WAFL. He quit drinking, and hasn’t had a drop of alcohol in seven years. “I made my mind up: ‘When I get out, everything is about footy and family.’ The first week I got out of prison, I walked straight into South Fremantle Football Club.”
Konrad Marshall’s Stronger & Bolder: Inside the 2019 Finals Series with Richmond (Hardie Grant, $30) is out now.
arlion Pickett aged six playing for the under-9s in Balga. Credit:Anthony Van Der Wielen