Brett and Adam Goodes. Photo: Getty Images
BRETT Goodes knew he was making a good decision, the best and most responsible one. But it was hard not to think about what he was giving up on. He was 25, and he wanted to work in player welfare one day.
He had a good job waiting in Darwin, if he wanted to leave Ballarat, and that was the tough part.
Goodes had just been overlooked for a spot on North Melbourne's rookie list and knew he had almost become too old to be drafted.
But it was still the one thing he wanted, and moving away also meant moving on. He wasn't the only one who knew it. ''He knew it was time," said his brother, Adam, ''but it ate at him a bit.''
That was three years ago. It's strange how things turn out. Brett and Adam were together recently, at the indigenous player camp in Alice Springs, and would have been even had Brett not been drafted by the Western Bulldogs in the December rookie draft.
When that happened he was the club's player wellbeing manager, a job he was offered after one year working with the Northern Territory Thunder side. He would have been on the camp to listen, observe and help out. Instead he participated.
It was weird, and it still is at the Bulldogs, two months after finding out he really was going to get his first chance.
''It's been different. Instead of walking into the office you walk in and go straight to the change rooms. I find that funny, but I don't really feel like I'm starting from scratch like the other draftees. I feel more like one of the boys, and I enjoy feeling that way. That was something I've had to be careful with in the last two years, making sure in the role I had that I didn't cross any lines,'' Brett said.
''I had to make sure I didn't go out with the boys, or do too much socially. You have to be careful you don't cross over too much, otherwise the boys will see you as one of them and they won't come to you with their issues and things that they need to talk about. But the change has been good and I think it's helped that I'd already been able to build some relationships and get to know people so well. Sitting in the meetings and learning about the game plan - all those things are pretty new to me, so the other guys have been helping me out with that, but I'm loving it. It's nice to go in there and think, 'my job now is to train'.''
He might not have gotten that chance had he decided to stay three years ago, and knows he might not have been willing to walk away without the influence of his older brother. Brett was 13 when Adam was drafted to Sydney, but was inspired by him long before then anyway.
Adam was the first kid in the family to finish school, the first to play for the representative teams that asked him to, the first to move away. Their mother made him think of the future too, and their support gave him confidence to start living it.
Adam knew he would, and that he would be rewarded for it. ''I think Brett's like most younger brothers, they always want to be better than you if not better,'' he said.
''When he told me he was going to be playing as a rookie it was just such a proud moment. I was so happy because it was something I knew deep down he really wanted, even when he made that decision to concentrate on his career and change his priorities and move away. Most of us thought he was giving up on the dream then, and I think he thought that too. It was a big decision to make, and it's just a great story of persistence and hard work and determination.
''Brett knows what he's missed out on. He's seen it, he's seen his mates play, he's seen other guys get opportunities in front of him and he's worked with players who were doing exactly what he wanted to be doing and put his feelings aside to help all of them out. He knows what it takes, he's just never had that opportunity to test himself against the best, and now he's been given that.''
So far, so good. Goodes had no inkling he might be drafted when Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney asked him to join on pre-season training late last year. At the very least, he told himself, three months of tough training would get him fit for another year playing with Williamstown in the VFL.
It was only a week or two before the draft, as he was asked to do more and more testing, that he sensed it might happen.
''I never really felt the heat, that everything was on the line. I didn't want to be let down,'' he said.
Brett doesn't know what will happen from here. But whatever it is, it will be good. Adam has one wish - that Brett is in the side by round 19 - because the brothers have never played with or against each other. But Brett doesn't care.
''I just want to enjoy it and make the most of it. I didn't know what to expect or what it would be like, even though I was at the club already, but I feel like I can do it. I love the training and I love all of the work. There's never been a moment where I've thought I can't do something.''