Demon Liam Jurrah. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
LIAM Jurrah's AFL season is over, but his manager and Melbourne Football Club are adamant his career is not.
It emerged yesterday that Jurrah has left Victoria and is living with his grandmother in Adelaide. It is believed Jurrah advised the club of his decision after he had gone.
Jurrah's manager, Ned Guy, said the player ''certainly had not walked out on the club - he's just sorting out some personal issues''.
Melbourne chief executive Cameron Schwab said: ''Liam has made it clear to us that he wants to play next year. He just feels that he's had the worst year possible and he's struggling with a whole range of things.''
Schwab was ''hopeful'' Jurrah would play with the Demons in 2013 and said he was being encouraged by relatives and members of the Yuendumu community to continue his AFL career. Injury has restricted Jurrah to one AFL game this season.
Jurrah arrived in Melbourne in 2007, courtesy of a Collingwood coterie called the Industrial Magpie. English was his third or fourth language and in his first media interview, having been asked if he wanted to play AFL football, he replied with the single word - yes.
After a personal crusade on his behalf by former Collingwood player Rupert Betheras, Jurrah was taken in the rookie draft by Melbourne and soon became a popular figure within the club and with the Demons' supporters. In his first season, 2009, he received a Rising Star nomination and became the quickest player in a decade to reach 50 goals. In 2010, he took a soaring mark against Port Adelaide that won him the AFL Mark of the Year.
But, in his home community of Yuendumu, 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, events were conspiring against him. In an Alice Springs town camp in September 2010, a drunken dispute within the Yuendumu football team - in which Jurrah had been the champion player - resulted in the death of one and three others sent to prison.
When the authorities chose not to let the matter also be dealt with by traditional Aboriginal law, the dispute escalated into a civil war. The Yuendumu football team was hopelessly divided. Jurrah's father's family and his mother's family were on opposing sides of the conflict.
This year, after a violent fracas between the two Yuendumu factions in an Alice Springs town camp, Jurrah was charged with assault and weapons charges and, last month, a magistrate in Alice Springs committed him for trial. Jurrah is also under a court order prohibiting him from returning to Yuendumu.
Yesterday, Schwab said: ''This is about a unique person dealing with very complex issues. The fact he can't go back home, for example, is massive for him.''
Jurrah has lived for long periods with academic Bruce Hearn MacKinnon, who also wrote Jurrah's biography. Asked yesterday if he thought Jurrah would play with Melbourne next year, Hearn MacKinnon replied: ''I hope he does, but right now I'm more concerned for his welfare and happiness.''