The West

Holding a photo of Jack Martin in action on the football field, in a kitchen cluttered with his trophies and sporting memorabilia, a proud dad marvelled at how far his son had come.

"I'm really glad he got drafted - he's accomplished everything that he set out to do," Chris Martin said. "All he wants to do is play AFL footy - it's been his dream since he was 13. I'm just happy for him."

Tomorrow, the 17-year-old draft pick touted as the next big thing in AFL will board a plane from Geraldton, eventually bound for Arizona and his first pre-season training with the Gold Coast Suns ahead of his expected debut in 2014.

For Jack, it's the culmination of a dream that began many years ago in Broome, where the skinny kid with a big personality grew up fishing and riding his motorbike among a close extended family.

It was a journey full of sacrifice. For months this year, Jack and his dad drove to Perth and back every week - a 10-hour round trip over two days - for training with the State under-18s team.

"I remember driving to Perth and sitting on the corner of the road outside a pizza shop in Northbridge, waiting for money to go through so we could get a feed," Mr Martin said. "I remember not paying electricity bills, just so Jack had a pair of footy boots."

Jack's mum, Suzette Edgar, said her "active and athletic" son carried his football everywhere he went. "He would sleep with a footy almost," she said.

Jack's precocious talent was spotted as soon as he started playing in Broome at age nine.

Four years later, after he "took out every award going" in the local league, his family knew it was time for major sacrifices to help him reach his goals.

Jack, his eldest sister and Mr Martin moved to Geraldton and closer to football opportunities, while the rest of the family stayed behind. At school, while his friends were out partying, Jack stayed home with his head buried in books, focused on retaining his captaincy of the Clontarf Academy at John Willcock College.

Catching up on missed schoolwork was pretty tough, he said, but worth it in the end.

"Now I'm graduating from Year 12, which I'm pretty happy with," he said.

"You've just got to work hard once you get the opportunity - some people don't ever get a second chance. It's been my dream to get out there and run around and kick some goals - now it's come true."

Jack can't wait to get to Arizona for training with his new teammates, especially "running around next to Gary Ablett".

The West Australian

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