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The greatest reward

Fiona Basile  |  18 December 2012

The greatest reward

Indigenous footballer Daniel Wells has had a successful AFL career, but says the satisfaction he gets from football cannot compare to the deeper fulfillment he gets from his family and his faith.

What did you think about being drafted to North Melbourne as a young boy out of Western Australia?
The dream was just getting in and playing for any team; I didn't mind who I played for. But it's just worked out so well playing for North Melbourne. I've received so many blessings, the first being meeting my wife Mariangela through the club. Ria's parents are mad Roos supporters. She was picking up her mum from a function when I first met her - that was in my first year when I was only 18, I was just a pup! And now we're married and have a beautiful daughter.

Who inspires you?
My family - and that's not just my wife and little one - that includes my family back home, who worked really hard in the early days to help get me to where I am now. When it gets a bit tough I think of my family.

As a kid, I looked up to Peter Matera, who played for the West Coast Eagles back in the 1990s. He was someone I copied and wanted to be like. But once you get in here, you have to land on your own feet and start trying to find your own ways. I've been here 10 years now, so I'm always trying to keep in front of the game.

How does it feel knowing you are a source of inspiration to others?
I really enjoy helping out the young ones and just trying to fasttrack them, telling them all my little secrets, or the things I like to do. I think the best way you can influence or impact others is by example - train hard and do the right thing. I was very similar to those younger guys - I used to watch the older guys and see what they did and pretty much mimic them, so there's no doubt they're doing that to all the older guys here. So, we just make sure we train hard and carry ourselves with class and dignity. If we do that I think the boys can't go wrong.

What are you most grateful for in your life?
I'm grateful for my parents and for all they've done for me and my siblings.

We had a tough upbringing - Mum and Dad had to work hard to make ends meet and sometimes to put food on the table. I wouldn't change anything in my past, but when I look back and realise how difficult they had to do it - especially Mum - I think they're pretty amazing. Back then Mum would always say, 'there are a lot more people worse off than we are', so she always kept things in perspective. Hopefully that's something I continue to remember and do because, compared with what I had and what I've got now, it is two different worlds. I'll never forget where I came from and what I've been through; I'll always be grateful for what I now have.

You have a strong Catholic faith - why is this?
As a young kid, I've always felt a sense of protection. We didn't belong to any religion growing up but we did believe in God - we just didn't do anything about it. We didn't go to church or Mass or anything like that - we went to Sunday school but I think that was more for Mum and Dad to have the morning off.

My first experience of the Catholic faith was through meeting my wife - so, she was the main influence for why I became Catholic. But now I personally feel very strongly about it.

We've both grown in our faith and we've been on that spiritual journey together ever since we married and I became a Catholic. And now with the birth of Laudate - she's the apple of my eye - the responsibility is back on us to make sure we bring her up in a way that is satisfactory to God. We want to make sure we bring her up in the best way we can.

When I think about everything in my life, you can't even compare my faith and family to work - they're just not in the same league. I am extremely grateful that I'm playing footy and I'm grateful for the experiences it is providing me - it allows me to do things that I would never have thought possible - but finding out who I really am through my faith and through my family is way more important.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
Treat people the way you'd like to be treated - that's something I try to live by. That's just being kind, courteous and respectful. I think if you do that, you can't go wrong. I also think it's important to stay humble and to keep things simple - don't get caught up in too many things.

Tell me about the lows and highs of a footy career.
There are probably more lows than highs in a footy career, especially when you consider the injuries you get - they can be really tough on you. There's also the pressure you're constantly under. It can be full on because you're in the spotlight all the time and the expectations are so high.

But when you're winning and playing well, it's a feeling that you can't get anywhere else. You put your whole heart and soul into it, so the effort and the return when you do get those victories, and the feeling, are just incredible. And to share it with your team mates is really special. We win together and we lose together.


Topic tags: indigenousaustralians, sportandfairplay, men’sspirituality, people’sstoriesoffaith

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