Australian U21 hockey representative Brayden King knows
better than most that the path to success can lead from many roads.
Hailing from the state’s Mid-West, King will later this
month celebrate his milestone 21st birthday. Yet at an age where
most of his athlete peers are busy wrangling university degrees and juggling
course work around training, he has already taken on and completed a trade
apprenticeship that now sees him working full-time as a qualified Refrigeration
and Air-conditioning mechanic.
He now plies his trade at the Booragoon Shopping Centre,
just a stone’s throw from home, and the talented defender is using that
professional platform to chase his future hockey ambitions, knowing that a
long-term career path is already bedded down.
As a self-proclaimed "hands on kid” growing up – King said
his interest in pursuing a trade had crystallised after discovering a government
school program that perfectly mirrored his interests.
"I went to a Catholic school at the start and it was pretty
full on with TEE and going down the study path and I thought, that’s not really
for me,” he recalls.
"I swapped to a public school and they had this STEP
program, where I would go to school three days a week, go to TAFE one day and
I’d do work experience (for) one day,” he said.
The decision to follow Refrigeration, was as much
opportunity as anything else as King recounts.
"At my hockey club back home (Murchison in the Geraldton
Hockey Association) one of the guys was a fridge mechanic so I asked him – do
you need a TA for one day a week for six months? I did that every Wednesday and
I really enjoyed it and thought this is something that I could pursue and carry
His efforts and application whilst in Geraldton convinced
the company he was working for, to offer him an apprenticeship in Perth, which
as circumstance would happen, married up well with his steady rise through the
developmental hockey pathway.
By this stage, he had impressed at underpinning state team
level, which had seen him earn selection in the Western Australian U18’s despite
being just 16 years of age.
He reflects that the breakthrough occurred after a strong
campaign at U15’s level which gave him the confidence to test his skills against
the older kids.
"I’d had quite a good tournament so I thought, I’ll put my
name in the hat, being a country guy I’ll try for the 18’s when I was 16 and I
thought, we’ll see what happens and I made the 18’s that year and I kind of
progressed from there.”
There is no doubt the easy option would have been for King
to throw everything at his passion and drop back on his trade plans, but there
was something nagging at him that told him his apprenticeship was too valuable to postpone.
"Because I wasn’t studying I thought I’ve got to get
something behind me. I don’t want to be one of those guys that goes on to have
a career (in hockey) and that then I’d have nothing to fall back on at the end
of it,” he said.
I thought if I can do it now and drive it while I’m young,
then if I do have a career, then it’s awesome, but if I don’t then I have
something there as well. It was a bit of safeguard kind of thing.
However, in the opinion of his coach at the WA Institute of
Sport he now stands an equally good chance of realising his full hockey potential too.
Chris O’Reilly coached the National U21 team at last year’s
Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia. King was one of five WA athletes on that travelling squad
and the mentor believes that some of the learnings from King’s trade background
are now improving his athlete development.
"Now that he’s not the apprentice, he’s starting to learn
leadership. I see that as a good thing for his hockey aspect, to get him into
that next line. He needs to become a leader and to be the boss,” O’Reilly said.
With King working a full-time workload in addition to some
12-15 hours per week of hockey training on top, he said the trust and
understanding afforded by his coach had been crucial.
"The respect is there for us to be flexible and to find balance
and that helps out a lot,” King said of O’Reilly’s influence.
What isn’t so evident in King’s progress however, is the
sheer resilience that he has had to develop in chasing his goals. Tragically,
he lost his father at just five years of age, which he admits shook him to the
"As sad as it is, it does make or break you. A death, and
I’ve learned the hard way, if you let it take the most of you, you can collapse
over a night,” he said.
"I’ve had some tough times when I’ve mentally broken down
and I’ve just thought, what I am doing but then also, the drive’s there.”
Living at home in Brentwood with mum Kim and his older
sister Jess, he says that they’re the ones that keep him grounded and enjoying
the path that he’s following.
"Family always comes first for me. My mum and my sister,
they are big drivers for me.
"Mum has given up so much for me and my sister to have an
opportunity and live the life we have and I’m very grateful for that. My sister
is super supportive and although we bump heads all the time, the love and the
relationship is there.”
Whilst he has a trade behind him and world of ambition in
front of him, King admits he still cashes in on having a loving mum that chips
in with the washing and a home cooked meal, but even that is on borrowed time.
"Definitely,” he laughs. "I’m still at home at the moment,
but I’m looking to move out in the next couple of months and go into that
lifestyle and have a bit of my own space.”
But whilst domestic duties are soon on the cards, it remains
an international yearning that will drive his thoughts in the meantime.
"I really just want to put on a Kookaburras green and gold
shirt, I’d love that opportunity and it’d mean the world.
"But being a country guy, coming to WAIS, having the
opportunity to play national U21’s and Burras, just all of that, it’s more than
I ever thought I’d do, so every step forward is just a real achievement for me
and I really enjoy it.