DETERMINED, passionate and committed, Camperdown’s Marcus Hamilton dreams of playing at the elite level.
But for the 20 year-old Northern Territorian who landed at Camperdown earlier this year to chase that dream, he has a tale that is hard to beat. The brother of Carlton’s Sam Petrevski-Seton and relative of Brisbane’s Cedric Cox, Hamilton made the 3346km trip in search of opportunities he might not otherwise have had.
Renowned as a goal kicking midfielder in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL), Hamilton once kicked 16 goals in a match for Eastside, highlighting his talent.
He came into draft calculations back in 2014, where he represented the Northern Territory in the National Under 18s Championships. That year he played alongside the likes of Geelong duo Nakia Cockatoo (who missed that carnival through injury) and Brandan Parfitt, St Kilda’s Ben Long and West Coast’s Willee Rioli.
His performances in that carnival caught the eye of a number of clubs, earning him an invite to the 2014 Northern Territory State Combine. Following positive results, AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan said at that point that Hamilton’s numbers “were pretty good”.
“He’s presented himself very well and he’s a smart small forward,” Sheehan said at the time. “He’s got a good feel for the game and he’s athletically sound, so he’s certainly in the mix as well.”
Like many young hopefuls, Hamilton was unsuccessful in hearing his name read out on draft night and the feedback he received centred around playing against bigger bodies.
“I played all my footy at junior level and in the under 18s championships,” Hamilton said. “At that stage, most clubs were saying they wanted to see me play a higher level of footy such as at senior level.”
Unfortunately for the talented forward, his 2015 football year would be practically over before it began, injuring himself and missing out on the opportunity of getting some continuity into his football and competing against the bigger bodies in a state league. That year he played just one NEAFL game for NT Thunder, booting two goals against Sydney Uni.
For many, this heartbreak may have thrown a spanner in the works, but for Hamilton, he used the time out of the game to build his body up and compete with senior players. In his absence, Hamilton changed from a lightly built forward into a strong bodied midfielder.
“I got injured so I couldn’t prove myself,” Hamilton said. “But that setback helped me build a stronger body and really set myself up to better my football.”
Despite adding size to his frame, Hamilton did not lose any of his blistering speed or skill which caught the eye of recruiters. But he was yet to test himself outside the Northern Territory. In 2016-17, he played 27 matches in the NTFL over summer, booting 32 goals, named in the best five times. While it might have been a far cry from the impressive performance against Tasmania at Simonds Stadium, Hamilton’s passion and determination to make the most of his football career had not dwindled.
After seeing Cox’s meteoric rise to the AFL and the opportunities crossing the country had done for the former West Australian, Hamilton took the plunge and joined Camperdown under the tutelage of former NEAFL player Phil Carse. Hamilton said he immediately felt the difference between the NTFL and Hampden league.
“It’s a bit more structured and contested,” he said. “You don’t get the easy ball, it’s been really good for me to help develop my footy and in particular my inside game. “Camperdown footy club has been great in my transition to Victoria, and Phil has been a great mentor to me.”
His decision was made all the more difficult by the fact his partner is expecting a child, something that Hamilton is not shying away from. “I’m committed to that and am proud of that,” he said.
But while concerns will no doubt rise as to how he will cope away from his partner and child, Hamilton said his dream was to make not only his own life, but the life of his family better and his decision to move had been a joint one.
“I have no regrets and want to have a crack and create better opportunities for my family,” he said. “I want to set a good example for my future children. “I’ve got a supportive partner who has been down to visit in Camperdown. “She’s been supportive of me playing footy and encouraged me to chase my dream. “She would support me at any level and the family support back in Katherine is very strong around her.”
On the field, Hamilton’s career at the Magpies started slowly, he was playing forward and rotating through the midfield, but as the team struggled early in the season, the talented midfielder began to question his performance.
“When I first got here I just played midfield,” he said. “They used me in the midfield because I was good at running and taking the game on. “It wasn’t working down here with Camperdown so they changed it up at half-back. “I’ve played the last four games off half-back using my run and carry.”
Hamilton admitted adapting to the more contested game of the Hampden league had been a challenge given the “free roaming” style of the NTFL had been all he was used to at that stage.
Carse’s decision to switch Hamilton to half-back proved a masterstroke, with an impressive win over Portland away. That day, Hamilton’s teammate, former Redland forward Jordan Bain booted 11 goals but it was the promise of the Magpies’ new-found defender.
Carse saw something click in Hamilton and liked what he saw. “It was a really special performance,” he said. “He managed to make the ball talk and was brilliant in the way he ran and carrier the footy. “It was certainly one of the best performances I’ve seen by a half-back.”
Not resting on his laurels, Hamilton has continued to work at his game, training four nights a week – including two nights at Camperdown and one night up at North Ballarat Roosters. Hamilton’s hard work paid off with the Roosters offering him a contract to play in the state league. Hamilton will be available for selection in the VFL from July 15 onwards.
Among his strengths are his speed, vertical leap, skill and strength, having the rare combination to play inside or out given his frame and athletic ability. His self-confessed areas of improvement include greater depth of kicking on his opposite foot, building greater endurance and being more vocal on match days.
Carse has seen a number of players progress onto the elite level and said Marcus has the ability to do that if he can bridge the gap in his consistency.
“His skills are sublime,” he said. “The challenge for Marcus is finding the consistency in that performance week in, week out. “Now he’s working on that, and I personally think if he can find that level of consistency, he can certainly compete at the elite level. “If he can get consistency, I don’t see any reason why he can’t take his footy to another level.”
It is never easy to move thousands of kilometres away to an unfamiliar place, but for Hamilton, it was something he wanted to do not just for his football, but for his and his family’s lives.
“I want to do my family proud,” he said. “I had to get away from home and my family will still be there when I go there.”
Outside of football, he wants to help other young people make the most of their lives, whether it be through the Clontarf Academy (Academy aimed at helping disadvantaged youths reach their full potential) or other mentoring programs.
“My dream is to marry the two passions of football and mentoring young kids to better themselves,” he said.
Hamilton has learnt to take nothing for granted and is purely focusing on putting his head down and doing the hard yards and what will be, will be. His opportunity at North Ballarat he intends to grasp with both hands.
“North Ballarat in partnership with Camperdown footy club are helping provide the pathway for me,” Hamilton said. “It’s up to me to grab the opportunity and I’ve been doing everything I can to impress.”