We all have to start out somewhere. And make some mistakes along the way.
Michael Clarke lost his off stump more than once as a kid.
Billy Slater didn’t break every tackle. Believe it or not, he wasn’t always the first picked in those early teams.
Someone had to teach Dawn Fraser to swim. Way back, when someone encouraged her to do another lap.
In racing, the stars of the future begin as apprentices. It’s anything but glamorous.
Few other sports have their best young prospects start work at 3am. Not many footy young guns deal with buckets of animal poo throughout their working day.
Apprentices will muck out stables, and ride as many horses as they can. Gruelling hours, for little return.
The lucky ones will get a few mounts for a leading stable. Most of their winnings will be kept from them, until their apprenticeship is complete.
Can you imagine the next Broncos superstar having his cash withheld for the first years of his contract? You’d hear the whingeing from your back yard.
There’s no reserve grade for young jockeys. They’re out there for all to see. Risking their lives, just like the seniors. At the mercy of punters like us, complaining through our pockets.
More than once, I’ve been guided by the old punting adage. Take off 3 kilos for an apprentice, then add 4 kilos for an apprentice. Harsh, but often true.
Some are outstanding, from the first time they jump on. Dig out a video of Darren Beadman winning the Golden Slipper as an apprentice in 1984. Or Wayne Harris when he kicked off. Class, with pimples and a mullet. Hugh Bowman too. Was always destined for greatness.
Look hard today, and you’ll see some amazing talent. I might be biased, but I don’t see any better than young Tegan Harrison in Brisbane. She gets horses to win for her. Soft hands. Great balance. Wonderful judgement.
Watch her in action this afternoon. She gives them every chance, every time. Tegan is a worker. That old story. The harder you work, the luckier you get.
I saw her win at Doomben last weekend, in a driving finish. Cost me the cash. Even so, it was mighty impressive. She’s riding beyond her years.
Not every kid gets it right. Some get sick of the hours. And the crap. From animals and humans.
Others get caught in the lifestyle. Too many parties makes it mighty difficult to start work before dawn.
They will fall by the wayside. End up doing something much easier. While the chosen few ride their way into greatness, and riches.
An apprentice rode our horse during the week. He was a visitor from interstate, and I didn’t know him from Adam.
To say he butchered our bloke would be an insult to those who wear white aprons and cut up rumps. We cornered around 12 wide. He was so close to the cars he almost got charged for parking.
It didn’t cost us the race, but it sure didn’t help. Would Beadman or Bowman have been out there? I doubt it.
That’s the thing with apprentices. They have to learn the trade. Even if it costs us along the way.
Clarkey ended up Australian skipper. Billy is an Origin hero. And Dawn? Well, she went alright too.
I hope we’ll be singing Tegan’s praises in twenty years time. And plenty of other kids starting out now too. Just one tip. Stay away from the bloody outside fence.