SINKING putts doesn’t come as easy as snagging goals for Jamarra Ugle Hagan.
A silky left-footer on the footy field, the Western Bulldogs star is the first to admit his short game is in need of some fine tuning.
“Yeah. Definitely better at footy mate,” the forward said before three-putting from 20-feet soon after.
Last week, the former number one draft pick traded the footy field for the fairways, teeing off to raise funds for AFL Cape York Foundation in Cairns.
Money raised goes towards supporting First Nations students from Cape York, the Torres Strait and beyond, helping them attend high school in Cairns and engage in wellbeing programs.
Currently, around 90 students board at AFL Cape York’s two campuses for boys and girls during the school year.
For Ugle-Hagan, who grew up in the Indigenous community of Framlingham in south-west Victoria, the cause is close to his heart.
“It’s an opportunity to open up doors for young kids from Indigenous communities,” he said.
“I come from a community and I’ve made the AFL – which is my dream job. I hope that just makes the kids realise that anything’s possible.
“You can do anything you want as long as you put your foot down and you’ve got the help around you.”
After being identified as a future AFL player, Ugle-Hagan attended elite private school Scotch College in Melbourne.
While rewarding, the experience was hard at first, the rising star said.
“I did find the boarding house experience tough in my first year,” Ugle-Hagan said.
“But I had seven other Indigenous boys around me which made it feel a bit more like home. It just felt like a big camp with your brother-boys.
“I was pretty lucky. I was only three hours from home but (Richmond Tigers star) Maurice Rioli (who came from Darwin), he went to school with me and I know he found it pretty tough.
“But if you’ve got support around you, it does make it easier.”
AFL Cape York general manager Rick Hanlon said the challenges students face coming from communities like Lockhart River, Aurukun and Bamaga can’t be underestimated.
“You’ve got to imagine an 11-year-old coming out of primary school, going into high school, coming into a boarding environment,” he said.
“They’re most likely going into a boarding environment that they’ve got no experience at.
“They don’t know anyone other than they might have a connection to a family member.
“They’re going to a school bigger than their community. In many cases young people come down with language barriers, being one, two or even three years behind their learning level.
“It’s a massively daunting task. I just admire and have the greatest respect for our young people who have the resilience to work through those challenges.”
Ugle-Hagan plans to meet with boarding students when they return from school holidays.
“If I didn’t make it to the AFL I wanted to be an Indigenous mentor to help kids get where they want to be and make their dreams come true,” he said.
“I’m pretty grateful to be here and if I can use my name and my face to get younger kids to look up to me that’s great and hopefully, raise a lot of money.”