WHEN Liam Henry trained with Fremantle at the end of last year as a part of the Next Generation Academy program, the exciting talent saw it as a chance to impress. It quickly also turned into a promotional opportunity for his business.
Henry, along with Christ Church Grammar School mates Dontay Bolton and Isaiah Butters (who is also tied to the Dockers' NGA), launched an online business last year selling indigenous-inspired ties designed by them as year 11 students.
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The inspiration came during NAIDOC week in 2018, which had a theme focusing on the important role of indigenous women in communities. Since then, the ties have taken off.
"We called the business 'Tied to Culture' and we put indigenous dot paintings onto ties," Henry told AFL.com.au.
"It started off as an art exhibition at school and the theme last year was 'Because of her, we can'. We thought we'd tie special stories of women in our life to a tie.
"Then we'd call our exhibition 'Tied to her'. We made three ties and we sold them throughout the school. They went pretty well without any promotion or anything. We sat down in a room for an hour discussing how it could work and our indigenous coordinator jumped on board.
"He helped us with all our financial parts. We ordered some ties and they went out pretty well."
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Business has boomed, including during Henry's stint at the Dockers, where former coach Ross Lyon even sampled one of the ties at Fremantle's season launch earlier this season.
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Henry initiated a purple tie being designed, and even asked Michael Walters and Bradley Hill to model them.
Henry, who could attract a bid inside the first 20 picks at next month's NAB AFL Draft, grew up in Tammin, a small town east of Perth. It had a population of fewer than 1000, where there was 20 other kids in his school.
He left there for the city in year seven, joining Christ Church, and found adapting to the education a difficult but rewarding element of his move. "I knew if I stuck at it good things would happen," he said.
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That's been the case on and off the field, with Tied to Culture giving the 18-year-old a creative outlet and link to back home.
"I love art, and how it connects to my culture. Obviously being away at boarding school I don't get home very often because of footy," he said.
"So trying to find another way to connect to culture is very important in my life, and expressing that through my art is what I love doing."
Henry also enjoys expressing himself on the park. The small forward is one of the best of his type in this year's draft crop: he's quick, exciting, talented, sharp and skilled.
He made the All Australian under-18 side after an eye-catching championships for Western Australia, and makes things happen with his classy ball use. He's also working on his repertoire of moves for after his goals.
"I try bring a little bit of excitement to the game. My celebrations are pretty well drilled in," he said.
"I celebrate my goals pretty well. All forwards and indigenous boys do that well in the AFL. I'm trying to work on [mine] at the moment. If I get the opportunity hopefully I'll be able to spice something up."
Fremantle has first call on Henry as a member of its NGA zone, but the Dockers haven't given him any assurances on his future.
"The NGA has brought out a bit of interest, but they haven't really told me much. They've said to just stick at it and if it falls that way then we'll know on the night. Hopefully it does, but if it doesn't, then all good," he said.
"I don't really mind. The Dockers signed me up in year nine with their Next Generation Academy and my goal to make the AFL [came] before that. I don't really mind where I end up. I'd be lucky enough to get a spot at any club."