WATCHING close relative Joel Jeffrey get his AFL opportunity with Gold Coast last year was the eye-opener NAB AFL Draft hopeful Ronald Fejo needed to pack up his life and throw everything he had at his football dream in 2021.
Jeffrey is Fejo's uncle, but the pair grew up like brothers in Darwin, playing senior football for Wanderers and hoping to emulate Joel's father Russell Jeffrey, who played 50 games for St Kilda and the Brisbane Bears.
When Fejo was overlooked by AFL clubs last year and Jeffrey joined the Suns via their Academy, the 19-year-old investigated a move to the SANFL to improve his chances the following year, landing at West Adelaide.
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It's a move that has put him on the radar of AFL clubs as a late selection, with the exciting outside midfielder hoping his relocation pays off.
"It's always been an aspiration, but it opened my eyes when Joel got drafted to Gold Coast and it gave me some motivation to get up there with him," Fejo told AFL.com.au.
"That made me want to get in and play in the AFL even more and that's why I moved to SA and tried to give it a crack down there.
"I asked my manager if he could get in touch with a few clubs and West Adelaide said they would take me on, so I moved down for the pre-season and played the whole season with them."
Moving out of home and away from family for the first time was tough, Fejo said, with two younger brothers and three younger sisters all living in Darwin.
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But he kept in regular contact with them all and settled into Adelaide, playing 16 reserves matches for the Bloods and averaging 18.2 disposals at 91 per cent efficiency.
A risk-taker with the ball, he earned back-to-back senior matches in rounds 11 and 12 and represented the NT Thunder in NAB League games against the Giants Academy and Tasmania mid-year.
Fejo's season was rewarded in October with his first selection in an Allies team, impressing in the under-19s clash against South Australia and putting his attributes on show.
He was then invited to the SA Draft Combine, where he finished third in the agility test (8.08sec) and second in the standing vertical jump (70cm).
"My three main strengths are my speed, my evasive skills and my kicking skills," Fejo said.
"I liked Lewis Jetta for his run and carry and that lethal right foot, and Brad Hill as well.
"They're my main two idols and I've based my game around those two. Even when the ball is not in their hands, they're always on the move and running up and down all day."
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Fejo contrasts heavily with many draft prospects who build their case through the junior development pathway and representative teams.
He was overlooked for NT Thunders 14s and 16s squads, earning his first selection in the 18s team before requiring special permission to represent the Allies this year as a 19-year-old. But he has persisted.
Now back in Darwin with family, he plans to return to SA for pre-season on November 16 and wait for the Draft on November 24-25 where the down-to-Earth teenager hopes his dream of joining Jeffrey in the AFL will be realised.