Homecoming journey for Torpy
Brayden Torpy left home when he was 18 years old to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer – but in time, he found the best way to go forward was to go back to where it all began.
An Easts junior, he moved away from the family home in Brisbane's leafy eastern suburbs and into a room in a student dorm at Melbourne's Swinburne University, where he shared with other budding footballers.
It was a move he credits as "making me the man, and footballer, I am today".
Nowadays, he is back in more familiar surrounds and is playing well in the halves for the Easts Tigers in the Intrust Super Cup.
In his early days, Torpy played as a six-year-old for Easts Juniors at Holland Park. There is an honour board at the club that highlights 'Under 7s to A Grade' which lists players who have been involved in all levels of football with the club through to Intrust Super Cup.
There are not many names on the board, so Torpy regards having his inscribed on it this year as one of his proudest career moments to date.
However, it was quite a journey to get there – as like most young people – the desire to travel and to experience more from outside of their familiar routine can be a compelling one.
When Torpy left for Melbourne, he took on a program that included nine training sessions a week with professional coaches, trainers and in-depth video analysis.
Taking on board all this while working a part-time job forced him to honestly assess if football was what he wanted to do as a career.
For the young Torpy; this simply confirmed that it was exactly what he wanted to do.
Not everyone who came through that same system came to the same decision; however, many of those who did have gone on excel.
Former team-mates include Australia Test and Maroons Origin star Cameron Munster, NRL regulars Christian Welch, Joe Stimson and Kiwi forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Welch praised the hard work his former Under 20s team-mate had put into his past few seasons.
"Brayden is a dominant playmaker with an excellent kicking game," Welch said.
"His strong performances in 2018 are a result of the hard work he has put in over the past few years in different environments that have created a more complete player."
Living away from home for the first time forced Torpy to stand on his own two feet; but it also proved an enormous challenge as he dealt with the common, but debilitating struggle with homesickness. So at the end of that year, he began to look for options closer to home.
His father Brian (the current Easts Tigers CEO) emailed the Titans – and within two weeks, a deal was done and he was heading home.
The move to the Gold Coast was fortuitous for several reasons. It got him closer to home and just as importantly, it brought him into contact with then Titans NYC coach Ben Woolf, someone who Torpy describes as one of the best coaches he's ever had.
"I'm a confidence player and Woolfey just has a way of (instilling) that confidence in you, he focuses on the good things," Torpy said.
"I came out of the Storm system knowing what was expected of me and what my role in the team was. I was closer to home, settled and had a great coach."
In turn, Woolf – who is now head coach of the Tweed Head Seagulls side which will face Torpy's Tigers this Sunday – describes his former charge as someone who brought leadership to his group.
"He travelled down from Brisbane, so that's two-and-a-half hours travelling per session three or four times a week. But there were never any complaints or dramas, he just did what needed to be done," Woolf said.
But despite enjoying one of his best ever seasons with the young Titans; by the end of the year Torpy felt it was time to move on. He had several offers on the table and decided to go to the Northern Pride.
While this may have seemed like a peculiar choice given his past struggles away from home; the move to Cairns made complete sense if you knew his family history.
His father is a Cairns man with an extended family there, making it more of a 'home away from home' for the young Brayden.
It was another important move and it saw him learn from another mentor who gave him exactly what he needed at that time.
"Joe is a very smart coach and I learnt a lot football-wise from him," Torpy said of his time under former Pride coach Joe O'Callaghan.
"He had a lot of belief in me, which boosted my confidence as a 20-year-old kid playing my first year in Intrust Super Cup."
However, illness curtailed his season at the Pride, but not before he had done enough to attract the attention of the Easts Tigers who signed him up for the 2017 season.
After three years away, Torpy finally had the chance to return play for the team he had always wanted to play for. He was finally home.