GREAT START: Jarrod Berry reacts after kicking a goal for the Lions in their season-opening clash with St Kilda.
GREAT START: Jarrod Berry reacts after kicking a goal for the Lions in their season-opening clash with St Kilda. JULIAN SMITH

Lion-hearted: Hard times mould young Brisbane star

YOUNG Lion Jarrod Berry owes much of his strength of heart and dedication to succeed to his mother.

A hero in defeat for Brisbane last weekend, the 20-year-old endured a difficult upbringing in country Victoria.

He was forced to watch on helpless as mum Jedda battled cancer for nine years, often bed-ridden at home or in hospital, before her death in 2014.

Tragedy, though, only made Berry - and his brothers Joel and Thomas - stronger.

It wasn't skill alone that got Berry drafted to the Lions in 2016, but also a commitment to honour his mum through hard work.

"She was sick for a really long time," Berry recalled. "A lot of memories are tainted by her not being able to be as mobile.

"But she was always a massive supporter of us kids. She didn't leave anything behind. Her biggest legacy was us.

"I remember when she was pretty crook and in hospital she would text me at 6.30am each morning and tell me to get up and go do a session outside.

"I always got that reminder from her. She didn't want to see us throw away the talent that we had."

Jedda first discovered a lump in her breast in 2005. The cancer then spread to her bowel and ultimately her bones.

She would regularly have to travel from home in Horsham to Adelaide for treatment and even made a couple of trips to Germany. She lost her fight in July 2014.


BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 29:  Jarrod Berry of the Lions gets a handball away during the round six AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Port Adelaide Power at The Gabba on April 29, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Berry was taken with the Lions' second pick in the 2016 national draft. Bradley Kanaris

Berry's thoughts are never far from his mum, especially during any pivotal moment in his life, such as being selected with pick 17 in the 2016 national draft.

"Anything that would make her proud," he said.

"You know she's looking over us. Hopefully I'm doing that."

Dad Troy has also been a rock for the three boys as they tried to focus on their burgeoning footy careers.

"My father's been the biggest motivator and support of me," Berry said.

"He's been massive. To be able to raise three young kids without mum ... he's sacrificed a lot.

"Now he's reaping the rewards. Helping us kids through school and now making our own pathway and making our own lives. I can't speak more highly of Dad."

Troy has attended most of his son's 17 AFL games.

Berry made his debut in round three last season. His best performance came against St Kilda in the Lions' 2018 season- opening loss last week when he gathered 19 disposals and kicked three goals.

"It was a good start for me personally. I wasn't expecting coming into the game to kick three goals, but you take that every day of the week," Berry said.

"It's just a shame we didn't take the win - we had our chances. That was pretty disappointing."


North Ballarat's Jarrod Berry tackled by Geelong Falcons’ Mitch Chafer. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Berry in action for the North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup competition.

Berry began his AFL life as a run-with player, minding some of the biggest and best midfielders in the competition.

A baptism by fire had him matched up on Dustin Martin, Nat Fyfe and Joel Selwood.

"By playing on the competition's best players, that sort of taught me a lot fairly quickly. That was part of my learning process," Berry said.

But as he did in round one, the 193cm Berry will be spending more time as a target across half-forward, linking with Eric Hipwood and smalls Lewis Taylor and Allen Christensen, who plays his 100th game today when the Lions host Melbourne.

A foot injury that led to Berry missing the pre-season up until Christmas hasn't slowed him down.

"To be able to push forward and take marks and kick goals is something I really want to bring into my game," he said.

As Berry cements his spot in the senior side he's settled into Brisbane life well, living with old mate Hugh McCluggae, who he was drafted with from North Ballarat, and Queensland-bred fullback Harris Andrews.

"He takes up the whole three seats of the couch," Berry said of Lions captain-in-waiting Andrews.

"He's a little bit more relaxed at home (but) at the club he's a really really good leader, he's beyond his years. He's one of those young kids who's taken the club by scruff of the neck."

Berry is hopeful he can help the Lions lead the way again tonight in front of home fans against the visiting Demons.

"Hopefully the fans could see we've improved a lot from last year, with our press, setting up defensively, our ball movement ... hopefully we take it up to the Dees."