Amid the exhilaration of Richmond’s AFL premiership win on Saturday, its second in three years, no story was greater or more powerfully satisfying than that of Marlion Pickett. It is a story of bad choices and second chances, of self-belief and commitment, of grace and redemption. It is one that will resonate for generations.
Consider the game-day context. Playing, incredibly, in his debut AFL game, the 27-year-old midfielder helped power the Tigers to a crushing defeat of Greater Western Sydney in front of 100,000 fans. Pickett pivoted and weaved, calmly and reliably booting strongly forward to his teammates, then kicked a satisfying goal that brought the massive MCG crowd to its feet.
Now consider the backdrop. Here is an Indigenous man from Western Australia, who lived through a violent and unsettled youth, who committed a series of burglary-related offences that led to two years in Wooroloo prison farm in WA from the age of 18. Pickett has resolutely determined that there is no going back. He has been aided in that by programs designed to rehabilitate prisoners, and by people who recognised his finest qualities.
At Wooroloo prison farm, for example, inmates can gain skills in trade and industry, work in the community, with businesses and on environmental programs. They are provided with transition-to-work programs. The message from such programs is that all is not lost. Lives can be rebuilt, and the stigma associated with time spent in jail can at least be diminished, if not overcome.