Tradies Who Became Sports Stars
While these athletes are known for their work in the sporting arena, they're equally as comfortable on the work site, too.
The 21st century athlete is a far-cry from their counterparts from yesteryear. These days our favourite athletes are larger than life. From pixel perfect Instagram posts
to effortlessly weaving through precarious press conferences it’s safe to say the prototype of a star athlete has drastically changed over time.
It wasn't too long ago that athletes had a day job, many of them would even spend a day sweating it out on a work site before heading to training.
And in some cases, athletes are plucked out of their every day careers into a life of professional sport.
Perhaps because of the physical work, many athletes have a trade qualification or trade experience.
Here's our list of athlete tradies
Brian Taylor (Plumber)
Known by many as a star forward from the 80’s bagging over 500 goals in his injury-shortened career, and by others as the eccentric commentator who’s awkward, invasive post-game interviews amuse the masses, B.T. worked as a plumber back in the day when footballers weren’t paid a fulltime wage.
Unlike many athletes, Brian’s plumbing career directly overlapped with his professional AFL pursuit. As Taylor rose through the ranks to become one of the best forwards of his era, his plumbing career progressed as he went from an apprentice to owning his own business. While his athletic pursuits didn’t kill his plumbing career, it appears either his media career or his age have put an end to Brian calling around to a client’s house and sorting out a burst pipe.
Paul Gallen (Plumber)
One club players have become a rare breed in all forms of footy with loyalty between players' and clubs are lower than ever. Although Paul hopped sports to test out his boxing skills, he never turned his back on the Cronulla Sharks playing over 300 games for the side over 17 years. Representing both Australia and New South Wales frequently throughout his career Gallen boasts a career that any youngster would willingly follow in the path of.
Paul's strong values and loyalty can be attributed to his grounded upbringing where he worked as a plumber. Like many on this list Paul worked as a plumber as he fought his way towards being a consistent fixture in the Sharks line-up.
Darren Jolly (Builder)
Former Collingwood footballer found his way into building as well as prime time television through his stint on popular television show, The Block. And it is hard to call his post-football career move anything but a success. Along with his wife Deanne, the dual premiership ruckman achieved victory on his second go on The Block, proving that he’s a formidable opponent on the field and the work-site.
Since The Block, Darren's fetched himself a builder’s licence to quench his thirst for renovation outside of the small screen. Since their last appearance on the Block in 2015, Darren and Deanne have renovated a property at Kew East and recently finished a place in Sorrento that the pair are happy to call home for the near future.
David Warner (Builder)
The whipping boy from the ball tampering scandal has found some time to take part in home renovations during his twelve-month ban. Warner, labelled an “Apprentice Celebrity”, seems to have found an appropriate use for sandpaper (sorry).
Warner might not tick all the boxes as a 'seasoned tradie' given he’s only worked on his beach-side estate in Maroubra, NSW, but his unfortunate fall from grace and willingness to dive into his own reno has earned him a place on this list.
Jake King (Plumber)
The hard-working defender turned tackling forward never looked like making the step to the elite level. During his late-teens and early twenties Jake played for his local club North Heidelberg while working as a plumber.
Along with his family and friends, Jake knew that he was destined for more. That’s why Jake risked his plumbing career to play VFL for Richmond affiliate, Coburg, hoping to earn a selection in the rookie draft. King continued his plumbing career as he impressed the Richmond club with his strong work-ethic and leadership qualities. This was rewarded as he was drafted by Richmond as a mature-aged rookie.
King even continued his career as a plumber until consistent call-ups to the AFL proved that he could find financial stability and relative longevity as a footballer. His infectious personality and willingness to do anything for his friends on and off the field made King a favourite amongst his teammates and the Yellow and Black faithful. Not one to turn his back on his mates, Jake came under continual scrutiny for his friendship with those on the wrong side of the law. This meant King was no stranger to the tabloids throughout his time at Richmond, and found himself in some legal trouble post career.
Craig Simmons (Lineman)
The talent that Craig possessed was by no means under the radar of Cricket Australia. The big-hitter starred for the country at youth level across multiple age groups in the start of his career. Unfortunately for Craig his timing was a little off. Hitting the critical stages of his early career in the early 2000’s, Craig found himself fighting for selection in the domestic league as Australia was going through a golden era of cricketing talent.
In 2014 Craig was a 2nd year apprentice at Western Power when the Sparky received a call up to the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash. With injuries to Liam Davies and Adam Voges, Perth were desperate for a batsman with some hitting power to slot into their line-up. Eagar to not let this opportunity go to waste, Craig was the first to blast two centuries in the competition proving that he truly belonged. After the 2nd of these centuries Simmons was greeted at the airport gates by his colleagues clad in hi-vis work-wear.
After his rapid rise to fame, Craig earned a move to the Adelaide Strikers. One can only imagine the career trajectory Craig could’ve achieved if the burst of popularity in T20 cricket happened a decade sooner.
Tim Kelly (Electrician)
Onto another mature-aged AFL rookie, Tim trained to become an electrician after a draft year fraught with bad-luck. Not one, but two mid year injuries derailed Kelly's season resulting in the explosive midfielder being left on the draft board. Determined to fight his way onto an AFL list, Tim continued to craft his skill for South Fremantle in the WAFL.
Like many on this list, Kelly found himself working early hours in the morning and heading off to training late in the evening to support his family while pursuing his dream to play AFL. With an able body and cracking form in the WAFL, Tim fought his way onto the Geelong list in 2017, five years after his first attempt. And so far he's had great success, too!
Bailey Fritsch (Electrician)
Echoing a similar narrative, Fritsch was overlooked by TAC Cup sides due to his smaller frame. After a stint at Coldstream where his father Scott holds the all-time games record at 360, Bailey endured a growth spurt and a patch of good form which earned him a spot at VFL side the Casey Demons. While progressing through the ranks, Fritsch worked as an electrician to pay the bills.
Now Bailey finds himself enjoying life outside the constraints of a sparky lifestyle at the Melbourne football club where he played 23 games in his debut season. The marking forward made an immediate impact at the AFL level putting his tireless work-ethic on showcase for all to see.
Although athletes with trade experience continue to become rarer, there will always be stars with less conventional rises to fame and links back to a working class career.
Other athletes with a background in trades are: Kevin Sheedy (Electrician), Craig Bellamy (Plumber), Phillip Matera (Builder), Fraser Gehrig (Turf Layer), Cooper Cronk (Plumber), Mark "Bomber" Thompson (Electrician) and Anthony Minichiello (Electrician).
These sports stars become not only great athletes, but have an inspiring stories to tell about resilience, overcoming adversity, hard work and career development.
Know an athlete who is also a tradie and not on our list? Let us know in the comments.
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