Gold Coast SUNS inaugural player and Indigenous Advisory Board member Jarrod Harbrow will play his 250th career game on Saturday night against Melbourne. His Gold Coast teammate Sean Lemmens spoke to afplayers.com.au about what makes ‘Harbs’ such an important figure at the SUNS.
There’s one word that comes to mind when the Gold Coast SUNS’ Sean Lemmens thinks of his teammate Jarrod Harbrow: Deadly.
This term may be confusing for non-Indigenous people, where its meaning traditionally differs, but for Lemmens it’s a good way to sum ‘Harbs’ up: “excellent, amazing and really good”.
It’s no surprise then that the two have formed a close bond since Lemmens arrived at Metricon Stadium with pick No. 27 in the 2013 National Draft.
The South Australian had grown up a passionate Adelaide Crows supporter before being drafted, but was looking forward to sharing a locker room with Harbrow, having always admired the way he went about his business both on and off-the-field.
“I can still remember walking into the change rooms for the first time when the whole group was at the club and actually being a bit starstruck and I didn’t know how to approach him,” Lemmens told aflplayers.com.au ahead of Harbrow’s 250th game.
Lemmens laughs about that moment now but as an Indigenous player entering the AFL system, Harbrow became an important mentor.
Moving from South Australia to the Coast, Lemmens experienced homesickness during the first 12 months of his stint there. But Harbrow and his wife, Emma, instantly opened their home to Lemmens and the young playing group to help support them through the early challenges of professional football.
“His home is my home away from home,” Lemmens said.
“Even though we aren’t blood related he makes you feel like you are.”
Every few weeks the Harbrows would (pre-COVID) invite members of the Suns’ playing group over for dinner, putting on what Lemmens describes as the “best roast” he’s ever eaten.
It is those moments and the times the two have spent spearfishing in Gold Coast’s waterways that standout for Lemmens as the best way to describe the type of person Harbrow is.
Joining the Bulldogs with pick No. 27 in the 2007 rookie draft, Harbrow walked in the doors at Whitten Oval as one of only two Indigenous players at the club – Cam Faulkner being the other, who retired at the conclusion of the 2007 season.
With no Indigenous role models around him at the club, Harbrow told aflplayers.com.au earlier this year that he took it upon himself to create an inclusive and supportive cultural environment – something that he has carried with him at the Suns to support the Indigenous members of their playing group.
When Harbrow arrived at the SUNS as an inaugural member of the 2011 squad, AFL was the lesser-known and engaged sport in Queensland.
Harbrow said he knew the challenges associated with growing the game in an NRL-dominated state and the importance of building relationships in the community to do so but it also provided important perspective when it came to his career.
“I know that the more I get out and be involved in the community, that helps with my balance in football,” he told aflplayers.com.au in June.
“I think that’s my way of giving back to the AFL because I will always be grateful for the opportunity to play the game at the highest level.”
Lemmens and other Indigenous players at the SUNS have been the beneficiaries of Harbrow’s hardwork and dedication.
“Harbs’ has entrenched himself in the club and the community and I don’t think it’s much of an effort from his part because it”s naturally in him to support others,” Lemmens said.
“He wants to make a good space for the other Indigenous lads that come in and for us to be able to hold as many players as we can around the football club.”
Although he is softly spoken, Lemmens said Harbrow’s voice carries significant weight around the club – when he speaks, his teammates listen.
From the way he prepares himself for training, games and then recovery, Lemmens said Harbrow does everything possible to get the most out of himself and it’s something he and his teammates strive to do.
Although his work isn’t done yet, Harbs himself saying he hopes to be around to see the success the club have been working so hard to achieve, Lemmens believes his legacy is already taking shape.
In the six seasons Lemmens has been at the SUNS, he has already felt a monumental shift in the club culture, particularly when it comes to its Indigenous players than when he started playing football.
“Harbs has been working away and making a clear pathway for Indigenous players to come into the footy club,” he said.
“When they come in, it’s a safe environment and a place where we can thrive and that’s all off the back of Harbs’ work.”