If you’re talking massive starts to 2018, look no further than former Western Mariners gun back Dillon Bell.
After earning a call-up following his first appearance at the National Indigenous Football Championship last year the 18-year-old made history as part of the Australian First Nation Mariya men’s side which, together with the women’s equivalent, became the first Indigenous select teams to take on international opposition last month.
During the tour of New Zealand Bell and his teammates took down the New Zealand All Stars (6-1) and thumped Chile NZ (6-2), before going down to NZ Maori 3-2 in the final game of the inaugural Trans-Tasman Football Series.
“I played pretty well at nationals so I thought I was a reasonably good chance of getting picked and the tour was amazing,” Bell said.
“It was a real eye-opener. Not just the football, it was a real cultural experience. It was a massive thing to be able to represent my mob and my country.
“I did get injured in the last game, had to come off with an ankle injury unfortunately but it was still amazing.
“It was pretty cool to be a part of the first one, make history, you know.”
Now Bell’s taking another chance, he’s just signed on to play with the reigning National Premier League Northern champions Lambton Jaffas, in Newcastle.
“I missed the actual trials but they were playing some trial games and invited me to come up and play, so I went up and played against Valentine FC,” Bell said.
“We lost that game but I thought I played pretty well there too, and I signed on after that.”
There’s no doubt Bell’s rise has been a rapid one, and it’s certainly not one he anticipated.
“No, not at all,” he said, when asked if, 12 months ago, he’d have thought about being in this position.
It was a real cultural experience. It was a massive thing to be able to represent my mob and my country.Dillon Bell
“I was just playing with the Mariners, but I did sort of think I needed to look a bit further and have a real crack.”
The Mariya side also included Orange product Kaiden Powell, who Bell labelled “a freak”.
“I hadn’t actually met Kaiden before the tour but we became quite close over there, he’s a good man and it was great to have someone else from this area on the tour as well,” Bell said.
“He’s a freak, he’s incredible in the midfield.”
In terms of his future, Bell had a simple answer for the obvious question – is a Socceroos jersey the end goal?
“Definitely, I’m hoping so anyway,” he said.
“(The tour and then signing with Lambton) is a step in the right direction. With Lambton we’ll actually be playing against Broadmeadow which is the feeder club for the (Newcastle) Jets, so I hopefully I get a look in.”
Bell admitted he’s not sure yet where he’ll fit into the Jaffas’ set-up, whether that be in the under 20s or opens.
National Premier League Northern season is expected to start in early March.