Tom Derickx on Moving the Goal Posts

Tom Derickx on Moving the Goal Posts
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Words by Thomas Mitchell

Growing up, every other weekend, Tom Derickx would pile into his old man’s Ford Falcon alongside his older brother, Nick, and younger brother, Jake. Together the family would make the three-hour trip from their home in Dunsborough, near Western Australia’s Margaret River, to Subiaco Oval to watch the West Coast Eagles play.

‘Dad would be pumping Dire Straits in the car and we’d be singing along, excited about going to the footy. It was just a magic time,’ he recalls. Looking back, music and football are just two fragments of a golden memory and not even Derickx could have predicted how important both would become in his life.

Born and raised in WA, where AFL reigns supreme, Derickx admits he wasn’t the kind of football-obsessed kid we associate with future athletes. ‘I grew up playing footy, but it wasn’t my passion. I loved it – don’t get me wrong – but even playing in the state league [the WAFL] is a long shot if you’re from Dunsborough.’

While football was a fun way to kill time and compete with his brothers – ‘we were almost dangerously competitive’– his childhood was a lazy blur of surf, school and making sounds. ‘I spent a lot of time surfing and when I wasn’t doing that, music was my thing,’ he says. ‘I picked up my first guitar in high school and was hooked; I just wanted to keep making noise in my room.’

I picked up my first guitar in high school and was hooked; I just wanted to keep making noise in my room

So laid-back is Derickx, you get the feeling that if fate hadn’t intervened, he might still be in his Dunsborough bedroom, mucking around with a guitar. But a growth spurt at the age of 18 – ‘I went from six feet to 6’7 pretty quickly’– combined with a move to Perth, set him on the path towards the AFL.

‘I started playing for Claremont in the WAFL in 2009 and I was best on the ground nearly every week,’ explains the 31-year-old. A year later, Derickx, who had been completing a carpentry apprenticeship, was a professional football player. ‘I got drafted by Richmond Football Club in 2010 and that was a big deal for my family,’ he says.

After impressing during preseason, the rookie ruckman was in line to make his AFL debut in Round 1 of the 2011 season. ‘Then I broke my ankle in training and missed nearly the entire year,’ he explains. It was the start of a painful yet recurring theme. ‘Two broken wrists, a torn hamstring and a series of concussions,’ lists Derickx when quizzed about his career injuries.

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In 2014, he scored a trade to the Sydney Swans and became an essential part of the first-grade team. ‘That was a fresh start and I played nearly every game in my first year,’ he says. But two years later, his body was failing once more and Derickx was no longer a starting member of the squad. ‘The only reprieve I had after training was to get in the studio and make music.’

As his focus shifted from football to his band, Kayex, which he launched in 2015 with long-time friend Palassi Kailis, Derickx knew the writing was on the wall. ‘I decided to retire and give my all to music, which is something that had always been a driving force.’

While the story of a retired athlete trying to reinvent themselves as a rock star might warrant eye-rolls in some corners, for Derickx it’s more about finding his way back to his first love. ‘This is something I was doing before football and was always going to do after football.’

He’s also refreshingly realistic about the future: ‘The reality is that the music industry is slow and I’ve had to get back into carpentry, which has been quite humbling.’

In fact, on the day Derickx speaks to Mr. Jones, he’s just finished a 10-hour day on the worksite. ‘It’s funny because Kayex is starting to take off but, at the same time, I’m still on the daily grind,’ he laughs. ‘My mate called me today and said, “I just heard you on the radio” while I was cutting a bit of timber, but I love that because it’s real life.’

With buzz continuing to build around the band and a national tour planned later this year, you wouldn’t think he has long left on the tools – either way, he doesn’t seem to mind. ‘I said to Palassi the other day, “If our lives are like this forever, working during the day and playing music at night, I’d be pretty happy with that.”

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