Buckley Helping Former Prisoners
Some players get their release from the AFL bubble by picking up a set of golf clubs or tucking a surfboard under the arm.
Buckley’s passion was ignited last year, when he responded to a club email and wandered down the road from Visy Park to volunteer at the Youth Justice Centre.
“I started there, but now it’s working with the Bridge Project which is more with adult jails,” he said.
“You don’t have to have been to jail to be in it, it’s also for if you’re at risk of offending or if you’ve had a tough upbringing or recovering from addiction.”
Buckley was a regular at a remand centre last year and while he enjoyed the experience, he found the rotating door between visits frustrating.
“Through the Bridge Project I think we’re going to try and build close relationships now where you work with people more than once,” he said.
“It’s pretty crazy to see where these guys have come from all over Australia and what they’ve been through.
“It’s different to a lot of people and a lot of them never really had a chance.”
Now the father-son speedster sees many of “the boys” he helps at the Blues, with a handful scoring jobs working in maintenance.
“There’s three or four of them driving around on the golf buggies and yeah, they’re good boys and you can see they want to make a difference and change their ways,” Buckley said.
“The ones I (work with) at the moment mainly had addictions, so they’re trying to get clean and turn their life around.”
Portland’s Anthony Bamblett met Buckley recently and said the project was “keeping me out of trouble”.
“Before it I was doing nothing, just sitting around and doing stupid shit. So it gives me something to do,” the 21-year-old Carlton fan said.
Buckley said teaching programs on leadership, teamwork, nutrition and goal-setting was reinforcing his own knowledge.
“It’s a real release from footy for me and it’s good to help other people,” he said.
“It just makes you very thankful and it’s a bit of a reality check that things in life might not always go to plan, but there’s always a way to get out of it and if you want to make something good of it you can.”