OSKAR Baker never seemed destined to play in the AFL.
The small junior from Brisbane was overlooked in his draft year and lacked confidence in his own ability.
But there was one person who always believed he would make it to the top level: his mother, Trudie.
“I didn’t have the easiest experience leading up to getting drafted,” Baker said on the Gus and Gawny podcast.
“I was in the Brisbane Lions Academy and got cut.
“When I had doubts about my football and not being able to make where I wanted to go, mum was always that person that urged me that I was good enough to get to where I wanted to.
“She always believed that I could get to the AFL and be a pretty good player and I guess that was unbelievable, to have her support.”
But there was a time where a professional football career was inconsequential to Baker.
In 2017, at the age of 19, he wasn’t getting selected for his NEAFL side, Aspley, and that didn’t matter.
“I had no ambition of getting drafted that year, that was the last thing on my mind,” Baker said.
While this pushed his chances of making it onto an AFL list further and further away, his mum’s health became the priority for the Baker family.
Five years earlier, Trudie had been diagnosed with breast cancer – a disease she defeated, on the back of an almighty fight.
But at that point, Baker was too young to truly grasp the severity of the situation.
“I didn’t really know what was happening,” he said.
“You don’t think too much of it.
“Obviously it’s not something you want to go through or wish upon anyone.
“I remember when she first got diagnosed, we were [in the hospital] quite a bit.
“It’s not a great place to spend time … and chemo, it’s hard to watch when they start losing their hair and all that kind of stuff.
“It’s pretty devastating to watch.”
Tragically, a couple of years later, the cancer returned in the form of bone cancer, creating a battle that couldn’t be won.
“She did treatment for a year and a half, and unfortunately started to get worse and worse,” Baker said.
“In 2017, she sadly passed away.”
Baker’s strength and resilience throughout the most difficult phase of his life is what set him up for success in the months that followed.
While he would have been excused for shying away from forthcoming challenges, his football ambitions not only remained, they increased.
“I knew how much it meant to her, so when she was starting to get really sick, I made a promise to her that I would make it to an AFL club and fulfil my dream,” he said.
“I wish she was able to see that, but I made the commitment to her that I would get there in the end and I guess it’s pretty cool that I’ve got here.”
Later that year, in the 2017 National Draft, Baker’s name was read out with pick No.48, making him a Demon.
“It kind of caught me by surprise – it was kind of ridiculous in the end,” he said.
“It was a bit of a whirlwind year, both emotionally and physically with what happened.”
Baker has pulled on the red and blue guernsey 15 times since, wearing a black armband on every occasion, in loving memory of his mum.