There’s quick, there’s fast, and then there’s Jack Peris.
The Dragons wingman has made a habit of leaving his opponents in the dust, and with speed like his, it’s easy to understand why.
The son of Australian sporting royalty, Nova Peris OAM, the first Indigenous Australian woman to win an Olympic Gold medal in Hockey in 1996, and the late Daniel Batman, both of whom competed in Athletics in the Olympic games, has continued his family legacy by torching tartan rubber athletics tracks across the country.
His current personal bests for the 100 metre, 200 metre and 400 metre are 10.97 seconds, 21.53 seconds and 47.99 seconds, respectively.
He ran in his first national athletics carnival in under 10s, where he finished last. Four years later, with the guidance of his mother, he returned at under 15 level to take the national crown in the 400 metre final.
It was at that point where it became clear that rather than just being quick, he had elite running talent.
“Mum and I, we really put in the hard yards leading up to that national championships, and Mum always knows what shape I’m in and what I’m capable of doing, so that really set the tone for what I’m able to achieve and there no limits to what you’re really capable of doing,” Peris said.
“That was, kind of, the moment that I knew that I could really achieve something in athletics and work hard at it.”
Like many of us, the 17-year-old had his aspirations railroaded in 2020 by the outbreak of COVID-19.
The 2020 under 20 World Athletics Championships, originally scheduled to be run in July in Kenya, were very-much on Peris’ radar, until they were postponed in March, meaning his training program tailored to that event had to be scrapped.
So too were the Tokyo Olympics, where he was aiming for a spot on the Australian team and follow in the footsteps of his parents.
Ultimately, with 2021 being his draft year, Peris and his family made the difficult decision to put athletics on the back-burner and throw everything at the prospect of being drafted. The extra time afforded him the opportunity to join the Dragons program and represent Sandringham when not playing for his school, Melbourne Grammar.
“I was in really good form at the start of last year and I was hoping to really see how I went with that season and see what times I could produce and try to make a 4x400 spot this year (at the Olympics). And then obviously everything got cancelled last year so I had to make the hard decision of deciding what to focus on this year.
“My parents and I just decided to give footy a good crack because I can always come back to athletics, so that’s something we chose to do.”
Aside from the luxury of being able to burn-off opponents, Peris uses his gifts to put serious heat on defenders, with his pressure and tackling ability a feature of his game.
It’s something that developed during his time in Darwin representing the Nightcliffe Tigers Football Club, and dabbling in Rugby League as a junior.
But according to the man himself, the biggest impact that track-and-field has had on his football capabilities comes above the shoulders.
“Through athletics I’ve obviously had setbacks and stuff like that and I think it taught me to work hard at a completely different level.
“It’s such a brutal industry with athletics, you have to be able to train really hard; I was training five days a week with mum, and it’s such a brutal sport, especially running the 400 metres, so it taught me to always persevere and work hard, and especially focus on training and train really hard and the reward will come.
“My mum always taught me to train as if I’m always second place, and so I train my arse off every second, pretty much, and didn’t cut corners, I stayed focused, never went out to party and stuff like that.
“I’ve always been just a laid back kind of bloke that trains really hard during the week and the results show, so that kind of reflects in the same sense in footy where you train hard and obviously the results will show on gameday.”
As a member of St Kilda’s Next Generation Academy, Peris is able to maintain his connection with long-time friend and mentor, Ben Long.
The dashing half-back who has played 54 games for St Kilda shares many parallels with Peris: A descendant of indigenous icons, who attended boarding school at Melbourne Grammar.
“I’ve known ‘Longy’ my whole life. We grew up in Darwin, our families grew up with each other as well, so he’s been a massive mentor of mine.
“I pretty much just see him around the club and he shoots me a text every now and then just seeing how I’m going, congratulates me on making the Allies squad, stuff like that.
“So he’s someone I look up to and we always have a chat about Darwin and family, stuff like that so he’s good to have a laugh around and he’s a great bloke.”
Culture and family is something that Peris hold especially close to his heart. While he lives in Melbourne in the boarding house at Melbourne Grammar, Peris relishes the opportunity to travel back home to Darwin, where he grew up, and connect with his local community, through fishing, hunting and spending time on the land.
As a proud member of the Iwatja Tribe from Western Arnhem Land, and Yawuru and Gidja tribes from East and West Kimberley, Peris wants to be part of the solution when it comes to eradicating racism in Australia, and leads the school’s Reconciliation Committee.
“I really take pride in who I am and my identity, where I’m from, especially.
“I try to acknowledge and recognize stuff like racism and the casual racism that people receive everyday in Australia and I think it’s a real issue in society nowadays and I try to address it as much as I can, especially at school, and I’ve learned a lot from my Mum especially for that.
“She was the first indigenous Senator in politics, so I’ve learned a lot from her, and I’m head of the reconciliation committee at school as well, so I try to get that out as much as possible and I try to show kids that you should always be proud of your identity and who you are and set a pathway for young indigenous kids.
“We’re the oldest living culture on earth, so the fact that it isn’t taught in schools, it just amazes me really, especially because it’s in our country as well. Everyone should be educated about it because it’s so important, especially moving on and trying to eliminate racism as well.”
While the Saints will have first access to Peris at the draft through the academy bidding system, clubs won’t want to be slow out of the blocks when the opportunity comes to call his name.