Jay van Berlo grew up with older brother Nathan, who plays for the Adelaide Crows, and younger brother Mitch, and the trio was raised on a diet of ferociously competitive street football. “We lived in a cul-de-sac and we had a group of neighbours who also had three boys, so we basically owned the street and ran amok all the time playing whatever sport was on TV. We had some pretty serious games of footy in the street and we had our fair share of wins. If you lost, it got pretty intense and there were a few fights here and there. Mitch was usually inside, he was a bit younger, but Nath and I went at it pretty hard. It was serious stuff.”

Jay cottoned onto football early and joined the Whitfords Junior Football Club as an Auskicker, but his childhood hero could easily have been All Black Jonah Lomu instead of West Coast wingman Peter Matera. “Both of my parents are from New Zealand. Dad played rugby and Mum was hockey, and they both did pretty well in their sports. I don’t know how it came to footy, but they moved over here and loved watching it. Being at school with all of our mates, we loved it as well. We all supported West Coast growing up and we were Eagles members as a family. As Nath and I got older we just started to support general good games and then Nath obviously went to Adelaide, so I started to follow them. Nath and I were both Peter Matera in the backyard.”

Van Berlo was a late developer, and as his teammates shot up around him and developed into better players, he began to lose interest in football. “I thought I was losing it a bit and I lost a bit of interest. I loved surfing anyway. We grew up in Sorrento and then we moved to Watermans, so there was heaps of surfing and we spent most of our time down at the beach if we weren’t in the street. A couple of guys at the club I tend to surf with are Ben Bucovaz, Hamish Shepheard and Stephen Hill. It’s hard because we only get one day off and a couple of half days here and there, but we’ve been lucky this year that our day off is Tuesday and the swell’s been up on a couple of Tuesdays.”

It was brother Nathan’s success on draft day in 2004 that convinced van Berlo he could also force his way to the top level, and he returned to West Perth around the same time he was starting university. “That was when I was starting to really get back into football. Nathan had just been picked up and made me feel that if he could do it, I could. I’d grown up with him, so I felt like I was just as good as him growing up. I had my growth spurt and thought I could play again and be a decent player. That’s when I went back to it and played colts.”

Van Berlo wasn’t sure what to do when he left school, but engineering seemed to make sense. After one semester at the University of Western Australia, he had a word with Nathan and switched to Geophysics at Curtin University. “We both had similar interests and did similar subjects at school so he said, ‘You might like it, it sounds better than how you’re enjoying engineering’. I did two years before I got picked up here, and it’s a three-year course, so I’ve got one year to go full-time. I just do it part time now to keep it ticking over.”

A family friend who works for Chevron spoke to the van Berlo boys about the benefits of entering the mining industry, and geophysics seemed a good fit. “It’s pretty much exploration. They use all sorts of techniques, like seismic, electromagnetic, all these different methods to find out what’s underground. Whether that’s ground water in the salinity struck areas, minerals like gold, or it could be oil or gas off-shore. It’s finding stuff underground without seeing it on the surface, then telling companies how deep it is, what type of mineral or resource it is and then they go ahead and do it.”

Discipline and organisation are van Berlo traits that the three brothers share, and it’s something his new housemate, teammate Nat Fyfe, tends to question Jay on. “With little things like making your bed and doing the dishes, now that I live away from home, I still tend to do it and my housemate doesn’t understand why. We moved out a few months ago around the corner from the footy club. We get along really well. We’ve got similar interests and a similar sense of humour, so there’s a bit of banter around the house all the time. We’ve got the Nintendo 64 up and running and we’ve had a couple of guys over, Matt de Boer and Paul Duffield, so it’s been good.”

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