TOUCHING TRIBUTE: The Ipswich Jets' Indigenous Appreciation Round jersey will feature artwork by Billy McConnachie's late father, William. They host Easts Tigers at North Ipswich Reserve today.
TOUCHING TRIBUTE: The Ipswich Jets' Indigenous Appreciation Round jersey will feature artwork by Billy McConnachie's late father, William. They host Easts Tigers at North Ipswich Reserve today. Rob Williams

Life lessons from Dad driving Billy to succeed

LOOK for Billy McConnachie to make an impact today against the Easts Tigers.

This Intrust Super Cup game means more than most.

On the comeback trail after 14 months on the sidelines with an ACL injury, the Scotland international returned earlier than anticipated against PNG two weeks ago.

But round 16 - Indigenous Appreciation Round - is the one he always had his eyes set on.

McConnachie will take the field wearing a jersey design painted by his late father William, who passed away suddenly only a month before his injury.

Losing both his father and footy in such a short period rocked the normally infallible forward.

And speaking in hindsight, he is not afraid to admit it.

"Everything happened at once. I still have my ups and downs now,” McConnachie said.

"After the funeral, my first game back I ended up doing my knee.

"It was hard, especially because I was playing good football and starting to hit my straps.

"I just didn't want to be around anyone. I was pretty depressed about it. I struggled with addiction too.

"My two kids and my partner, they could see the change in me.”

When asked to speak about his father, whose name McConnachie shares, he paused.

"I don't know how deep to go mate,” he said.

The Jets forward painted a picture of a man who lived to work. Who overcame life's many obstacles but sometimes found it tough to admit he needed help.

"He grew up without a father figure in his life, until my Grandmother met who I now call Pop,” McConnachie said.

"He just loved to work. He went out to Mt Isa in the mines, and worked underground for several years. You talk to anyone there and they know him.”

A fall at his Mt Isa home changed things.

"He cracked his skull and did something to his ear. He was in hospital for five months or whatever it was, and the first month he couldn't recognise anyone,” McConnachie said.

"After a year had passed, he couldn't get back onto a mine site because he couldn't pass a medical. He was deaf in one ear.

"(Not working), it just wasn't him. He drunk heavily because of that. He was the type of fella that didn't talk about his problems.”

When McConnachie started going through his own "pretty bad times”, still dealing with the loss of his father and the realisation a return to footy was a long way off, he leaned on his second family.

"From day-dot as soon as everything happened, Ben and Shane (Walker) were there straight away. And Steve Johnson,” McConnachie said.

"If there was something I couldn't do, they offered to help.

"When I first called Ben and Shane I was pretty much at my breaking point. Just making that initial phone call to talk to someone about it felt good.

"I'm grateful to be part of a great club and have Ben and Shane as my coaches. Johnno helped me out a lot too.

"We have such a good culture at the Jets.

"It's the kind of people the club attracts.”

McConnachie got to try on the Indigenous jersey ahead of today's clash.

You could tell what it meant to him.

"Dad was really proud of his artwork,” McConnachie said.

"He wasn't cocky, but he knew he was good.

"Having his design on this jersey, I know he'd be looking down laughing, smiling, proud of himself.

"And to be playing in the Indigenous Round - it's special to play for your heritage.

"It all gives me butterflies a bit.”

Intrust Super Cup Round 16: Today (1.10pm) - Ipswich Jets v Easts Tigers at North Ipswich Reserve.