Meet our New Recruit – Jesse ‘Chook’ Palmer

Thursday, January 28, 2021 - 9:37 AM by Matthew Ogg

Originally from Ballarat, Jesse was picked up by the Port Adelaide Football Club with their third selection, pick #78 overall, in the 2014 draft. He spent three seasons with the Power before signing on with the Northern Blues for 2018 and 2019, where he was named in VFL Team of the Year in his first season at the club.

Attempting to switch to the black and whites in season 2020, he made the move to the Collingwood Magpies VFL side but was unable to play due to the worldwide pandemic shutting football down in Victoria. His black and white dreams have now become a reality, albeit at a new club and in a different state.

Recruited to Swan Districts as an exciting medium-sized forward, his strong marking ability and work around the contested ball will help take the Swans attack to another level. He will also be able to provide some midfield relief, when needed, to the clubs already strong engine room.

We caught up with Jesse to learn more about his career to date, his time in the AFL and the lengthy journey it took for him to get to Perth during border closures.


Have you always played footy?

I played a lot of basketball and football, but when I turned 13 I decided footy was the main sport for me.


Where did you first start playing?

I started playing footy in country Victoria, in a small town called Swan Hill until I was about 15 or 16. I moved across to Ballarat and played in the TAC Cup for the North Ballarat Rebels in the under 17s and 18s, and was lucky enough to be drafted from there and headed across to Adelaide.


When did you start to think you wanted to play footy as a career?

It’s always been my childhood dream, which is probably the same as most young kids growing up playing footy. I guess I thought I could actually make it into the AFL when I was playing under 15s. That was the year I flicked the switch and saw it as a reality.           


Have you always played as a forward?

I’ve played all over the ground but somehow I’ve just ended up forward for the last 4 years or so. When I went into the TAC Cup I mainly played forward and went into the midfield for a little bit, then found myself back forward again.


You were drafted by Port Adelaide in 2014 with pick #78. Was it a nervous wait to hear your name read out, or did you know you were going to be picked up?

I knew if I was to be picked up it would be late in the draft and the few teams that showed interest I had an eye on during the draft, but Port were definitely a team I thought were very interested in me. It was a nervous wait but it was handy knowing I wasn’t expected to be picked up early in the draft. I was ecstatic when I was picked up and it was one of the most exciting nights of my life. The way life turns around from being an under 18s footballer to an AFL player, it all happens so quickly. Within 4 days I was on a plane and at my new club. It was a few years ago now.


What was it like leaving home at just 18 years old to go play footy in another state?

It was tough, but I had spent some time away from home as I went to a boarding school in Ballarat in year 10.


Did you live with any players while you were over there?

Yeah I lived with a few of them. I lived with Billy Frampton who is from WA and he’s at the Adelaide Crows now, and Dougal Howard and Logan Austin who were drafted in the same year and are now at St Kilda.


Who did you learn from the most?

I learnt from so many players that it’s too hard to single anyone out.


You debuted against Melbourne at Adelaide Oval. How did you find out you were going to play?

I had a feeling I was going to play as I had heard a few whispers over the week leading up to it. I didn’t officially know until Ken Hinkley called me up to his office to tell me I’d be playing.


What was it like running out onto the field as an AFL player?

It was definitely exciting. It was at the end of my second year and I definitely had to pave my way and worked really hard for it. They played me mostly forward and was able to pinch-hit in the midfield a little bit. It was such a good reward for all the effort I’d put in.


Kicked your first goal in the showdown against Adelaide after taking a big grab from a Brad Ebert kick into the 50m. Run us through what that felt like.

It was unreal. I was very nervous lining up for goal though. It was in the first quarter of the showdown in front of a big crowd. To take a big mark and kick the goal was just such a great moment. It’s hard to explain because it’s just all adrenalin at the time but looking back on it it’s a really good footy moment and something I’ll never forget.


What are some of the positives you’ve taken out of your time in the AFL system?

It definitely teaches you good habits and that was something as an 18 year old that I had to learn. It taught me to work harder and understand that not all things come easy and to work for everything you get.


You finished up at Port at the end of 2017 and moved back to Victoria with the Northern Blues. How did you end up there?

Josh Fraser was the coach and he was really good to me and we got along straight away. I just had a good feeling about the club and I also had a few mates there at the time.


Played for 2 seasons at the Northern Blues and finished in the 2018 VFL Team of the Year. Was that expected?

It was something I wasn’t expecting. I was enjoying my footy at the time and just trying to play the best I could. It was good to be selected in the team and again see some reward for my efforts.


You attempted to switch to the Collingwood VFL side for 2020 before the pandemic shut down footy in Victoria. What made you want to switch clubs in 2020?

They are a really good club but I thought for my own personal progression that it was time to move on, and I thought that Collingwood would be the best fit for me at that time.


What were your thoughts when you realised you couldn’t play for an entire season?

I did a full preseason with Collingwood and a few weeks before Round 1 was when Coronavirus hit. Initially I thought it was going to be one of those things where we’d have 5 or 6 weeks off then get back into it. Then it turned into 7 and 8 weeks, then more. All of a sudden I’m not playing footy for 12 months. 


Did you try and get to a team outside of Victoria?

At the time I just thought that the VFL system would start up again, but if I knew how it would turn out I would’ve potentially looked at playing in another state. 


What made you decide to play WAFL footy in 2021?

It’s always been on my mind to play over here. At the end of 2019 I was approached by Swan Districts. I really wanted to play but it just wasn’t the right time with uni and things. Now because of Corona, everything is online and it was a better fit for me to live in Perth this season. To finally have the opportunity to play in the WAFL is something I’m looking forward to.


Was the fact that your former teammates in Sam Fisher and Frank Anderson play here any pull for you to come over to Swan Districts as well?

Yeah definitely. I’m good mates with both of them and am living with Frank here, which helps when you are moving across the country. They’d told me about the club and what it’s like, so I’d learnt a few things before I came over.


How long have you signed for at the club?

I’ve signed on for 2 years.


The WA borders were tightly shut for a period of time, opened briefly then shut down again. What have you had to do to get into WA?

Pre-Christmas it looked like it was going to be smooth sailing as the borders were opening and I expected to be able to jump on the plane and be here on the 7th January. I think it was on New Year’s Eve when I got a call from Smarty (Phil Smart – GM Football Operations) saying the borders had just shut. It was chaos for a couple of days after that until I got another call from him saying I’d have to do the 2 week quarantine in South Australia. It actually worked out well as I was able to meet another Swans recruit, Chris Jones, and become really good mates with him. 


When did you land in Perth?

I flew in on Sunday (17th January).


When was your first training session with your new teammates?

The next night. Coming from the VFL I thought I was familiar with the whole state league system, and the boys over here train at a really high standard. We’ve got a really good group here and I’m excited to see what we can achieve this year.


Have you heard much about the Swan Districts supporters?

I have. I’ve heard really good things about the supporters and how they definitely show up for each game and support us. I can’t wait to play in front of them. It’s a step up from the VFL. I haven’t really played in front of a crowd for the last 2 or 3 years


In the short time you’ve trained with the boys, is there anyone so far that you are excited to play with or learn from?

There are a lot of boys already. The group has really come together and are building from last year and I can’t wait to play footy with them. It’s going to be great. Hopefully we can make finals and take home the big one.


You’ve got a nickname. What is it and how did it start?

It’s ‘Chook’, which has stuck around for the last 5 or 6 years. My name is Jesse Palmer and some of the boys started calling me ‘Chicken Parma’ and it was too difficult to call me ‘Chicken’ on the field, so they shortened it to ‘Chook’. It’s been with me across 3 states too, in South Australia, Victoria and now WA, so hopefully it sticks around for another few years.


Have you been given a jumper number yet?

Number 5


What strengths do you bring to the team?

Although the past few years I’ve played predominantly forward, I can work up and down the ground and be used as a bit of a utility. I’ll be able to provide the team with the flexibility to play me in whatever positions I’m needed. I’ll also be bringing some experience to the group as well.


What are you hoping to achieve this year in footy?

I’m here to win games. I’m going to absolutely try my hardest and contribute wherever I can. I’ve played in state leagues and the AFL and have never won a Premiership, which I’d love to do, and ultimately I’m here to help the team win.


Along with playing at Swans, what else will you be doing while you’re in Perth?

I’m studying teaching. I’ve only got a year to go with that hopefully. I’ll also be doing a little bit of work at the club as well with their community programs.


Is playing in the AFL still the aspiration for you?

Yeah definitely, but it’s one of those things that is out of my control. I’ll just play the best footy I can and if things go my way then they go my way. If they don’t, they don’t.


What AFL team did you grow up barracking for?

Carlton. I was a real Juddy (Chris Judd) fan, so it was West Coast before that. Wherever Juddy went was who I supported. 


Keep an eye out on our website and social media pages as we keep you up to date with our new recruits and all things Swan Districts heading into 2021.