Last year, Akermanis gained experience in the property industry by working as a salesman for a local agent. He soon struck out on his own, forming Akermanis Property
After 15 years of self-imposed exile, the irrepressible Jason Akermanis is back in Brisbane with a venture that he believes will see him kick the biggest goal of his life.
The Brownlow Medallist and three-time AFL premiership-winner who left Queensland in 2006 after a feud with Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews is part of a consortium that includes controversial businessman Allan Endresz, owner of champion racehorse Alligator Blood.
In June they will launch Zucoins, a form of cryptocurrency that uses a new ‘peer-to-peer’ mechanism to enable foreign exchange worldwide.
Confident as ever, the 44-year-old Akermanis is tipping it will be ‘as big as Bitcoin‘, the digital currency which came on the market in 2009 for less than one cent per coin and is currently trading at over $70,000 per coin. Even if Zucoins’ value reaches a fraction of that, ‘Aker’ will make a fortune.
‘It’ll get there, it’s just a matter of when,’ he says. ‘I’ve been involved in this for 13 years, as both an investor and a worker. The way it has all come together for me is just one of those ridiculous unscripted bonuses.’
Which, it could be argued, is the story of Aker’s life.
Akermanis poses for a picture at the races with wife Megan and daughter Charlotte in 2009. Now Charlotte is a part of the Brisbane Lions AFLW academy and getting some handy tips from her famous dad
The 44-year-old performs his trademark handstand outside every property he sells for his thriving real estate business
The current AFL season marks 20 years since Akermanis reached the very top of the mountain, both professionally and personally. In the space of a few weeks he won the Brownlow, kicked two goals including the match-sealer in the Lions’ first-ever grand final win, and got married.
There have been some ups and downs since, including his very public fallout with the Lions, an equally unpleasant exit from the Western Bulldogs, and even getting banned from two golf clubs following allegations of cheating, but nothing seems to faze the bundle of energy whose astonishing skill and athleticism once held Gabba crowds enthralled.
As he waits for Zucoins to take flight, Akermanis has plenty to keep him occupied.
When he arrived back in Brisbane last August after spending seven years in the thriving footy town of Albury on the Murray River, the plan was to gain experience in the property industry by working as a salesman for a local real estate agent.
Within weeks he struck out on his own, forming Akermanis Property and taking over existing franchises in the blue-chip areas of Ascot and Bulimba in Brisbane, and Burleigh on the Gold Coast. With the market booming, he is now looking to open a fourth office.
Akermanis shows he’s still able to pull off his trademark celebratory handstand, this time in front of a property that is on the books of his expanding real estate business which is about to open a fourth office. He is also involved in a crypto-currency business that could yield him billions
Akermanis is chaired from the ground after his 200th game against Essendon in 2004
He and wife Megan have bought an impressive home in the northern Brisbane suburb of Warner where they live with their three daughters, Charlotte 16, Sienna 13, and Zoe 3, and he is even making a return to football – albeit from a distance.
Akermanis played his last footy match as captain coach of North Wagga over five years ago, but he has been pulled back to the game by his daughter Charlotte who has shown enough promise to be given a spot in the Brisbane Lions AFLW Academy.
‘Working in real estate I don’t get much chance to watch her on Saturdays, but I try to help her after school during the week if she asks,’ he said. ‘She’s got talent but she’s a bit reluctant. She’s not sure if she’s good enough.
‘She’s carrying a lot of baggage that I didn’t have to cope with. People come up to her and say “are you going to be as good as your dad? Your dad was one of the best.” I never had that.’
He can say that again. For the first 13 years of his life Aker didn’t even know who his dad was.
Born in Mildura in north-west Victoria, he grew up thinking his father was John Akermanis, a Canadian who had walked out on him, mother Shona, and younger brother Rory when he was two years old.
Having ditched his iconic blond hair and black goatee for a more mature look, Jason Akermanis has recounted the extraordinary way he came to know the identity of his true father and the awkward phone call introducing himself to the siblings he never knew he had
Akermanis makes his farewell to the AFL in the traditional pre-grand final lap of honour in 2010. He is pictured with daughters Charlotte and Sienna and former Port Adelaide and Fremantle star Josh Carr
When he was 13 and living in Brisbane, Shona told him the truth. It wasn’t John Akermanis, but a former neighbour from Mildura named Denis Dezdjek who was the boys’ real father. Not only that, Aker had a half-brother and two half-sisters he’d never met.
‘Mum told me she was working in the office at a car dealership in Mildura where Denis was a mechanic and they had an affair that resulted in me and Rory.
‘John Akermanis had been away working for a while and when he got back Mum told him that she was pregnant with Rory. He did some sums and said, “wait a minute, that can’t be right. I wasn’t here.” That was the end of the marriage.
‘I was pretty stunned at first. I’d grown up thinking I was Canadian. I had pictures of the Canadian wilderness of my bedroom wall. I’d dreamed of going there one day.’
At the time Aker had no interest in meeting up with his real father or half-siblings. He was too busy getting on with life.
An outstanding middle-distance runner who had brought his love of Australian Rules football with him from Victoria to Queensland, he was spotted by a sports master from leading private school St Joseph’s Nudgee at an athletics carnival and offered a scholarship.
Akermanis’ reputation as a source for intra-club drama prevented AFL clubs from taking a chance on him in his ambitions to become a coach. However his feats and his brilliance were recognised when he was admitted to the AFL Hall of Fame in 2019 (pictured with wife Megan)
Nudgee is regarded as one of the top rugby union nurseries in the country and while Aker was happy to run track for the school, he stubbornly refused to change football codes, despite urging and teasing from his new classmates.
‘I copped it all the time,’ he said. ‘Everyone was saying I should play rugby, but I didn’t let it worry me. I knew the game that I wanted to play, and I thought I could play it.’
Indeed he could, so much so that he played 17 games for the-then Brisbane Bears in 1995 while he was still in Year 12.
‘That changed things a bit. When I started getting my picture on the front page of the paper the other kids started to think it was pretty cool,’ he said.
What wasn’t cool was the floggings that the ‘Bad News Bears’ were copping week in week out, making them the AFL’s easy-beats and a virtual non-entity in rugby league obsessed Brisbane.
Akermanis also revealed he only dyed his hair blond because commentators would confuse him with other red-heads in the Brisbane Lions squad
Much worse was what Akermanis was facing at home, with his mother diagnosed with an aggressive inoperable brain tumour in 1996. She died aged 41 on Mother’s Day 1997, leaving 19-year-old Aker as legal guardian to his 17-year-old brother Rory.
‘It was a bad time,’ he says. ‘I remember I played for the Lions against Fremantle the day after Mum’s funeral. I got hit on the knee and went off on a stretcher. I was in a lot of pain but the medical staff said it was just nerve damage and it was structurally okay, so I went back on. I kicked two of the best goals you’ve ever seen but we still lost.
‘In the dressing room after the game our coach John Northey was shouting at the team and he pointed at me and had a go at me for coming off. After the week I’d had … that was it for me and John Northey right then and there. He lost me.’
Akermanis performs his trademark handstand after the Lions defeated Collingwood in the 2002 Grand Final
It was the start of a few tough years for Akermanis. With the Lions on the rise following the arrival of Matthews in 1998, he kept playing good football but inside was feeling increasingly angry and bitter about the cards that he had been dealt. Eventually he went to the Lion’s team psychologist Phil Jauncey for advice.
‘He said I needed to finalise things. He told me to find a nice photo of mum, one from before she was sick and looking the way I wanted to remember her, and to take it to her last resting place and burn it,’ he says.
‘That’s what I did. I found the photo, went to the place, sat down, set the photo alight and watched it burn. It worked. After that I stopped feeling like the world owed me anything. I felt like I could move on.’
Move on he did, and so did the Lions. With Matthews bringing a new level of professionalism and tactical nous to the side, the one-time easy-beats became the hard-to-beats and on occasion even knocked the-then mighty Brisbane Broncos rugby league team off the front page.
The club’s star performers like Michael Voss, Jonathan Brown, Simon Black, Justin Leppitsch, Brad and Chris Scott became household names, but none captured the public’s attention like the colourful, outspoken Aker who, with his bleached-blond hair, black goatee and trademark handstand after every win, became a media favourite.
At the age of 28, with everything going so well in his life, Aker decided it was time to try to connect with his ‘other’ family. He tracked down his half-brother Nigel and gave him a call.
‘I think I’m your brother,’ he said.
‘Who is this?’ asked Nigel.
‘Jason Akermanis,’ he said – and then had to convince him it was not a mate making a crank call.
‘He told me he had always wanted a brother,’ Aker says. ‘He was just angry that he was 30 years old when he found out he had one. He told me he’d ring my half-sisters Elissa and Shelley and tell them.
‘The funny thing was that a week earlier I’d been on the Footy Show and Elissa’s husband was watching. He called her in and said, “Look at this guy, he’s the spitting image of your dad.”
‘When Jason rang Elissa he said, “What if I told you we had a brother? You’ll never guess who it is” and she said straight back, “Jason Akermanis”.’
But at the same time that Akermanis was getting to know his half-siblings and father Denis – who died last year aged 70 – he was fast drifting apart from his other family, the Lions.
By 2006 the team was struggling, losing five of its first six games. Matthews, who ruled the club with an iron will, believed the answer was to put up the barricades, shut the players off from the world and create a siege mentality. One of the first things he did was to ban them from writing newspaper columns or appearing on radio and television.
Akermanis celebrates a goal during when the Lions took on North Melbourne in Melbourne in 2004
Akermanis, who had a contract to write a column for the Brisbane Courier-Mail newspaper, refused. Not only that, he decided the column would be a good way to tell Matthews everything he was doing wrong.
‘Yeah,’ he says. ‘I probably could have handled it better. Andrew Hamilton, the guy at the paper was in his first week. He said to me, ‘are you sure you want to say this?’I said, ‘sure, it’ll be fine. It’s constructive criticism. He’ll take it well. Everyone likes constructive criticism’.
‘Everyone but Leigh Matthews apparently. In retrospect criticising one of the most decorated players and coaches in the history of the game was not a smart move.’
With his relationship with Matthews breaking down completely, Akermanis was traded to the Western Bulldogs. Things went well at first before history repeated itself with controversial newspaper columns causing tension.
‘It started from the top,’ he says of the split that saw him sacked during the 2010 season. ‘The chairman Davis Smorgon, coach Rodney Eade, some senior players … they wanted me out, said I was ‘too individual’. They stopped the handstand and the media stuff and in the end they terminated my contract. That was it.’
Well, not quite. For a couple of years he was a gun for hire, playing one-off games for any country or suburban club that would pay him. He’d fill the stands, talk to the players, kick a few goals, put a few thousand bucks in the club coffers and hit the road. In 2013 he joined North Albury as captain-coach and then coach.
It was in Albury that he started to dedicate himself to golf, with ambitions to turn professional – and where he once again fell foul of officialdom and was banned from two golf clubs following allegations of cheating.
Geelong’s James Bartel gives Akermanis a jumper punch in the 2006 AFL season opener
‘The trouble with golf is it’s got too many rules and I broke a few of them over the years,’ he says. ‘They charged me with putting in incorrect scorecards – which is an honest mistake that happens all the time – hitting too many balls on Ambrose days, and abusing other members. In the end they banned me for criticising the committee in the local paper.’
Which sounds familiar, although Akermanis maintains that he isn’t a bad person, just one who can’t stay silent when he feels he is being bullied.
‘People have an impression of me, but that’s not necessarily who I am,’ he says. ‘The only reason I dyed my hair white was because there were three redheads in the team and the commentators kept getting us mixed up. As for the newspaper columns, I was paid to give my opinion and that’s what I did.
‘I was never a bad person. I didn’t take drugs and I have a healthy respect for the law. People just like to put you in a box – and I’ve never fitted into any box.’
After a messy exit from the Brisbane Lions, Akermanis made an impact with the Western Bulldogs as a key player for the club as it came within one win of grand final appearances in both 2008 and 2009, but by midway through the next year he was gone for good