The nuggets had dried up by the 1970’s when the Goodrich mine was closed for good, but lingering in the land was a family seemingly touched with gold dust.
The Wilkin brothers, Brad and Aaron, separated by just three years in age, made the most of their spare time on the family’s 500 acre property. Barely a day would go by without a football kicked, a golf club swung or motorbike mounted as the restless boys ran themselves ragged in the daylight hours.
Whilst the rough and tumble Brad was turning heads with his eye-catching performances on the rugby field, older brother Aaron was showing a real talent with the golf sticks.
“My Pop and Nan got him (Aaron) into golf at a young age. He obviously picked up a golf stick and was quite handy at it. He was going to comps with Pop and Nan. He was a pretty handy footballer until golf started taking over for him.”
That talent on the golf course was highlighted by his move into the professional ranks just three years ago.
“He’s currently on the Australian circuit but did have a stint on the Japanese circuit,” explains Brad.
The closeness of the two brothers is best demonstrated by Aaron’s willingness to get Brad on the bag whenever he can. To date, Brad’s caddied for Aaron twice on the Australian Open, once at The Fijian Open and on the odd occasion at a few smaller tournaments.
“I think it just started out because he needed someone to just carry his bag, and I was free,” laughs Wilkin.
“Then one time when I was caddying in the NSW Open, we started going really well and he shot the course record and I think he enjoyed having a calming influence on him during his golf game.
“So I’m just there for moral support and to keep him laughing and smiling. I think he then had a superstition that I was good luck or something.”
With Brad on the bag, Aaron’s luck extended to the opening round of the 2018 Australian Open, when Aaron found himself just 3 shots off the lead after day one.
The good run wouldn’t last however, with Brad having to dash down to Melbourne for Day One of Rebels preseason.
By tournaments end, Aaron would slip to a still respectable tie for 40th position.
“I’m more of a social golfer,” confesses Wilkin.
“I know Quade (Cooper) plays a bit. He plays out of the same golf club in Brisbane my brother plays out of, and Reece (Hodge) plays too, obviously. I always see him playing on Instagram. I think I’ll be trying to tee up a game with a couple of those boys.”
Although Wilkin admits he was never bound for a life as a professional golfer, his unrivalled schoolboy rugby reputation was more than just a consolation.
Sent off to Iona College in Brisbane for his high school years, the flanker quickly established himself as one of the brightest schoolboy prospects in the country.
Two years in the Australian Schoolboys team, including a victory over NZ Schools, quickly saw Wilkin hailed as one of the country’s brightest young talents as he shined in a team that also boasted future Rebel team mates Reece Hodge and Matt Philip.
When the Waratahs won his services from the Australian 7s program, the fiery red head left the family behind and headed for the big smoke of Sydney at the tender age of 19.
The tyranny of distance and his brother’s professional career meant Wilkin’s six appearances for the Waratahs were never played in front of his brother.
Compounding the loneliness of time away from the family were injuries and being parked behind Michael Hooper in the pecking order.
The situation became even more dire last year when news reached him that his Pop had passed away.“He had a massive influence on me and my brother. Last year, having to deal with that, when I was only just getting my first taste of Super Rugby, that drove me and motivated me a lot more as well.
In times of need, the Wilkin brothers have always turned to each other.“He goes through his own hardships with his sport, so we reflect and try to help each other out a little bit.
He knows when to send a message my way, to keep me going,” explains Wilkin.
The grind of his first preseason in Melbourne has been punctuated with a return to Yeoval for the Christmas break. It will be Wilkin’s first Christmas back in Yeoval without his Pop; the sense of loss eased slightly by the familiar surroundings of his brother, his family and the wide-open plains.
And while Wilkin might be giving the off road motorbike riding a miss on his return to Yeoval, there’s one tradition he’s particularly looking forward to.
“Yeah, we will definitely have to have a hit of golf with my brother,” chuckles Wilkin.