A passion for football might not be an obvious move in to fashion for some, but for a former Tassie Mariners player, one thing lead to another.
LRF Sport is Luke Faulkner’s brainchild. The company is designing a range products for a number of sports throughout Australia.
Faulkner grew in the state’s North East in St Marys.
“I went to school there until year 10 and then move to Launceston to go to year 11 and 12 at LC and play footy,” he said.
Faulkner played for the Tassie Mariners at 17-years-old, and was a part of their leadership group.
“I had a reasonable year. I went to draft camp, but unfortunately couldn’t go all the way,” he said.
After doing a pre-season at Richmond in 2000 , Faulkner moved to Brisbane in a bid to stand above the rest.
“I thought that if I went to the VFL I’d a be a dime-a-dozen. So I thought I’d go to Brisbane to see how I’d go,” he said.
"I thought if I could stand out in the state league up there and do things well then hopefully the [Brisbane] Lions would look at me, which they did.”
The Lions asked Faulkner to do a pre-season with them.
“Then I got struck down with stress fractures in my feet and from there on it was just unfortunate,” he said.
While at the Lions, Faulkner met Dion Scott, who would go on to become his business partner. Scott is a former Brisbane Lions player, and is in the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame.
Faulkner then started working in sales.
“I’d been in the industry a while … I’d been doing the same sort of sales role with some other brands and was just working my way up the chain,” he said.
“I just decided to do my own thing. Dion and I had a few conversations with each other and we said ‘why couldn’t we do this ourselves?’. It was just a natural progression. It’s been almost two-and-a-half years now.”
Faulkner said one thing lead to another and he moved into sports clothing.
“I’ve always been involved in sport and it’s always been a passion of mine, but obviously making sports clothing and all that sort of stuff excited me.”
While Faulkner makes it sound easy, he said it “definitely” hadn’t been.
“It’s been pretty hard. Obviously the background I had with previous employers left me in a good spot and my connection to Tassie and my mates that I played against, and went to school with, are all involved in footy clubs,” he said.
“Although I wouldn’t say it made it easier, but it was a good connection to get the ball rolling with Tassie.
“We knew we would do really well in Tasmania through our connections. So we’ve managed to build a bit of a brand and it’s one that is reasonably well-known in Tassie.”
LRF Sport now supplies clubs nearly nation wide and Faulkner said his products are as good as any others out there.
“A big thing for me is making sure the product is really good and people are very happy with it,” he said.
Faulkner said a lot of people would be unaware of LRF Sport’s connection to the state.
“I think some clubs that I deal with at the moment definitely do realise the connection. The people I know through footy and school realise the connection, but there are a lot of people who don’t,” he said.
LRF Sport supply a number of schools and Tasmanian sports clubs.
“We do a lot of stuff for Guilford Young College in Hobart. We’ve done stuff for Launceston Grammar and done a bit for South Launceston, Launceston, Hillwood and Bracknell Footy Clubs, too. The list goes on,” he said.
The brand even supports clubs on the state’s North-West and can be spotted throughout Victoria, New South Wales, Perth and South Australia. A range of products are available, including hoodies, jackets, training tops and polo shirts.
“We’re very particular with our products and the fabrics that we use. We make sure they’re light weight and they fit well,” he said.
“It’s always evolving and new things are coming up.”
Faulkner has grand plans for the company, with hopes to have his name to an AFL club in the future.
“It would be nice to have an AFL club in our brand down the track. But that’s everyone’s goal – to see it on the top level,” he said.
“It’s just one of those things where you have to just gradually build it. It’s a lot of money to get an AFL club on board, but it’s definitely a goal of mine.”
Faulkner returned to his home state for the fourth year in a row this week to take part in the annual Relive the Rivalry AFL game that was held on Saturday.
The game sees a bunch of ex-AFL players return as legends of the game.
“It’s nice to put the Tassie jumper back on again after 16 years. Relive the Rivalry is a really good concept. It’s to raise money for muscular dystrophy,” He said.
The fundraiser, which started in Hobart, raises about $15,000 annually and attracts about 5000 people to each game.
“It’s for a young guy, Lucas Peters. His dad Mick, and James Wiggins got together and decided to run this game to raise funds for muscular dystrophy. Lucas is obviously struggling with it and is a big Melbourne (Football Club) supporter,” Faulkner said.
“I think the game is only going to get bigger. It’s a terrific spectacle.”
For the first time in the game’s history, it was played at UTAS Stadium, Faulkner’s home soil.
“When I moved to Launceston, my home club was North Launceston, and it was York Park then. They’d just upgraded the turf and they were just about to do the renovations,” he recalled.
“Unfortunately I’d moved away before they did any of the big stuff. But I got to play here a couple of times in the TAC Cup before they did the full reno.
“It’ll be good to get back out there.”
But this visit wasn’t all fun and games for Faulkner who spent his time in the state drumming up new business. He will return to his wife Jess and two children, Archie, 4, and Minka, 10 months in Brisbane this week.
Faulkner, whose parents frequently flew to Queensland to watch him in grandfinals, has officially retired from senior football.
He plans to recruit a team of his own – a bigger sales team – and grow LRF Sports in to a larger brand.
“We’re doing so good stuff and it’s all pretty exciting,” he said.