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Melbourne Football Club

Watts notches up 100 games for Dees

Jack Watts (left) and Jay Kennedy-Harris of the Demons celebrate during the 2015 AFL Round 01 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Gold Coast Suns at the MCG, Melbourne on April 04, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Jack Watts (left) and Jay Kennedy-Harris of the Demons celebrate during the 2015 AFL Round 01 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Gold Coast Suns at the MCG, Melbourne on April 04, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
In terms of the pressure that gets put on you, I would’ve loved to have been the 73rd pick in the rookie draft. But it’s all part of it, isn’t it? That’s where I was at the time and that’s where the journey went. I wouldn’t change that at all
Jack Watts


JACK Watts speaks to Matt Burgan in the lead-up to his 100th AFL match


MB: Jack, congratulations on reaching 100 AFL games. How do you reflect on your journey?
JW: It’s definitely gone quick, but we’ve had some slow moments in there. It hasn’t been smooth sailing – that’s for sure. Hopefully the next patch of games is the one that we can enjoy and make the most of. It’s great to get there – with everything that’s happened – I’m pretty proud to have got to 100 games and not many people do, so I’ll get out there and enjoy it on Sunday.


MB: Will your milestone play a part in your build-up against Fremantle?
JW: I can’t imagine it will play too much part on Sunday. It’ll be business as normal and hopefully we’ll go out and have a good game and get a win. We’re feeling pretty good at the moment, so that’ll be the main focus.


MB: Does playing 100 games mean more to your family and friends at the moment, and is it something you’ll look back on more at the end of your career?
JW: Probably. It’s interesting, because last week was probably one of my toughest weeks in footy. All of my mates and family got around me that week and came along last week, so it’ll be interesting to see if they want to back it up and come again. I’d say that’d be the vibe of it, with the family and friends and all of the people who have been all along the way, supporting the whole time. They’ll get a bit of an appreciation out of it as well.


MB: I can still recall the day you marked and kicked a beautiful set-shot goal to give Vic Metro victory in the under 18 championships at Etihad Stadium back in 2008. A lot’s happened since then. How would you sum up your career since that day?
JW: Up until that moment, nothing had really gone wrong in my footy career or basketball career. It had been all pretty smooth-sailing. But then the AFL world is a bit of a shock, it’s a whole different world. I think people are pretty quick to jump on and criticise, but I’ve had to fight pretty hard to get to this point and that’s what I’ll look back on and appreciate. Reaching 100 games hasn’t come easy, so to stick through it and stick tough – no matter what anyone has said or is still saying and they still will say – that’s the thing I’ll look back on, which gives me a lot of satisfaction and pride to know I’ve stuck through it. Hopefully I’ll have some really good times ahead.


MB: History says you were the first player selected in the 2008 NAB AFL Draft, which is a fine achievement. But it also comes with scrutiny. And in your case there has been plenty. Are you honoured to be the No.1 pick or do you wish you were selected elsewhere?
JW: In terms of the pressure that gets put on you, I would’ve loved to have been the 73rd pick in the rookie draft. But it’s all part of it, isn’t it? That’s where I was at the time and that’s where the journey went. I wouldn’t change that at all, and there is not a lot of point looking back and saying ‘what if I’d done that and what if I’d done this?’ It’s more about what I can do now and what can I do to get better and how we can start climbing the ladder – that’s where my mindset is at.


MB: What have been the highlights and lowlights of your career so far?
JW: It’s like some of the others here – we’ve had a bit more time down the bottom than winning games, so the highlights are the big wins like beating Richmond [last round], beating Carlton, Adelaide over there and Essendon [last year]. They’re the wins you enjoy with your teammates and coaches. Those 15 minutes after the game you’re in the rooms going ‘you beauty’. Unfortunately for us, it hasn’t happened as much as we’d like. They’ve definitely been the highs and that’s what we crave.


MB: What have been among your best performances?
JW: It’s pretty hard looking back on them. You look at those wins and not the individual performances. Playing against Tigers [last year] and kicking a couple late in the last quarter and the Carlton win early on last year, plus the Adelaide win last year – I played well early on, before I hurt my back, and then got back into it. They’re the ones that you look back on remember. Even round one this year – far out, it seems a long time ago – but three weeks ago, you’re named in the best and then it can all change in one week. But those wins are the ones you look back on.


MB: How tough has the scrutiny been? Only you would know what it’s been like – and your closest family and friends would naturally have an idea. But can you give an insight?
JW: You’ve got to realise that these people have no consequences to what they say and they go off and say one thing and think they’re the one, when there is also 300 other people saying something. They say something and then don’t even think about it again and go and live their life. For the person that it’s directed at – it is tough. It can get to you a little bit, but for me, if I let it get to me at the start, then I would’ve been in big trouble. I don’t really know how I’ve dealt with it, but you look to your family and friends, and look at your life as a whole – not just as a footballer. I’m pretty proud of who I am and what I stand for, so if [people think that] I don’t put my head over the ball on the footy field … well, I look at the bigger picture. That’s helped me along the way. My family and mates have helped me along the way – and they’re a big part of my life and they’re the biggest contributor to who I am, and that’s probably what I hold closest is family and friends.


MB: You’ve remained an upbeat character throughout – has that helped you keep your spirits up?
JW: Definitely. To handle what I’ve been through – it’s helped me for sure. I’d love a couple more good times to get that side of me out and people can enjoy that side of me, more than everyone against me all of the time. There’s still plenty of time left.


MB: Is footy still fun for you or is it more of a grind?
JW: It’s definitely a bit of a grind at times. [Former assistant coach] George Stone always used to say there was more down times than there are up times, so it is definitely a bit of a grind. But those good times – those 20 minutes after the game and the week after it – it makes it all worth it for sure. That’s what is driving us – to enjoy it and get that more often and that’s what we’re searching for.


MB: Looking ahead at the next phase of your career. Let’s say you’re talking on the eve of your 200th game – what do you want to have achieved personally and as part of a team in the next 100 games?
JW: That’d be unbelievable to get to 200 games – it’s that far ahead, at the moment. But for me, going forward it’s really about cementing that spot up forward or whether I try and go into the midfield and get a bit more of the ball. As much as it comes down to what your teammates and coaches are saying, it’s trying to change that perception a bit of who I am and the player that I can be. That’s done through actions – I’ve really got to start doing that on the field. Then, as a group, we’re getting things in place. The midfield is starting to fire, the forward line is starting to work really well with Hoges (Jesse Hogan) and the backline is pretty set with a couple of young guys playing really well, in Tommy [McDonald] and Salo (Christian Salem). We’re now in most games and if we’re going to have chances every single week, so that’s all you can ask – just being in every game. The next 100 games – hopefully there’s plenty of wins.


MB: You’ve played forward, back and midfield. Has it been hard to settle – or would you like to settle into one position – and what do you think is your best position?
JW: Flexibility has been a strength of mine and if we start playing really well and start getting on top of teams, then we can start playing different positions. But I’m definitely enjoying that set forward role. I’ve worked with Hoges, Dawesy (Chris Dawes) and worked as that third, floating tall. If they want me to do that – I can do that – or I can play as a small and work up the ground. We’re starting to play better as a team and it’s starting to click – and that’s all I’m craving, having that synergy out on the ground. That’s when you know that you’re gelling as a group and good things are coming. We’re still a pretty new group and the team that we’ve got out there at the moment, once that starts to click, it’ll be super exciting to play.


MB: Take us to Sunday, just before the match. How will you be feeling as you walk out for your 100th game?
JW: I can’t imagine it being too different. I think I’ll just keep it pretty simple and focus on what I have to do – and what we have to do as a team to stop Freo. I’m not too sure to be honest, so it’ll be interesting. I’ll prefer not too much build-up, keep it pretty quiet and go along my business and hopefully get a big win.