Signing with Hawthorn on the eve of the AFL season as an SSP player, Keegan Brooskby’s journey with Hawthorn has been a whirlwind ride. The former Gold Coast and West Coast Eagles ruckman chatted to aflplayers.com.au about signing with the Hawks, the suspended AFL season and how he’s spending his time in isolation as a result of COVID-19.
Kavisha Di Pietro: I think it is fair to say it has been a whirlwind couple of weeks. How have you settled into life in Darwin now that you and your partner, former AFLW player and now commentator, Abbey (Holmes) are there for the near future?
Keegan Brooksby: It has been! I had just moved to Melbourne from Adelaide and we were living in an apartment but it was a little bit small with a couple people living there and the current COVID-19 restrictions in place for an unknown period. We had to make a decision about what we were going to do to ensure we were looking after our wellbeing and having a space where we could still train. There was the potential for us to go back to Adelaide, but we eventually settled on Darwin, where Abbey’s mum and sister live. We thought the set up here was going to be the best for us, especially because we were unsure of how long this situation was going to last for. Now that we are here, I think we have made a good decision as well. It is nice weather here and the sun’s out, which makes it a lot easier to be motivated.
The suspension of the AFL season happened before Round 1 had concluded. How quickly did you have to make that decision to put in place your next steps, but also ensure you are following government restrictions and advice?
The AFL decision was announced at half-time during the Hawks’ game, so sitting there and watching on TV because we obviously couldn’t be at the ground was a little bit strange knowing that a decision was looming but the boys were still running around doing what they had to. The whole situation around Gill announcing the suspension, then our game finishing and the other game still to play was certainly a bizarre turn of events, reflective of the current pandemic situation we have found ourselves in. As a club, we had a meeting and had to make decisions quickly – within a matter of 24 hours. The states had started putting in border controls, quarantine regulations and self-isolation so we knew we were going to have to make a decision. Abbey and I left first thing Tuesday morning and were in Darwin by lunchtime. It was all very quick.
Only a couple of weeks ago you signed with the Hawks during the Supplemental Selection Period (SSP). How does it feel to have another lifeline, albeit with COVID-19 suspending the season?
I have probably had a different football journey to most other players. Getting another opportunity as a 28-year-old with West Coast last year was something that I thought was something I had to jump at and make the most of. I thought I did a good job, controlled everything I could control and had a crack, but it didn’t work out. I played my role and left with having had some great times and building some great relationships. I left at 29 and thought that there was still a possibility I would get a second chance, but the likelihood is always slim the older you get. For the opportunity to come up and join another great football club that has been around for a long time and has a remarkable history, you just have to pinch yourself a little bit. But, you have to make the most of it and jump in, give it 100 per cent and then whatever happens, happens. If you do that, you can leave in 12 months or (hopefully) five years knowing that you’ve done everything you could and hopefully have made the place and people around you better for having been there.
With the world facing physical distancing and isolation, how challenging is it to join a club, train for a week or so and then suddenly you’re in lockdown and away from the group?
It is an interesting discussion but because everyone is in the same boat now you can’t do anything about it so you’ve got to make the most of the situation. You can only control what you can control, you have no say in how long this goes for, what we do, when we come back or what the season looks like. What we can control though, is how we approach this period of the unknown. It is about making sure I am doing the best job that I can so that I am in the best possible space when I come back to the club. Realistically, that is a challenge for everyone. In any job, you are going to have different struggles along the way, but I think through my experience in life and football I am relatively well placed to take those things on and make the most of them. Resilience is huge and finding self-motivation during these times to keep on going can be challenging, but it’s really important. Finding that within yourself and your support networks around you is critical. I can only speak for myself, but I am feeling in a good space having been through challenges in my football journey before.
When you talk about that support network, your family and partner Abbey are big ones. Who else do you look to for that continued encouragement and feedback?
I think a big part of it comes down to the relationships you build when you first walk into a football club. It is important to make sure you are speaking to everyone and putting yourself out there a little bit to earn the confidence, trust and respect of your teammates and the club. I found that has helped in working towards people reciprocating that back towards me because you have built the foundations for solid relationships. That was a key thing for me with joining West Coast last year and then Hawthorn this year. I had a similar situation when I signed with the Eagles in that I got there and couldn’t start training until December 1. We were there for two weeks and then had three weeks off for the Christmas break. Of course, we weren’t in isolation but you’re away from the club and that face-to-face interaction. In that pre-season, you start building the relationships, getting to know people and then you essentially leave and don’t see them for a period of time. I think if you can develop those relationships quickly it puts you in a good spot from a club point of view because you’ve got them there and then there’s a support network as well from your family and your friends. My partner, my family back in Adelaide and Abbey’s family, have been key parts of my support network, particularly now as we face time away from each other with the restrictions.
When you reflect on your past couple of months and football journey as a whole. What springs to mind for you?
It’s funny because when everything happened, there were some challenges to navigate from a SANFL point of view, but for me the SSP list post has presented me an opportunity to play at the highest level of the sport at two really successful and well-operated football clubs. Not only have the clubs I’ve been part of developed good football players, but they’ve developed great coaches, administration staff and people off the field. The list could go on. The opportunity was something I had to look at and go for. It’s the way I approach things. If I get an opportunity to be the best I can be and get an opportunity to challenge myself then I’m all in. I know that people have seen it as, ‘Why would you do this? You’ve been through the ringer a little bit,’ but that’s how I live my life. I want to live with no regrets and if there’s an opportunity there you have to take it.
Absolutely! Thanks for the chat, Keegan. Good luck as you navigate this isolation period and hopefully we’ll see you out on the footy field shortly.
No worries, thanks Kavisha!