Since switching from Brisbane at the end of 2015, Jack Redden has emerged as a pivotal cog in the Eagles’ midfield brigade. Fresh from celebrating his 200th game milestone in June, Redden spoke to AFLPlayers.com.au on the eve of West Coast’s clash with Collingwood.
Katie de Haer: It’s a big few weeks coming up for the Eagles, beginning with a Grand Final rematch against Collingwood on Friday night. Without looking too far ahead, there’s an opportunity to move closer to securing a top two-spot on the ladder and a home qualifying final. How much does that play on your mind and play on the mind of the team?
Jack Redden: Obviously as the year progresses, you do pay closer attention to the ladder, but it’s important that you don’t look too far ahead because you can easily get distracted in our game. It’s such an even competition. I think it’s smarter if you just work on the process week-to-week, because every game is pretty tough. We’re going to have to play really good footy and get the ball rolling in that regard.
It was a bit of a shaky start for West Coast, but the team seems to be hitting its straps at the right time of year. What lessons have you learned from the first 16 rounds of the season?
That’s right, we obviously didn’t hit our straps straight away. We still managed to get a few wins, but we weren’t playing four quarters of footy and we probably let ourselves down around the contest. I think we’ve rectified that a little bit – we’re starting to be able to play four quarters of footy, and we’re a quality side when we can do that. Hopefully we’ve timed it right – we were lucky to get away with a few wins earlier in the year but we just need to keep playing our brand of tough contested footy.
Despite an inconsistent start, the team still managed some important wins. Do you think as a team you’re far off playing your best footy?
Earlier in the year, we had a really good game against Collingwood (in round three) but outside of that we weren’t playing four quarters of footy up until probably the Essendon game (in round 14). We didn’t convert as well as we could’ve on the scoreboard against Essendon, but that was probably the closest four-quarter (performance) we’ve had. Obviously just recently we had a good away game against Hawthorn at the MCG – we were lucky enough to get the win there, but we probably let ourselves down a little bit in the third term. On the weekend just gone, we played four quarters against Fremantle and that was really pleasing. We’re getting closer to hitting our straps. We’ve got Nic Naitanui back from injury now and I think the boys walk taller with Nic in the side. It’s exciting for the club and exciting for the boys to start playing some good footy.
You mentioned Naitanui’s recent return, but you’ve had guys like Tom Hickey making an important contribution in his absence. How will the club manage the ins and outs at the pointy end of the season? Can you talk a little bit about Nic and how important it’s been to have him back in the side?
Firstly, I think Nic’s pressure and his presence around the footy is massive. I don’t think his stats generally show how dominant he actually is. I know all the boys walk taller with him in the side. They love having him in there and they love what he does at ground level, which is as important as what he does in aerial contests. As we get to the pointy end (of the year), the focus has to be on being smart with managing players’ loads and that sort of stuff. Our game is pretty demanding on the body, especially with a bit of travel throughout the season, so it’s important that we do a lot of recovery and that we begin to prepare for finals footy, if it eventuates.
You spoke about the role that Nic plays on game day: how important was his influence during his rehabilitation?
He’s in our leadership group. He’s a big personality throughout our football club and he’s great around the club for all the young boys. He sets a great standard with his preparation and his training. When he was injured, he also had a role with the midfield and the rucks – he’s really smart in regard to opposition analysis and he’s obviously had a lot of experience in the game so he can feed some of that (knowledge) to the younger players and the ruckmen ‘prepping’ each week.
Looking to Collingwood, there’s clearly plenty of history between the two clubs. How different are games like Grand Final rematches? Is there a different process of preparation, mentally-speaking?
I think you’d be lying (if you said) there wasn’t a little bit more on the line. There is a lot of emotion around those games, so you’ve got to prepare yourself for that, but that emotion doesn’t last for the whole game. We know it’s going to be pretty hot early and (as a player) you’ve got to adjust to that. But it will just come back to following our week-to-week processes and playing our individual roles.
You left the Lions at the end of 2015, and they’ve made big strides since – particularly in the last year. They are obviously a very young side, while the Eagles are more established and mature. What parallels can you draw between the two clubs? Do you ever reflect on how your career would be different if you had stayed in Queensland?
I’m rapt to see Brisbane going really well at the moment. They’ve got a couple of young local talents who are pretty much their spine, so that’s good to see. They’ve got a good young culture, from all reports. They’re a young side that’s playing full of confidence – they’ve got plenty of depth and they’re going to be a threat, I reckon, later in the year. (In saying that) I’m glad I made the move, the way it’s panned out for my family and myself, I’m really grateful for that, but I’m also really grateful for my time at Brisbane – the life lessons, the team experiences and the people I met.
You’re only 28, but one of the more mature players in the side. Which one of the younger guys on the Eagles list has impressed you this season?
Just recently, Jarrod Cameron has debuted and he’s showed a lot of promise. His forward pressure and his craft around the packs and his goal sense – it’s stood out to me. There’s Oscar Allen, too, who is more of a key position type but he’s quite flexible and can play either end of the ground. He’s pretty impressive in his game knowledge at such a young age. There’s a lot of young talent throughout the list, I think that’s why our list is as healthy as it is. We’ve got a lot of experience at the top, and then good depth in the mid-range, and a lot of young talent that can learn from the experience at the top.
There’s always pressure for reigning premiers to reach the heights of previous seasons. How do you manage those expectations as a senior player, both internally and externally?
I think it sort of stems from your culture. If you uphold good training standards, the same processes and the same preparation for games, it shouldn’t waver too much. In saying that, we did have a bit of a shaky start to the season but we were lucky enough to get the wins. I think it comes down to the leaders, preaching good standards and leading by example.
You celebrated a career milestone a few weeks ago – 200 AFL matches. Do you still have as much excitement playing now as you did in your first year of footy?
Yeah I do! My career has been a funny little journey. I obviously started at Brisbane as a young fella with a lot of energy, then, coming across to West Coast, I probably didn’t get the start that I wanted, and wasn’t playing the kind of footy I wanted to. The last few years I’ve managed to play some good footy again, which is probably some of the better footy I’ve played. I’m really enjoying my time at West Coast. I’ve been lucky enough to have some recent success with them and, so far, we’re in a good position this year. I’m loving my time playing with the Eagles.
Lastly, you became a father last year. How much joy does being a Dad give you and how do you find balance on and off the field?
It distracts you from footy a little bit, having a little one. We’re pretty lucky in our occupation that we have a bit of spare time to spend with our families, and at this age, that’s really special. I had her down at training this morning for Captain’s run – just messing around with her around the club and that sort of stuff is really cool. I think you’ve got to make the most of it before your time is up, because it doesn’t last forever. I suppose it makes you less of a footy head.
Very happy to see you going so well, Jack. Thanks for your time. All the best against Collingwood and for the rest of the season.
Thanks so much, Katie.