Following six years and 63 games at Melbourne, Dean Kent sought new opportunities at the end of 2018, and was traded to St Kilda last Friday. The 24-year-old’s career has been riddled by injury to date, but he hopes a fresh start and some fresh eyes can change his fortunes. He sat down with AFLPlayers.com.au to discuss his new opportunity and more.
How relieved were you to have the deal struck in the first week of trade period?
I was very happy and relieved, but it was still a little bit nerve-racking because it’s always in the back of your mind that a trade needs to go through. It was good that both parties came to an agreement reasonably quickly, and I had my manager telling me not to stress throughout the process.
What was it about the Saints that enticed you? Was it the security or the lure of more midfield minutes?
It all added up. I have a family and the Saints came forward with a three-year deal, so that was important for me. But I’m also upbeat about their list — they finished on the brink of finals a couple of years ago — and they had some big injuries this year. You look at their list and there is a lot of talent there and they got Dan Hannebery in which is exciting. I’m sure we can knuckle down in pre-season and get the Saints where they want to be again.
When was it that you made the decision that the time was right to move?
I did my AC joint in Round 23 against the Giants and was out for the year, and obviously I loved watching the Dees play in the finals, but it was around then that I was looking for more opportunity. It wasn’t until the Dees’ season finished up that I made a concrete decision to make the move and find that security.
Firstly, how frustrating was it having to watch on while they were playing in finals, and secondly, how much enjoyment did you get from seeing your teammates being part of a deep finals run?
Of course, I was disappointed that I wasn’t out there but it is what it is — injuries happen every week — and it was just unfortunate that it happened for me when it did in Round 23. But after being at the club for six years and not seeing much success, I gained a lot of enjoyment out of watching the boys win those two finals. It was hard watching them fall short in the preliminary final, but the overall ride was fun to watch.
Where are you at with your rehab following surgery?
I made the decision to have surgery a few weeks after sustaining the injury, which has put me in good stead because it allows me to still get a solid running block in. I have already started running and have been working closely with the Saints’ medicos to make sure I am back and firing. I have to still tick off some contact when I’m back with the main group but I can still get some solid KMs into the legs right now which is great.
Despite some strong moments, I imagine your six years with the Demons brought about some frustrations because you couldn’t get your body right. How would you describe your time with Melbourne?
I have a lot of self-belief that I belong and that my best footy is in front of me, so I am hoping that a change of program at the Saints and some different eyes will assist me. Of course, I would have liked to have spent more time on the park, but I feel I will be able to do that and will stay away from all of the injuries!
Are there any familiar faces for you at the Saints?
Not really, but I feel a footy club is a footy club at the end of the day. They all have a lot of similarities, and I view it as exciting to be able to come to a new environment and get to know people and build relationships and new friendships. There is one person I know, in Josh Low who is the strength and conditioning manager. We’re both members at Settlers Run and have played a few rounds together and he has kept in contact with me during my rehab process which is good.
How hard was it telling your close friends at Melbourne that you were going to leave?
It was very hard, and to be honest, I kept going back-and-forth in my head wondering whether I should stay or go because of the friendships I had there. They were really supportive in the end and were happy with my decision. There was some disappointment from them, but also some happiness that I got the deal and can also remain in Melbourne. I’m sure we’ll all stay in contact.
From what I have heard out of the Saints from Simon Lethlean and James Gallagher’s public comments, there is an opportunity for more midfield minutes at the club. Is that somewhere you have always wanted to break into?
Yeah, I’ve always seen myself as a midfielder/forward, even in my junior days. But at the Dees it was a lot of small forward play. When I met with Alan Richardson I said that I wanted to go up on the ball and I am now looking to work towards that by building up a bigger tank. Having said that, I am happy to play anywhere I can to help the team out whether it be in the midfield, the wing or forward. It’s not like I went there to play in the midfield straight up, we will build towards that and see how I go.
How was your meeting with Richo and the Saints staff? How did they sell you on the vision?
I caught up with Lethers, James Gallagher and Richo and we went through a plan and they pointed me in the right direction and told me where the club wanted to be and needed to be. There was clear communication there and that was one of the factors that led to me wanting to be on the journey with them and wanting to bring the club back to where it belongs.
Friday was a productive day for St Kilda with the arrival of yourself and Dan Hannebery. It must have felt nice to be traded on the same day as him…
Yeah, definitely. I knew early on that the club were after Hanners and when I heard that he wanted to join the club it helped me. He may have had an off year last year but he is only 27, and I think we both could benefit from some fresh eyes looking over us and you never know what could happen. Hopefully we can both be injury free and have a good run at it.
Have you had a chance to chat to him at all?
We’ve spoken briefly through text messages and he let me know that when he is in town we’ll catch up and go for a coffee. I am looking forward to having a meet and greet with all the boys.
Before I started interviewing you we were talking about you becoming a dad… how has life changed for you since the birth of your little boy?
It’s pretty amazing! We’re only three weeks in but I am loving every part of it. I will learn a lot in the next little bit I’m sure, but right now I have identified that I am not getting much sleep but that is all part of it. I’m just glad that the little fella came out safe, and I can’t wait to see him grow.
Has anything surprised you?
Everyone warns you about the lack of sleep, but you still embrace that. He’s so small at the moment that he can’t do much other than sleep, feed, bath and have his nappies changed. It’s all part of it really and I am enjoying the learning curve.
One of your good friends, Jesse Hogan, is going through a bit at the moment. Have you had a chance to reach out to him?
I spoke to him when the boys were still playing, and obviously he was injured at the time just like myself. We caught up and I told him what my direction might look like and he let me know at that point that he was still a little up in the air with it all. He has a good management group, and I’m sure both parties will either work something out or he will stay at the Dees. He is a pretty cool customer, so I’m sure he is dealing with things alright.
Apart from being busy with the newborn, what else are you doing away from footy?
I just started my chippy apprenticeship, and while it is only early days at the moment, the Saints have a program that they do it through so I can still maintain it. You need to look outside footy because you only last a short time in the game, so hopefully I can be a fully qualified chippy by the end of it and start banging some wood and building some houses! I also love my golf as well, so to have the AC joint injury was frustrating, but thankfully, I can get back out on course now. It’s a good mental release for me out there.
How’s the handicap?
It has come down to 6.5 and I shot 38 points over the weekend after not playing for two months, so hopefully it wasn’t a one-hit wonder! My partner and I actually live on a golf course which helps because it allows me to walk on and practice my chipping. It’s really handy!
Awesome mate. Good luck, I hope you can get a clear run at it.
Appreciate that, thanks.