Jack Watts was one of the most talked about figures after transferring across to Port Adelaide in the off-season. The former Demon took some time out on Tuesday afternoon to talk to AFLPlayers.com.au about his transition to Adelaide, his personal challenges with media scrutiny and his plans for the season.
It must have been a little strange playing at the Adelaide Oval and having the crowd behind you…
Yeah, it sure was. I’m used to kicking a few goals and hearing dead silence, or even a couple of boos, and instead it was 40,000 screaming fans and it was exciting. I’ll get used to that over the next few years.
And kicking the first goal of the game probably helped to settle your nerves, how were you feeling leading into your first game as a Power player?
I was definitely a little bit nervous, as you would have noticed by seeing my first kick at goal which was a bit of a shank. It was an exciting feeling, though. We’ve done a lot of work and we’re pretty confident with the team we’ve got here, so it was an excited and nervous start, but I felt I worked my way into it and it was a relief to get that first one on the board and have a good game with the team.
Being from Melbourne originally, how has it been adjusting to the big country town in Adelaide?
I’ve actually loved it! We’re down by the beach and the beaches over here I tell you what! Melbourne has nothing on these Adelaide beaches. I take my dog down every morning and have a good swim, there’s also no traffic, and I was lucky enough to already have a few mates over here. My great mate Jack Trengove obviously moved over which has made me feel at home. It’s been pretty seamless.
And the two of you are living together?
Yeah, we are.
Did I see somewhere that he’s been helping you with your cooking?
Haha, yeah. His girlfriend makes a mean salmon salad with sweet potato fries, so I got on that pretty quickly, but I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it just yet, but I can put it together on my own which is a new skill for me.
Speaking of the transition to the team, and the likes of Steven Motlop and Tom Rockliff and all of the new faces there, but how has it been learning off guys like Travis Boak, Chad Wingard and Robbie Gray?
It’s pretty amazing looking out on the track and on every line you’ve got someone who you’ve looked up to over the years. They do amazing things out on the ground, which makes it enjoyable to play alongside them. I think we can achieve some exciting things together.
What has Ken Hinkley mapped out for you? Obviously you’re a good kick and like to work up the ground, but what does a trademark Jack Watts performance look like in Port colours?
Ken focuses on what he wants me to bring to the team. They didn’t bring me over to be Ollie Wines or Sam Powell-Pepper winning the footy in the middle of the ground. They want me to use my skills, take my opportunities and be a good influence on the group. There’s some non-negotiables for the team that everyone buys into, but the main focuses revolve around what I’m good at.
How’d you view your Round 1 performance?
It’s funny, I probably missed four or five easy opportunities and still managed to get a fair bit of the ball and get on the scoreboard as well. It certainly wasn’t anything special or extraordinary, but if that can be my baseline then I’ll be a pretty happy man in 2018.
How has the last few months been for you personally? Having to move interstate and the logistics of moving everything into a new house etc. was it stressful?
It’s been very easy, I must admit. To be honest, I love change. Even back in Melbourne, I was always moving house and trying new things and new areas. To come over here, it’s only a 45-minute plane ride from my family and friends back home, so it’s very easy, and it’s a new environment and new people to meet. I’ve enjoyed the summer, the weather and the pre-season. There’s no complaints on my end.
How would you compare the Adelaide media landscape to Melbourne? It’s still a bubble, but with it only being a two-team town, what are the differences between that microscope and back in Melbourne?
I’ve found it quite interesting. The pressure and the anxiety were a lot higher in Melbourne for me. Whether that’s because Port had a good year last year, or it’s because we have a bit more of a senior team over here at the moment that has tasted a bit more success, I’m not sure, but I feel that it’s a bit more of a supportive state, really. Over in Melbourne, the media is pretty quick to find out what players are doing wrong, or what teams need to work on and jump on that. Whereas over here it feels a bit more positive, which I’m sure could change if we have a few rough weeks. I’ve really enjoyed the positivity and the support I’ve felt since coming over.
Speaking generally about players, do you feel a lot of guys expect scrutiny instantly in Melbourne if they perhaps haven’t played up to their potential?
I guess you probably do anywhere if you’re not performing. You expect a bit of scrutiny and a bit of pressure, but I think it’s a bit heightened in Melbourne with the number of reporters and journalists that are trying to do their job and trying to get in first. It’s a bit more competitive and they’re willing to go that little bit further to get their story out there, but that’s just my personal opinion and I’ve probably felt a little bit more heat than most people, so I might be a bit skewed in my views.
How have you remained as that happy-go-lucky personality considering what you’ve faced?
I’ve been very lucky just with my life I guess. My family and my upbringing and my friends have been a great support and they are who I have fallen back onto when times are tough. When I’m facing those issues, I look at myself and ask whether I’m doing the right things, and if I am doing the right things and treating people well and doing my best, then there isn’t much more you can do. The media will write what they want to write and you can’t really have too much influence over it. As long as you’re happy with yourself and the family and your friends, that’s the most important thing in life. It’d be great to be the best footballer in the world, but not everyone can do that and that’s OK I think.
There’s also social media scrutiny which I’m sure you’ve copped. How active are you on Twitter?
I’m pretty low key, to be honest, and that’s a bit sad that I stay off it because you’re worried that anything you write might get misconstrued or when it gets out there you get in trouble for it. With that in mind, I stay pretty quiet.
I’ve noticed plenty of mock Twitter accounts that people create, and in relation to you, the ‘Jack Watts Doing Things’ account. Have you seen that?
Yeah, I haven’t really looked into it but I have heard about it. It’s a bit strange.
Off the field, how is everything progressing with Skwosh and your studies?
It’s going really well — Skwosh is booming at the moment — having the great Ed Sheeran posing in the shorts recently has provided a big spike in sales which is exciting. We’re looking to see how we can expand even further next year, and on top that, I’m doing some study as well, finalising an advanced diploma of business, and will hopefully finish my degree next year. I’m keeping very busy.
How did the Ed Sheeran connection come into fruition? Was it your brainchild?
We’re pretty lucky that we have a good team around us, and our PR company that helps us back in Melbourne have a connection to Mushroom Records, so they teamed up with the tour manager and helped us to reach out. From there, we put together a bit of a pack — which is something that we do a little bit — and hoped for the best, but expected nothing. For Ed Sheeran to be wearing your product with 21 million followers on social media was pretty awesome.
So it was a rare occasion where social media helped for good?
Haha, yeah! That’s right.
Are you the kind of person that sets goals when it comes to your footy?
I’ve certainly set a couple of personal goals, but I’ll keep them pretty quiet. Personally, you want to just enjoy your footy and that’s a big reason as to why I came over here. It was to enjoy myself. I’m off to a good start and am enjoying winning, so hopefully that can continue.
I know it’s a long, long, long way away, but a finals berth would be pretty handy considering you’ve never played in a finals game. Do you allow yourself to look that far ahead?
Obviously, that would be a lot of fun, but it’s a long, long, long way away. Hopefully we can attack Sydney this week and have another good week on the track.
Last question… did you give Max Gawn any feedback after missing the set shot over the weekend?
No, I love big Gawny too much for that, but Trenners actually spoke to him last night. He’s doing fine, though, he dominated the whole game and almost won it off his own boot. They’ll be fine I’m sure.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, and good luck for the rest of the year.