After a breakout season in 2018, culminating in a top-five best-and-fairest finish, Alex Sexton has continued that form in 2019. The Gold Coast Suns forward spoke to AFLPlayers.com.au about his strong start to the season, his GOAT status and how a career in football almost never came to be.
The start to season 2019 has brought a mixed bag for the Suns with some early wins, how have you found it?
Inside the four walls it’s always been pretty positive, even before the season started and before Round 1. To get some reward for effort in those early games, especially because they’ve been pretty tight games so they could have swung either way, has been really good. Knowing we can stick to our game plan in those close types of games makes the energy around the place a lot more positive.
Do you think your ability as a team to finish those close games has come as a result of the club maturing and understanding the overall game plan better?
Yeah, that and understanding what it takes in those scenarios and how we want to play in those last few minutes. That’s the kind of stuff we go through in the summer months too. To answer your question, it probably does show the maturity of the young guys, like our midfield, for example, is extremely young so for them to get things done in that area and under pressure is massive and absolutely shows some resilience.
Personally, you had a bit of breakout year last year and have continued that form so far this season. What do you think changed, if anything?
I think it is more confidence in my role and role clarity. Coming into it I had played a lot more forward, and comfortable or not, that was where I thought I could play my best footy and show my attributes. The trust the coaches instilled in me too. It made me feel like I was important to the group and those sort of things you build confidence and that’s where I took my season last year and I’ve tried to kickstart that again this year.
That’s come with a bit of reward for effort to being in the leadership group for the first time this year. What did that mean to you to be recognised by your peers?
I remember towards the end of last year I had started to develop a little bit more, speak my opinion and have my say on things a little more around football when we were here in the club. Then, obviously you don’t want to talk about it, but you lose key players and then spots open up in the leadership group, whether that be through retirement or players moving on. I had a little bit of time to think at the end of last season whether it was something I wanted to do because I thought I had the ability to influence the group. From the coaching staff down, they gave me the confidence to go through that process and whatever I wanted to say to the group, I’d know the guys were listening. So to step up in the pre-season, especially, and see where I could take my influence and then obviously to get voted in by your peers is special.
You’re sitting equal-fourth on the Coleman medal. What are your personal goals for this season?
I think our goals are around more of a team-basis. It’s that as a whole side we want to be consistent and earn the respect of the league as a whole and show that we can play consistent football. On the back of all that, individual things will come and then form starts to come, too. It’s more as a collective we want to put in everything that we work so hard to do and then have that show on the field, which we were able to do in those early weeks. No matter how many points you win by you’re still getting a win. We play it on a week-by-week basis here, which you have to do when you’re building up like we are. Consistency is the key for us. We want to be a consistent football team that is playing finals and that’s what we’re striving to do here.
What has Stewart Dew been able to bring on that front?
He’s been really good. I think it’s obvious that every coach is different and it’s always going to be like that but I think relationship wise and keeping everyone on the same page, we always know where we are at. I can only speak for myself personally but when he first came into the football club he was really keen to get to know the player on a personal level before football. Being in coaching for years before coming here he already knew how a lot of us moved and played so a big focus on him was getting to know the actual person behind the footballer, that’s been his biggest strength as a coach.
I read that Steven May was texting you and calling you the GOAT after you were leading the Coleman Medal. How did that title sit with you?
It’s a bit of noise here and there but we’re still pretty close. I think he might have been putting a bit of mayo on the story (laughs). It’s just a bit of banter but to be honest I don’t really put too much expectation on myself. Nothing needs to change here from our staff and playing group. You sort of see it as reward, that I’m just finishing off the team’s effort and I am able to do that in my role, depending on how everyone else plays their role. That’s how I saw it and it’s obviously good when you’re winning to be kicking a few goals. Like I said there’s a bit of banter going around here and there between us.
You’re also a Queensland local, was it a no-brainer for you to re-sign with the Suns for another four years?
It was but it was also that this is where I feel like I wanted to be. We were working on it for a while and to have it done before the season started was something I was really keen to do because you’re probably in the talks down south, which seems to be what they talk a lot about down there. It was also to pay my respects to the club. Who knows where I would’ve been if I didn’t get picked up at that time, especially because I moved from Melbourne as well. No-brainer is a good way to put it pretty much because I was confident with where we are heading as a club. I’m happy to be here and I feel comfortable coming in here every day. When I was voted into the leadership group it confirmed this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.
You mentioned being from Melbourne. What was it like to move from a football-centric city to somewhere where football is almost secondary?
Yeah, it was weird moving here at first. I moved up here with my family when I was about 14 from the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne. I was playing footy pretty heavily throughout school. You play for school and then you play club at the same time and so when I came here I definitely wondered what was going to happen because I went to a school where there wasn’t a footy team but a rugby team instead. I was still young then and I thought about how I would go about playing football a little bit but I decided I’d play basketball or something else. I didn’t have this crazy desire to go sign up to a football team but then my cousin, Jack, who is a few years younger than me was playing at a local club, Springwood, which is in Logan. He asked to me to come down, so I went and had a kick and thought I should sign up again and played there before I ended up here at Gold Coast. It’s a pretty funny story because I didn’t know if I was going to play for a year. It was more just about having a kick to see if I liked it but they were amazing there and so I signed on, which has been pretty lucky.
Being based in Queensland, you’re a little bit of an enigma but are becoming more of a cult hero in Melbourne. What is the real you like away from the football field?
When I’m here at the club I’m pretty full on – 100 miles an hour – so it’s good to go home and kind of just relax. My partner and I have a new little puppy so it’s more doing stuff around that outside of footy and getting away from it. We don’t sit at home too often and try to get out every afternoon with the dog as well. He’s pretty crazy being a pup still. Obviously, it’s amazing where we live so we go to the beaches or the creeks. Outside of here that’s pretty much what I do.
Study-wise, I’ve dabbled in everything that’s around but haven’t really found anything that I connect with yet. So I’ve been working with our personal excellence team in that regard to see where that will take me. I’ve seen that as a positive, though, because I’ve touched a few things here and there and been able to go through some things that I didn’t like and cross it off.
When I’m here I’m pretty energetic so it’s nice to relax when I get home.