It’s been a big week for Paddy Dow, with the 18-year-old Swan Hill product receiving the Round 14 Rising Star nomination. The Carlton youngster sat down with AFLPlayers.com.au to discuss his country upbringing, moving away from home and boarding at Geelong Grammar as a 16-year-old, and adjusting to life in Melbourne.
I’ve got it on pretty good authority that growing up, you were a problem child and that the first aid kit was always close to you. According to my notes you fell off a trailer at a young age?
Yeah, that is true! My younger brother Thomson was on top of the trailer and he was crying or something — well this is what I can recall of the story. Anyway, he was trying to get down so I went up to try and help him down and in doing so I fell off and hit my head on the veranda. I split my head open and required seven stitches and there was blood everywhere.
How old were you?
I was four, I think… maybe five? Either way, I was young.
Have you forgiven him since?
This next bit of intel is from your dad, he said you were a fashionista growing up. He said that all stemmed from the cuffs on your jumpers and shirts?
I don’t know why, because I love them now, I couldn’t have clothing with elastic cuffs. I have no explanation for it because as you can see I’m wearing them now.
What did you do?
I couldn’t do anything other than buy a jumper that didn’t have them, or was really loose. This is good information, it’s a real throwback!
On a positive note, I have been told that growing up, and as the second oldest of four boys, you went easy on your siblings when it came to sport?
I think when I was younger, like two or three, Jedd was the best. It was always myself and Thomson on Jed and Max, and then as we got older, Thomson and I who are the tallest, we started to beat them quite easily. We started to think, ‘What are we proving here?’
What’s the age breakdown?
Max is 14, Thomson is 16, I’m 18 and Jedd is 21.
I’ve been notified that you love your hunting… I’ve heard stories involving bow and arrows and the like. What else can you provide about your interest in hunting?
I went through a stage where I loved the bow and arrow when I was in either Year 9 or 10. I had a good mate that loved it, too. I’ve got to the point where I’m more into the traditional hunting.
What other highlights have you got from growing up in Swan Hill?
Because you know everyone in Swan Hill, it’s pretty unique. You walk the street, you see a mate there and you just instantly know everything about them. You’re just close to everyone.
You played senior footy back there at the ripe old age of 14?
I was 14, but I was turning 15 that year.
What was that experience like?
I was a skinny and scrawny little kid, and I can remember playing my first game against Lance Picioane, who played for Kerang after he had finished up with Hawthorn and North Melbourne. He was the scariest looking bloke, and I remember having to line up on him and he didn’t care that I was 14. It was a good experience playing against a competitor like that who just wanted to win. They were a good team, and at that point, we were making finals.
Can you remember how you performed in that game?
I kicked a couple of goals because I was playing more of a forward role.
Apparently your first goal in senior footy was quite impressive, can you remember it?
Yeah, I took it out of the ruck, took a bounce, and kicked it from a fair way out. The second was just a set-shot, though. I’ll probably always remember them.
You boarded at Geelong Grammar. When did you move there?
I was in Year 10.
Being a few hours away from the place you’ve always lived, I imagine it was a difficult adjustment for you?
Yeah, it was a big step up. I went from the point where I knew everyone to going somewhere where you don’t know anyone. Having a few people there like Lochie O’Brien, Jarrod Brander and Brent Daniels in Year 11 helped heaps. I made friends quickly because everyone was mad about footy. You make friends with your teammates in the end.
Aside from not knowing anyone, what was the toughest thing about moving from Swan Hill?
At the start, it was not feeling comfortable for about 6-8 weeks. I missed that country feeling — going out bush with a few mates and doing those things. I did love school footy, but it wasn’t like club footy where you have the adults. School footy is just kids so you don’t have that attachment straight away.
I assume that prepared you well for Melbourne life with the Blues?
It’s the best thing I’ve ever done! I have so many more mates in Melbourne now which helps to be an escape from footy. Some of them don’t even watch footy so they don’t ask me about it all the time.
One of your friends from back home told me that you needed assistance using your bank card for the first time?
That is actually right! It was at the Corio Shopping Centre, and it was a couple of weeks after I had just moved to Geelong from Swan Hill. He helped me go shopping, and we got all of the tuck and we got to the check out and the payment was over $100 so I couldn’t tap and I had no idea what the pin was. We had to call my mum and she helped us out. I think I secretly wanted my mate to get his card out and pay for it.
In Melbourne, you’re now living with your auntie?
Yeah, I am. She lives in Mount Waverley and I have been there with her since the start of the year when the pre-season started back up after Christmas.
Is your auntie doing all of the cooking?
At the start, it was flat out just her cooking, but I have started to take control a little bit. I’m doing my own washing which to be truthful, I did during school. If you use the school washing system, all of your clothes would get stolen. Well maybe not stolen, but you would lose them all because all of the house would put their washing in together, and then it comes back and you have to individually pick out all of your stuff. I am actually getting alright at cooking, I can now cook a good steak and I have added tacos to the menu.
Old El Paso?
Yep! A bit of lean meat as well, it’s just so easy.
What’s the biggest adjustment since being a professional athlete?
It’s not two times a week, it’s everyday. Even when you’re not at the club, you’re recovering and doing extras. It’s all about having balance, and at the start, I didn’t get that right because I was solely focusing on footy. It’s getting easier for me now.
Are you a footy head? Do you read or watch AFL content?
Not anymore. Last year I watched all the AFL 360 episodes, but this year and when I’m not at the club, I try to forget about footy. Just to have that escape and chill out.
Can you remember the first article you read about yourself?
It would have been one from The Guardian. I think it was the colts premiership we won, and I would have been 15 at the time. In fact, that game was my best footy memory, Kayle Kirby’s brother took a mark about 55 metres from goal on the siren. We were down by four points and he drilled it to give us the win. We were fourth on the ladder and the team we played were first and undefeated all season. It was unreal.
Did you feel pressure coming through the system on your way to being drafted?
In bottom-age 18s, I was loving my school footy and coming home and playing for Swan Hill, but I didn’t play very well at TAC Cup. There was a stage where I didn’t think I had a chance, but then I played a few good games and the confidence went up and then I got into the Academy and I thought I could give this a real crack.
What has been your best memory since being drafted?
The win! That was an unreal feeling, especially after losing our first seven games for the season. It just made us appreciate it so much more. Then, going round to the fans after the siren and seeing how much it meant to them was awesome. It’s hard to imagine that a year earlier I was dreaming of playing on the MCG, and then I was celebrating a win there.
Which player have you learnt the most off?
Probably Crippa or Murph. Although, a young guy like Zac Fisher has been a big help also. I have been trying to get information about how they prepare. Fisher is close to my age, so I have tried to see what he has done to get to where he is. Cripps has been the most influential, and he is such a good leader.
Going back to family, your grandfather played for North Melbourne?
Yep, Peter Dow. He played from 1959 to 1961 and played about 20 games for North. He was a ruckman, and he was about 6-foot-3, which shows how much the game has changed.
What would your weekends look like on the farm back home?
Usually, we would go out on the motorbikes and go hunting. We’d take the guns out and go fishing. It would change every weekend, which was the best thing about that lifestyle.
No cricket in the summer?
I played fourths cricket at Geelong Grammar, and I was shocking but was somehow captain for a year.
I didn’t know they had fourths…
It was the gentlemen’s 11. It was fun and we had a good group of boys in the team. The philosophy of the coach was that if you block it, you’re going to be dragged. He wanted us to go out swinging.
What was your role?
Um, a bit of off-spin… when we were in trouble. Nah, only joking! I batted a little bit.
Your younger brother, Thomson, is looking like a good prospect. Could he get drafted?
He is playing some good footy now. I watched him last week and he killed it. He kicked a couple of goals for the Pioneers and had about 25 touches. He played well! If he continues to play some good footy and gets his confidence up, he could make it.
How big is he?
He is about my height, but he is broader than I am.
And you spent your bye week back home in Swan Hill?
I did! I watched the local team play. It was nice to get back home and catch up with mates. The races were on that Sunday but I couldn’t go. I was spewing about that. I had to be back for training on Monday which is the sacrifice you make.
How have you viewed your performance this season?
I think my game has been consistent, and I have gained some more confidence. Each game I think the new experiences are helping me to improve. It’s been a big learning curve.
You must have been happy to get the Rising Star and receive that recognition over the weekend?
Yeah, I was rapt with it. It had more importance because it was against Collingwood and being rivals and playing quite well as a side, it was good. We all brought great effort. That was more important.
Have you thought about the next few years after footy?
I have. I’m going to do a sports management and business course that I will do next year. That will be a good balance outside of footy, and I have also thought about real estate. I’m keeping my options open.
Thanks for the chat, Paddy.
No worries, Simon!