Scott Selwood managed to get the best out of himself across his 169-game career with West Coast and Geelong. The youngest member of the Selwood family reflects on his time in the game, the frustrating injury battle he encountered and looking forward to his new role as a development coach at Collingwood in 2020.
Ben Guthrie: ‘Scoot’, congratulations on a terrific career! Are you proud of what you achieved in your time in the AFL?
Scott Selwood: I’m probably proud that I got the best out of myself. The enjoyment came from trying to give back to my family and my friends who supported me the whole way through. Mum (Maree) and Dad (Bryce) were so important in terms of coming along to games and following all of my brothers’ careers. I just thank my lucky stars that I had a family that were really supportive and were always trying to make me better. I’m more thankful than anything else.
You had to move to the other side of the country as an 18-year-old when you were drafted by West Coast with pick No.22 in the 2007 Draft. Was that a daunting experience leaving your family behind in Victoria?
It was in the sense that I hadn’t finished school yet. My draft year was the last year you could get drafted bottom age, so going over to the west I had to do my VCE year by correspondence. West Coast gave me the option to stay at home for the year and finish off my schooling, but try telling a teenager that you’ve got the option of playing AFL football and instead focus on finishing your school year. Early on, the transition was something I coped with OK. Having my brother (Adam) over there made it a lot easier than what a lot of kids face. When you get drafted you’re just so excited to be part of the system and looking forward to where you want to get to. The challenge probably comes in the middle part of the year when you’re exhausted and you’re laying on the couch and your mates are enjoying their 18th birthdays back home. I managed to get home whenever I was allowed and that definitely helped.
Who helped you the most in terms of your development in your early years at the Eagles?
Matty Priddis lived near Luke (Shuey) and I and he was a great mentor for me. He let me do things my own way and let me play to my strengths, but at the same time he made me really disciplined in the areas that I needed help with. Having him to set the foundations of how I played was vital and also my brother Adam over there had a really big influence on how I went about it and my attitude with training and what I was doing on and off the field to get better.
Were you as professional to begin with as you should have been?
I was probably almost too far the other way. I was overdoing everything to the point where I was spending too much time at the club and I wasn’t finding enough balance. Learning how to relax and take time out and just making sure I wasn’t overdoing it all the time was a focus. (Eagles Assistant coach) Scotty Burns was really good for me in that area. After my first year I was pretty drained and exhausted from the experience so I just needed to enjoy my footy and being part of the AFL system, the successes along the way and playing with mates.
You won the best and fairest in 2012 and started to really solidify yourself as one of the best run-with players in the AFL. When did that level of confidence kick in?
I was in the last year of my contract the year I managed to win the best and fairest in 2012. I’d just come off back surgery, which I didn’t know was going to work or not and I was still a bit stiff and sore. I missed a lot of the pre-season, but missing that pre-season meant I had to take time out to slow down and see what else was out there to take my mind off footy. I was studying at the time and I was putting a bit more time into that, so that just gave me a bit more balance in my life. From there I was able to put things in place, which I could refer to throughout my career.
What was it like being part of the famous Selwood family and playing against Joel in your time at the Eagles?
Troy (former Brisbane player) and Adam were six years older than us so they used to dominate Joel and I when we were younger. As we got a little older we managed to fight back. The way Mum and Dad brought us up they were always urging us to strive to be our best. We found a work ethic and a competitiveness from the way they went about it. It was always tough playing on Joel. Joel was ruthless, completely ruthless. There were reports that he had a broken thumb going into one of the games we played on each other and I knew that I was going to him as a tagger. I like to think I’m a ruthless competitor, but I wasn’t going to take advantage of his injury and play the game on its merits. We got to the end of the game and he said to me, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t try to smash my hand in’.
Joel had such a fast start to his career and some success really early on. Did you feel any pressure to live up to the standards he was producing consistently as such a young player?
I did try to compare myself to Joel a bit. But I was a long way off where Joel was in terms of his development and I didn’t realise how far I was behind him at that point. He was more mature mentally and physically and I was still learning how the game worked. He rose up and won the Rising Star in his first year and then two years later he was competing for the Brownlow so he was in another echelon in terms of the player he wanted to be and how he wanted to develop.
Your final year at West Coast in 2015 was marred by injury, amid speculation around your contract and the possibility of you leaving as a restricted free agent. Was that a difficult year to navigate?
It was a tough situation because I didn’t know what I was going to do myself. The thing I found tough was the media speculation saying that you’re going to go home and you’re hearing those reports. You’re just sitting there trying to make up your own mind so I was overthinking that and trying to play through that disruption. I was also trying to play through injury and that had a bit of an impact on how I played.
You missed out on being selected for the Eagles’ Grand Final loss to Hawthorn. I imagine that would have been a pretty disappointing experience?
I felt like I was letting my teammates down with my performances that year because I was always playing hurt. I wasn’t having impact on games and Matty Priddis had to come back into the side after a hamstring injury and I was well aware of that. I was almost more daunted by the fact that I might have let the guys down on Grand Final day if I played really sore. That’s not the mentality you want to go into the Grand Final with, so to be thinking like that it was almost a relief not to be picked. To see the guys go down in the Grand Final like we did was really disappointing that you I couldn’t have my body right at the right time to try to help my team win.
By the end of that year you were joining Joel at Kardinia Park and moving to the Cats as a restricted free agent. Did you feel like you needed a fresh start?
At the end of my time at West Coast I was just so exhausted with my body, I didn’t really know what to do. A lot of people were telling me to slow down and not push through the injury too much, but it was a hard thing to do. I was vice-captain at the time and I was keen to put myself out there to help my team. In the end, I just pushed my body a little bit too much and I should have listened to the advice around me a little more. It was almost as though I was my own worst enemy and it just felt like I needed a bit of a freshen up and that was what my body was telling me.
It must have been difficult arriving at your new club off the back of ankle surgery and hardly being able to play in 2016!
When I went back, I knew it was going to take a lot of that year to get the ankle right. I had the coaching staff around me to allow me to take that time and I was trying to be patient with it even though it was tough because all I wanted to do was play for my new club. We had to go back and do the whole ankle reconstruction again so I knew it was going to take a fair bit of time to remould and strengthen up and get going again. My biggest issue was that I kept getting scar tissue and bone growths through the ankle. Technically it would heal and the scan looked good, but I’d just have a couple of little bone growths which was causing a lot of stress reactions in spots that you didn’t want stress reactions. I’ve had five surgeries on the same ankle now.
You managed to play 34 games in four seasons at Geelong. What was it like playing in the blue and white hoops?
The one I always wanted to do was play in that Easter Monday game against Hawthorn. But unfortunately my body never allowed me to be available or be in contention for selection in those rounds. I played in six finals at the Cats and I felt like I served a role but I always wanted to give a little more. We kept falling short in preliminary finals and that was probably the time I was ready to play in a Grand Final. At that point, I think I was good enough to be a premiership player if the opportunity presented itself but unfortunately we weren’t able to get to that position as a team. We always felt like a talented list and with each year that went by you knew we had less of a chance of making it.
This year your opportunities at senior level were limited. Were you realistic about your chances of playing on with the Cats in 2020?
Even though I couldn’t really make it back into the senior side I started playing to my strengths again and playing the way I wanted to play. This year was a disappointing one in terms of the impact I had at senior level, but I also knew that I’d have to play my very best footy to get back in the side and I still wasn’t playing at the level. I had some really good conversations with the guys down there. (VFL coach) Shane O’Bree, (assistant coach) Nigel Lappin, (midfield coach) Matty Knights, (head coach) Chris Scott and (football manager) Simon Lloyd were all really important in communicating to me about where I stood. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to that. You’re angry for five minutes, but once you wrap your head around that you’re able to get on with the job pretty quickly. My focus wasn’t on team selection each week, it was more about developing myself and helping the people around me.
Did you explore the option of playing on at another club or were you quite content to finish up this year?
I was really keen to play on, but at the same time I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing by my body and where I was at. I was trying to work out whether I could get back to playing my very, very best and helping a side out. When I looked at some of those sides that may be in that contending window a lot of them had similar players to me so I was realistic about where I was positioned. Speaking to my manager (Tom Petroro) at the end of the year, it was clear that those opportunities were going to run dry.
How did the development role with Collingwood come about? Are you confident going into the role?
I tried to do some things while I was playing footy to make sure that I was in a position, once my career had ended, that I was going to be an asset to a team or an organisation. Those conversations began towards the end of the year and once I had decided to not play on I caught up with (Magpies football manager) Geoff Walsh for a coffee and then things slowly went from there. I had a bit of a chat to the coaching staff as well, and then it was time to work out whether they wanted me or if I was keen to go to another club and I realised I was ready to jump at that opportunity. I’ve done the level two qualification of the Next Coach Program run by Dave Wheadon and Ron Watt. Instead of doing the level three coaching course, I finished my commerce degree. Now I’m doing an undergraduate degree in sports coaching at the University of Queensland. I feel like that course in particular has helped to develop my coaching methods and given me belief in the way I go about it.
What does the role with the Magpies involve?
At this stage I’ll be part of the development system working with the young guys and working with the forward group in particular. I’ve never been known to be a crafty forward, but it’s a pretty exciting opportunity. (Assistant coach) Brenton Sanderson and (Head of Academy) Tarkyn Lockyer will be the guys that I’m working with closely at AFL level. I’m looking forward to that and how I can help out the Collingwood system.
Who would you like to thank in terms of the influence they have had on your career?
Scotty Burns was really big early on for me at the Eagles, as well as (list manager) Brady Rawlings in the short time I had with him. Coming through the system I had Gavin Bell as development officer at West Coast and (coach) John Worsfold was huge for me in making me the player I turned out to be. At Geelong, it was Nigel Lappin, Shane O’Bree, Matty Knights and Scotty (Chris Scott). My family and friends, as well as my girlfriend Morgan, have also played a vital role in getting me to this point and I can’t thank them enough for their love and support.
Thanks for your time Scoot and well done on a fantastic career.