Chief AFL writer Mark Duffield goes head to head with Eagles vice-captain Beau Waters.
How would you describe yourself when you were drafted?
“I had quite a manic personality. I had really high highs and really low lows. I have always been extremely driven and wanted to succeed in what I was doing but I couldn’t find a balance and I guess that gets interpreted in different ways and for sportspeople sometimes perception is reality. I had to work out how I could find middle ground and common ground, not only for my sport but for me to find a bit of inner peace. That happened over time. I was surrounded by great people. I have had some outstanding people help me out in mentoring roles and friendships and surrogate families. One of the biggest things was my wife Hannah who has become a really good sounding board, a best friend and my number one companion.”
You missed almost two years with your arm injury. Was that a period when the maturing process was enhanced?
“It did. It really provokes introspection. You ask what you are all about and I not only did that but I have always been a firm believer that through times of injury or lay offs from playing in sport it gives you such a great opportunity to work on weaknesses and faults. People might see injury or time away as a hindrance but when you are up and going and playing your focus is on a week to week basis, just trying to improve. When you have an extended lay off like I did I could work on big areas, macro areas that I could hopefully make vast changes in. My body shape was one. The balance in life I have spoken about earlier, nutrition, I did a lot of work on my aerobic capacity. I would hope I have been a better player every time I have come back from an injury rather than being set back 12 months or 18 months.”
What was your background in South Australia?
It was pretty rough. I didn’t really know the old man. I grew up with a surrogate father, a step dad and then mum and my stepdad split up. I was quite transient, spent some time in Queensland and spent some time in Adelaide. It wasn’t a conventional upbringing but by no means was it hard in comparison to what a lot of young Australians go through. It was a different way to be brought up. I learned a lot growing up. I did masters in street smarts before I finished school and I saw some really interesting things.”
Where did you meet your wife Hannah?
“She is from New South Wales, Albury. We met in Melbourne, we live in Perth, married in Broome. We have got family spread all ll over the country. She has got some family in Queensland, some in New South Wales, her father is fly in fly out so it has been interesting. But we have got a little home here and we are forming our own little family in WA.”
Did your growing up and maturing coincide with West Coast’s after all the off-field issues a few years ago?
“I wouldn’t pit it like that but the level of accountability just got stepped up in all walks of life and sport and business. For us at West Coast winning games of football wasn’t enough. As a club we had to evolve and work out ways to facilitate growth in our players as well as facilitate wins and success on field. I was fortunately put into the leadership group in that period and when the club is adamant that was what we needed to do on and off field you are more than happy to participate.”
Was there a time when you realised you had become a leader at the club?
“I don’t think you ever genuinely feel like you are a leader. People often feel like they are intruding and I think everybody has an element of self doubt. The natural evolution of a player is that you are in the system longer and you play more and you acquire more habits that are perceived as good habits on and off the field. It was through that period in the third or fourth year that I started to think that the habits that I was portraying were positive habits and hopefully ones that set an example for the group. Whether that makes me a leader or not I am not sure.
You captained the club a couple of times last year when Darren wasn’t playing?
“A couple of times last year and when Darren had groin problems in 2010 I was fortunate enough to do that. Being a captain on game day, apart from tossing the coin, your role doesn’t change. That is one of the paramount changes for West Coast was the notion that leadership was only on match day. For us every player in our squad leads in someway shape or form Monday to Sunday and that is a really powerful thing within a club. The most important part about that is that its sustainable. It doesn’t matter whether it is me, Glassy, Scott or Adam Selwood or Murray Newman. At some point every player on our list has to show a form of leadership. The expectation that the entire list show leadership is something that has evolved in recent times.”
What about the idea that at some time you may be full time captain?
“Our club is so well rounded that I wouldn’t expect my role to change if I was captain. Therefore I can carry out everyday tasks and portray a belief system that I think is a good influence on the group. If it leads to something like that then that is what it is. If it doesn’t it is not going to change the way I behave as a footballer, husband and friend. For me it is not a big a thing as it might seem to others. We have seen leaders step down at other clubs over the last few years. Players find leadership a tough thing. The leadership at our club is self perpetuating. It is a well governed thing that everyone gets the opportunity to do. The workload is spread very evenly.”
You turn 27 this year. Is your best footy still in front of you?
“It is a hard question to answer because there is a lot of governing factors. I know our team’s best footy is in front of us and often playing in a good team helps the form and confidence of players. I can’t imagine myself not improving before I retire. I would hope that every year is going to be a better year. I am not sure how other people will see my form externally but internally I expect to be very clear on what my role is within the team and within the club and I would imagine that clarity will improve over time.
How would you describe yourself now?
Multi-facted would be one answer. I have a lot of interests. I love football, I love the people I am surrounded by. I enjoy study. I have got some great hobbies like fishing and cooking. I would like to see myself as well rounded.
You have always looked like a player John Worsfold would identify with. How is your relationship with him?
“I think we are unique in our own way, quite different in some respects. John is quite introverted and I am probably a little more extroverted. He captained the club for a long time and I have the utmost respect for him in so many ways. The AFL survery asked us who had the most influence on our career and I didn’t even have to think. Woosha was the person I put down having been in the AFL system for 10 years and had the same coach for the entire period.
The game evolved in a very definite direction and given that you were very much a collision player as a youngster that didn’t necessarily suit you. What changes did you have to make to fit the new football?
“I would be lying if I said I hadn’t evolved. I reckon every player in the AFL has had to change their game in someway shape or form. For me increasing my aerobic capacity was a big part of that to be seen as more than just bash and crash, a big body to a player that covers more ground, can play on players that are dangerous in the forward line and to try and use the ball. The resources that clubs have at their fingertips have enabled them to not only change players but change the way teams play within seasons. As a player, unless you want to be a victim of the attrition, you have to work out what is needed for that season, that game, that role. With that comes natural evolution.”
Have you always been a good reader of the game? You are a very good intercept backman.
“I have always played down back and that has one benefit. I was draftedas a backman and I am playing as a backman. A lot of players come in as midfielders and are asked to play forward pocket or back pocket. They have to adapt a lot quicker to a different style. When you are drafted as a backman – even when you are asked to slip forward you are pretty much still a backman just doing what every forward you played on did. What are the things that annoy you most as a defender? Okay I will just do that.”
When you had all of that time out did you every doubt that you would get back?
“To be honest I got quite philosophical about the elbows. I decided that the incident was out of my control and then the recurrence was out of my control so the only thing I really could control was what sort of shape I was in when I came back, how clear my mind was and I never really looked much further past one to two weeks in advance and with that the time actually went quite quickly because I had all of these small goals I had set to improve. I started running, I started building strength and before I knew it it was round one and we were playing against Brisbane. I never really had the chance to ask myself is this it because I had all of these small goals and objectives along the way. If I didn’t reach those it wasn’t a catastrophe it was just a one week proposition.”