What do footballers do (aside from playing competitive AFL, of course)?
While an AFL player’s main role is playing hotly contested footy, a lot of the players do work placements and study outside of the game. You have to have a career outside of footy and after the game, and while a lot of players wish to coach or take up a leadership role, others choose to take educational pathways.
"For the guys that don’t (want to coach)," Paul says, "the club helps them set up a career in either work placements or trades. So if you want to be a plumber, electrician or whatever, you can do that on your days off."
Paul was lucky to work before he got drafted so he has that career base behind him.
How did you become a footballer (before the draft)?
Like most footballers, Paul has passion and love for the game running through his veins. He started out playing footy as a kid (school footy) as well as playing for a local club. Once he was picked into squads, he was lucky to be drafted to the Hawthorn Football Club.
"Out of all the kids that try out I end up getting drafted to Hawthorn," Paul says. "And, obviously now I’m playing in a premiership side."
What do you like best about your job?
The best part of an AFL player’s job is undoubtedly the mateship, closeness and the sense of belonging that comes from being a part of a club. It comes down to the friends you make and the competitive spirit you share together.
"Spending times with your mates is probably the best thing," Paul says. "You make a lot of friends and a lot of people come through the club and we all become pretty close."
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Most people assume that physical training and playing football are the hardest and most strenuous parts of an AFL player’s job, but it’s the complete opposite. It’s actually more of an internal and mental commitment that takes the prize.
Laughing at the suggestion that media interviews are the hardest part of his job, Paul admits it’s actually the work ethic that pushes him as a player. "It all hangs on how hard you have to work to succeed. You only get out what you put in."
What does your typical day involve?
"We start about 8am with a bit of skills and running in the morning and then a weights session and sometimes a bit of swimming or boxing and after that we have meetings."
Paul admits that the pre-season is harder (in terms of training) than the regular home and away season. "Through the season," he says, "because you play games on a Friday or Saturday night you don’t have to train so hard, so probably mid-week is your hard sessions."
"They tend to get a bit lighter from there 'cause you’ve got to get ready to play, and that’s where the meetings kick in before a game because you’ve got to know opposition and work out all that game plan you want to do."
What skills do you need or feel are important as an AFL player?
In the fast-paced game of AFL skills including stamina, strength and endurance are obviously important, but the ability to stay cool in a tense situation and still play at a premium level is crucial.
"Everything you can do under pressure (is important)," Paul says, "because the game’s pretty quick. Now that everyone’s really strong and fast your decision-making right at that moment under pressure is pretty important."
How has the experience of playing in grand finals inspired and encouraged you as a player, and as a team?
Playing in a Grand Final is the goal, dream and desire of every AFL player. It’s the sport equivalent of an Academy Award or Gold Logie. For Paul and the rest of his team, the grand final successes they have shared are an accomplishment, but it’s fair to say that it has both motivated and encouraged them to continue their dominance in this year’s game.
"Now that I've got that experience of what it’s like to be playing in and winning a grand final I have the feeling that I’ve accomplished that, I can sit back and really enjoy my footy. Just play, because I don’t have to worry about the anxiety of playing in a Grand Final. Now I’m just trying to really enjoy my footy and play at the highest level, and every day just pinching myself that I’m doing it."
What do you plan on doing after you finish playing footy?
Every player needs to have a life after football. Something that they can fall back on if their playing career doesn’t pan out as expected. Paul already has a construction background behind him, so life after football isn’t necessarily a great concern for him.
"I’m actually working at the moment as a multicultural ambassador with the AFL, so that may continue. I’ve worked with a bit of construction before, but I might try something different after that."
What advice do you have for those looking at taking up a career in football?
"It’s never too late! I got picked up a lot later. Most kids give up at 18 because they feel they’ve missed the boat, but that’s not always the case. You only get out what you put in. That’s the way I look at it. If you’re working really hard I guess it will pay off in the end."
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).