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Chris Dawes' new reality

Chris Dawes doesn’t feel like he’s played overly well since he has been back, and yet people have kept telling him he’s been in good form.

Chris Dawes doesn’t feel like he’s played overly well since he has been back, and yet people have kept telling him he’s been in good form. Photo: Getty Images

Chris Dawes was away overseas when it came time to decide on  a new club. Four things about Melbourne had appealed to him, from when it became clear he needed a new club. Number one? He liked the look of the list. Number two? He knew Mark Neeld from Collingwood, and thought it would be good to again work with his old coach. The third reason was that moving there meant shifting just a few hundred metres down Swan Street, and the fourth reason was Mitch Clark.

“It’s funny how things turn out. I met with a few clubs before going overseas, and when I saw Melbourne I met the coach, the chief executive and an assistant coach at the vice-president’s house. And all four of them were gone by the end of the next season,” Dawes said. “But Mitch was probably the biggest reason of all I came here, he was a seriously good player in his first year here and I remember thinking we could work together quite well. As it turned out I don’t think we ever trained in the same training session together, let alone played in the same side.”

There are other reasons the reality has not quite matched the rationale. So far, that is: he has lost none of his hope in the list and, in fact, become more sure of its potential. Dawes had a knee reconstruction before Collingwood drafted him and played through his share of sore spots before leaving two years ago. But two days into his Melbourne career he tore a calf, and two minutes before the last game of the season he injured the other one. In between there was one hamstring strain, a second one, an injured ankle, another torn calf and a knee injury that needed surgery in the middle of the off-season and meant cancelling a do-it-yourself training camp in Arizona with Clark, who had quickly become a good friend and whose struggle with depression Dawes found difficult to watch.

“There were times he hid it really well, and it’s made me want to educate myself a lot more on mental illness, so I know how to identify the signs when people aren’t going well,” he said. “It’s hard to know what to do other than be there as a mate, really. Sometimes people will push you away, and sometimes they'll push you away but you shouldn’t let them push you away. It was hard to watch and my problems were nothing next to what Mitch was going doing through. My only problem was suddenly having to say things like ‘I’ve got to manage my body’, which I’d never really had to do before.”

Through it all, Dawes was sure he had made the right move. Despite all the losses he felt he was where he needed to be “and having a good time. I suppose I wasn’t worn down, as opposed to some of the guys who’d been through the same thing so many times before and had more of the emotional scarring that comes with that.” When he couldn’t play he thought a lot about how he wanted to play, and when soft tissue issues held him up again at the start of this season he knew why he needed to get back as soon as he could, and what he wanted to do when he was there.

Dawes doesn’t talk himself up, at all. He’s a “second forward”, a “support”. He’s “far from the most talented player around”. But watching the Demons start the year without him he saw them kick sideways and backwards, not confident to go forward.  He really, really wanted to get back out there, soo when he trained he made sure he trained well enough to not only go straight back into the senior side but to go in with some energy and aggression, to play with some real presence.

He doesn’t feel like he’s played overly well since he has been back, and yet people have kept telling him he’s been in good form. “There’s no way I’ve been at my best, but people keep saying ‘you’re in better form now’ and I think that’s because of some of the work I put in last year on my focus,” Dawes said. “Even though my body hasn’t been great I’ve gotten a lot better in the last 18 months at being aware of how I’m feeling and I’ve gone into games a lot better prepared mentally. I’ve put some real effort into that leading into games, even leading into training sessions and even though last year was a tough one for various reasons I felt like I improved as a footballer. I’m not sure how many observers would agree with that, but I was a lot more confident about what I was doing when the ball was in my area than I’d ever been, and that was mostly because of that mental preparation.

“I’ve gotten better at acknowledging things. If I’m nervous, I’m nervous. I’m better at saying ‘OK, I’m really nervous about this shot at goal’, then thinking ‘that doesn’t matter’ and shifting my focus onto what I really need to be thinking about. I didn’t have a great lead-in this year, but watching us play made me feel like I could make a difference, that if I was there I could help the guys, be a sort of reference point in the forward line more than anything. I was confident I could do that. Last year was frustrating, more than anything. And hard. Being at a new club, wanting to make a good impression, and I suppose being able to do the things I'd been brought here to do.

“Now I think I’ve realised that even if I’m not in great form I can still bring a bit to the forward line in terms of being a bigger body and hopefully getting the guys playing a bit more assertively. If I can do that and it can rub off on some of the other players then that would be really good, because body language is really important for us given where we’ve been. And I think it’s really started  to improve.”

Dawes knows what he wants to do when he’s done at the Demons. He’s getting married at the end of the season and wants to move to New York for a while once he’s retired. He is more than halfway through a law degree and he and Paige have already started their family: they have two pugs, Bert and Barney.

But he won’t be going anywhere for a while. “I’ll be doing well to get to 30 the way my body’s going, but I’ve got two years left on my contract and I reckon that’s when this group will be really coming together. Last year it was, ‘how are we ever going to play finals?’ and this year it feels more like ‘if we work as hard as we can and the list is managed well and we kept getting such good coaching, then there’s no reason we won’t get there.’

''Now it’s just a matter of knowing what we’re capable of and doing it more and more regularly so that it becomes the standard. And when it comes together, I just know I’m going to want to be part of that. I’ll be hanging on here for the premiership.”

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 19:20MCG
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 13:40MCG
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 16:35ANZ
BRI 74 vs COL 86 19:20G
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 19:20ES
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 13:10ES
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 18:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 13:45MCG
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 14:10SO
COL 63 vs ADE 90 16:35ES
GCF 76 vs STK 104 19:20MS
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 13:10SS
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 15:20MCG
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 19:50MCG
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 13:45MCG
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 14:10Adelaide Oval
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 16:35SCG
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 19:20ES
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 19:20G
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 13:10AS
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 15:20SS
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 11:10NZ
ESS 49 vs COL 69 14:40MCG
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 17:40SO
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 19:40Adelaide Oval
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 20:45Domain Stadium
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:10G
GEE vs NTH 15:20SS
WBU vs ADE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GEE 13:45MCG
SYD vs WBU 14:10SCG
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
NTH vs HAW 19:20ES
WCE vs GWS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs FRE 13:10MCG
STK vs ESS 15:20ES
ADE vs PTA 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 19:50MCG
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 13:45BA
WBU vs STK 14:10ES
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ADE 17:10MS
MEL vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs BRI 15:20ES
PTA vs WCE 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs STK 13:45Adelaide Oval
HAW vs MEL 14:10MCG
CAR vs GWS 16:35ES
SYD vs GEE 19:20ANZ
WCE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
RIC vs COL 15:20MCG
BRI vs PTA 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE vs CAR 19:50ES
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs WCE 13:45ES
GWS vs ADE 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs COL 16:35MS
HAW vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs NTH 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
PTA vs RIC 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
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Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 4 4 0 0 135.32 16
Adelaide Crows 3 3 0 0 171.27 12
GWS Giants 4 3 1 0 133.22 12
Collingwood 4 3 1 0 128.32 12
Sydney Swans 4 3 1 0 125.00 12
Hawthorn 4 2 2 0 141.36 8
Richmond 4 2 2 0 118.09 8
Essendon 4 2 2 0 97.01 8
View all
 
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