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The coach who unlocked Jobe's future

RAY Giles can remember Jobe Watson walking into his St Kilda gym at the end of 2005.

He was young, fresh-faced and had no idea what he was about to find out about himself.

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He was a 20-year-old, 13-game player with one year left on his contract. But he was one other thing, too: committed.

''He had that look of wonderment in his eyes, that sense of the unknown,'' the boxing trainer told The Age. ''He had a look that told me, I'm here and I'm prepared to take whatever's put in front of me.''

Watson wasn't always sure that he wanted to be an AFL footballer, to play the game his father Tim had played so well for so long. A private room set aside for the brand new Brownlow medallist straight after Monday night's count was filled with a wide cross-section of people: some teammates, some ex-teammates, a few coaches, his parents, his three sisters, and a bunch of old school friends. It was them a young Jobe had relied on, confided his mother Suzie, before he had realised it was possible to not simply be the son of Tim.

''He had times during his teenage years where he almost didn't want to be good, to be good at footy, because it would just bring more attention to him,'' she said. ''He wanted to float through, for a while, and not really be noticed by anyone. He felt much safer in the school environment than he did in the under-age footy environment. He felt very secure with his schoolmates, he liked being one of them.''


Of course, things have changed since then. Jobe is more extroverted than her husband, said Suzie, but the two share plenty of personality traits. Sometimes, she watches Jobe loping across the ground, shoulders heaving, and is reminded of her husband. Often she isn't sure which of them is speaking to her on the phone, so similar are their voices. Over time, she witnessed her son's growing sense of comfort, and confidence.

''I suppose it's just developed over the years, as a gradual thing,'' she said. ''I think Tim's always been very aware of that and he's never wanted to overshadow Jobe, he's wanted him to blossom and the footy club has been marvellous at allowing Jobe to be who he was without referring back to Tim all the time. But for Jobe, he was always the eldest at home so he was never intimidated around home, but he just needed to find his feet at the club. And he's never been one to push himself forward, so I think it just happened slowly.''

The time he spent with Giles helped, not only because it stripped him of several kilograms and sent him into his fourth preseason fitter than he had ever been. Before Jobe, the veteran trainer - ''you can say I'm somewhere between 50 and death'' - had worked with plenty of footballers and since then he has trained a lot more. Two years ago he helped Tom Rockliff become the midfielder few thought he could be; after his first session the Brisbane youngster needed to throw up before getting into his car, and could barely lift his hands to the steering wheel.

Training Jobe wasn't about destroying him physically or running him into the ground, said Giles. Instead it was about taking him to a place where he felt uncomfortable and exposed, mentally. Getting him to that edge meant that when he made it to similar points of exhaustion in games the feeling would not be foreign and he would know he had the strength to keep going longer than the player beside him.

''If you want to be different, you have to change. You have to commit, and change, and I need to sing the boy's praises because all I did was put a key in the door.

''All I did was open a door to a room he'd never been in, and he had to be prepared to go into the dark room and get out of his comfort zone,'' Giles said.

''When you do that, that's when you start training. That's the place you start to call home. Most men don't want to go in there but Jobe did, and this will follow him through life now. He'll be successful in whatever he does, because he has strength of mind and character.''