“I’m just a hack with a medal.”

29th November 2016

Written by: Brynn O'Connor

Brynn O’Connor sat down with Western Bulldogs premiership ruckman Jordan Roughead, to talk about the grand final and life outside of football.

Nothing defines an AFL player’s career more than winning a premiership.

Less than a month ago, Jordan Roughead was living out every boyhood dream of standing in the middle of the MCG, holding the premiership cup aloft in front of 100,000 screaming fans.

Being apart of a team that broke a well publicised 62-year premiership drought, you’d be forgiven to think that rock star status is only a formality with such an unprecedented achievement.

However, as Roughead walks into a Richmond café on Church Street, his appearance barely manages to raise a single eyebrow.

Sporting a flannelette top, denim jeans to match and a knockabout look, its abundantly clear that no one knows who he is.

This doesn’t bother Roughead though, as he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“To be honest I don’t get recognised a lot which I like, because I’d hate to be like a Dane Swan or Dustin Martin who can’t even walk down the street without getting recognised,” Roughead said.

Reflecting on his past month, Roughead still hasn’t quite grasped the magnitude of what he has achieved.

“I honestly haven’t. I don’t know if this is the same for everyone that wins a premiership but I just didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to say, I was just in shock.”

“I don’t think any other footy experience will match that, because I’ve been a doggies supporter since I was a kid.”

“So then to be apart of something that goes down in the history books is really special.”

“It’ll be interesting to see when it sinks in.”

Growing up, Roughead attended Damascus College in Ballarat, and only started playing football after his parents reluctantly gave him a chance.

“I didn’t play footy as a kid because I wasn’t allowed to play until I was ten, my parents sort of said no contact sport until you’re a bit older.”

“So I wasn’t interested in footy until I was ten, but I played everything else.”

“I played baseball, soccer, and literally every sport there is. But then my mates at Damascus College wanted me to come along and have a kick at Lake Wendouree footy club.”

“It’s funny because I got knocked out in the second game I ever played. Mum wasn’t there but dad was, so yeah it wasn’t a great introduction to footy that’s for sure.”

Although they were initially tentative of his football ambitions, Roughead credits his parents’ pivotal role in the development of his sporting career.

“Dad used to drive me to basketball every Friday night in Melbourne, which was in Dandenong, which is a big drive from Ballarat.”

“We’d get home at midnight or one o’clock in the morning and then he’d wake me up at six the next morning to get me to cricket on time.”

“So my parents were incredible in the way that their lives didn’t necessarily revolve around my brother or I playing sport or doing what we wanted to do, but it was a big commitment, so they were pretty instrumental in getting me to where I am.”

After playing local football in Ballarat, Roughead’s first big break came when he was invited to trial for the North Ballarat Rebels TAC Cup team.

“I think I only got an invitation because I was tall and athletic.”

“I remember being towelled up by players such as Matt Kreuzer. I was enjoying it but I remember (my time in the TAC cup) as a 16-year-old kid that was out there having fun.

However, playing football for fun suddenly turned into a possible career, when Roughead was sat down and told he had the potential to get drafted into the AFL.

“I sat down with Chris Maple, who was the Rebels coach at the time and Phil Partington who was the regional manager.”

“They sort of said, you’ve got to make a choice between basketball and footy because if you commit to it, we think you’re a chance to get drafted.”

After a solid performance in the 2008 under 18s state championships for Victoria Country, Roughead was selected with pick 31 in 2008 national draft.

However, Roughead was oblivious to the news, thanks to his end of school celebrations.

“I had no communication with the Bulldogs prior to the draft and they actually tried to contact me when I was on schoolies and I didn’t check the voice mail until after the draft.”

Outside of football, Roughead dedicates his time to working as a mentor with Ladder, a charity which focusses on providing support for homeless youth.

“I’ve been a mentor there for four years and I work with three young guys who are at risk of homelessness.”

“The thing I love about it is that just about everybody in these kids’ lives is paid to be there. Whether it’s the people that work for Ladder, their case managers or whoever it is, often they don’t speak with their families or have any relationships with them.”

“So you’re the only person that wants to be there, because you want to be there. So they really respect that, and they really open up to you.”

https://twitter.com/WLudbey/status/782239260485181440?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Roughead remembers a particular moment that made him realise that working with youth homelessness was something he wanted to do.

“We went to a bridge in North Melbourne where a group of homeless people stayed and we were taking food down to them.”

“One of the guys just came up and was chatting to us for a couple of minutes, telling us a bit about his story and then he showed us his wrists and he had slit both of them.”

“They were stitched up so it had only been recent, but that was pretty confronting as an 18-year-old kid to see that.”

Apart from his life as a professional footballer, Roughead has one eye on life after football.

Currently he is completing his Bachelor of Commerce at RMIT, knowing that his career can be cut short at any moment.

“I’ve always planned for the future because I’ve had a few injuries myself and I’ve seen team mates suffer some pretty horrific injuries that have ended their careers.”

“But whether or not I stay in footy, I don’t know yet. Whether or not I stay working with Ladder to try and build the profile of Ladder and help more kids and people get off the street, maybe that’s something I want to do.”

“Hopefully I’ve got a little bit of time to find out.”

Brynn O’Connor is a first year Bachelor of Media and Communications student majoring in sports journalism. You can follow him on Twitter at: @brynno97