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Fremantle rookie defender Tobe Watson is flourishing in his first season for Peel Thunder under the guidance of a young defensive group at the club.
Averaging over 17 touches and nearly six marks a game while testing himself against some of the WAFL’s best forwards, the 21-year-old says he’s been learning fast from the likes of defenders Joel Hamling and Luke Ryan since joining the club last November.
“I try and pick up what I can from them,” he said.
The self-proclaimed late developer says that while his journey to an AFL club had taken its time, Watson always believed he had the ability to play at the top level.
Growing up playing football throughout his early years, he represented his home town of Donnybrook in the South West Football League, and it was there that his journey to Fremantle began.
“It always was the dream to go ahead and play football at the highest level,” he said.
Growing up in a loving and supporting family, Watson says the support he received from family and friends throughout his childhood was one of the main reasons why he was able to stick with the game.
“They were my biggest supporters, my Mum and Dad, my little brother and my little sister were always supporting me in whatever I wanted to do,” Watson said.
“They were always my number one supporters and always at every game that I played growing up and were always there to push me through.”
However, as a result of moving to Perth to continue his studies at Guildford Grammar, Watson left the SWFL to play with Swan Districts’ colts side when he was 16-years-old.
But instead of getting swallowed up by the new city, the new team, and the new league, Watson flourished, playing every game with the colts squad, averaging 19 touches and more than four marks and tackles a game that saw him earn the EJ McManus Award for the club’s Best and Fairest in his first year.
Watson credits his years of playing with the SWFL, for aiding in developing his game into what it is today.
“It was just really good to have that experience growing up in the country and I still have a lot of mates from down that way and I wouldn’t change my time playing down there at all,” Watson said.
During this time, Watson also had to deal with major changes outside of the game, as he settled into his studies at Guildford Grammar and spent time away from family, who had supported him every step of the way, for the first time in his life.
“Not living with your family, obviously, and leaving your friends at home and having to make new friends up here,” Watson said, in regards to the challenges he faced.
“It took a couple of months to adjust to, but once I adjusted and made new friends up here, you just kind of hang around the football guys and just do what they do.”
After an impressive year in the colts, during which time he settled nicely into life at Guildford Grammar with the help of now Fremantle teammate Griffin Logue, Watson began to force his way up the pecking order at Swan Districts over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, playing every game with the league side last year.
Despite having been around the game for his entire life, though, Watson believes it was during this time that he decided he wanted to go on with football, crediting the Swans for giving him the opportunities he had and for giving him the push he needed to realise his AFL dream.
“It took me until I was about 18 or 19 to really start to develop and grow and put on a bit of size and once I started playing some consistent league football at Swan Districts I started to think, you know, that next level could be something for me,” Watson said.
“That’s when I really started to dig down and started putting my head down and working really hard and I’m here today, so I’m really thankful that I did that.
“They’re really looking for me to put on a bit of size and be a good half-back, a really good half-back footballer at Peel level.
“Then if the chance comes up and the opportunity arises at the Fremantle Football Club in the AFL side… I just want to keep banging on the door, just keep playing consistent good footy and keep improving at Peel.”