We’re back to training now, but you were seen on Instagram throughout the break getting to work on some house renovations….

That’s right. I bought a pretty dilapidated place, and it needs a lot of work. Most of that will be done by builders eventually but there’s a lot of tasks I’ve been doing, 1) to keep my occupied, 2) to help me learn some new skills and 3) make it so there’s less for other people to do later on just while I’ve had some time. It’s been really enjoyable, to be honest. I built a step the other day; that was pretty fun. I’ve ripped up carpet, sanded, touched up, done all those things. I’ve worked an angle grinder and done a massive amount of landscaping, just ripping stuff up. Basically I’m hacking away at a house that needs a lot of hacking. And I’ve been spending a lot of time sending emails to council people or engineers, as well. There’s a lot of loopholes you have to jump through before you can get stuff done. That’s a side of the world I haven’t explored before, and it’s been interesting to see how that works.

How long have you had the place?

We settled in August last year then spent the first four months knocking things down, fixing roofs, trying to gut the house as much as possible. And then we got upstairs fully renovated, so that’s all done. We moved in around new year’s and have been waiting on the council for the last four of five months. That just came through the other day, so now we can start building. I wish I’d been able to get a bit more done but it’s been more about gutting the place, ripping stuff up, taking stuff away. All the sorts of manual labour that takes minimal skill. But I’m picking things up. It’s funny: if I put something on Instagram of me doing something interesting or something I haven’t done before, people seem to think I’m about to hurt myself. I guess I can’t blame them – as a lot of people tell me, I’m as private school as they come. But I always like to try first, and if I can’t do it I’ll get a professional in.

Phil Davis

Even for the painting?

I tried painting, but I was just so bad that I had to give up. I starting doing one ceiling of a 3 x 3 metre room, with a plan that I could paint all of upstairs or at least get a coat or two done in about a week and a half. And it took me close to five hours to do one ceiling because I was being so thorough, cutting in and doing all these things off YouTube. I was taking so long that it wasn’t even working. And I was spraying pain everywhere. It wasn’t good.

What else did you get up to in the break? Are you still studying, or are you all done?

I finished my commerce degree last year, got my piece of paper in October. I took some time off and started doing some work experience. I was going to angle in on that for a couple of years, but with Covid that’s going to be much harder to do, especially in the short term, so I’ve decided to start my MBA in June. That was something I’d been tossing up for a while; I must admit, when I said yes I probably thought that AFL wasn’t going to get back for a long while. So I’ve signed up and I’ll see how I go, hopefully I’m interested in that and can get that done fairly quickly. It’s a fine line between trying to do work experience to work out what exactly I want to do, and getting myself as educated as possible for that transition when it comes.

It must have been a huge relief to get your course done.

I must admit I was a bit worn out. It took me nine-and-a-half years to do my commerce degree which is a three-year degree with finance and accounting majors. By the end of that I was ready for a bit of a break from studying, but reflecting on it now, it suits the AFL lifestyle pretty well, studying, just with the little pockets of time you get and can use. You can slot things in here and there. It definitely had its challenges: you have to get your uni degree done in 10 years before the units start dropping off so I cut it close. If you just do one subject per semester you’re not going to get done in time, so you have to find creative ways to get through it, whether it be summer school, four-week intense programs, all those things. I’ve learnt that which is good, I’ll be able to pass that onto Jackson Hately and some of the other young people just to help them get through their degrees a bit easier than I got through mine. So yeah, it’s a huge relief and now it’s, OK, let’s get this MBA done and work out how much footy is left in the legs.

How did you cope with the shutdown, overall?

I actually loved it, I must admit. For me it was probably the first time in a long time that I haven’t had some form of burden hanging over me, whether it be a bad game, a game coming up on the weekend, or a 2km time trial, skinfolds etc. And everything that comes with study. I did all the work, did all the training that was set, and ate well and had a good lifestyle. There was nothing to really stress about, which I know makes me very lucky.  It’s amazing how when you take away the pressures you put on yourself, whether it be seeing people, doing stuff, all these things, how relaxed you feel. Once you take those way you live a simpler life and there’s an element of gratitude that comes about or kicks in when things get taken away.

 And now you’re back into it...

Yep, it’s come around quickly. And I’m ready for it. For all the good things that I’ve taken from the break, it’s good to be back and getting ready to play some footy again.