Ryan Waight - My Redan Story
Tell us about your earliest footy memories and highlights of your junior career.
There is not a great deal to tell about my junior career to be honest. I only played football for 3-4 years as a junior between the age of 12-15 as I was more focused on my tennis throughout my teenage years. I did play in a couple of junior premierships with North Ballarat and my memory of those times is quite vague.
As a teenager I was extremely short, always in the bottom two or three in my class, which in a strange way probably helped my football years later. I felt like I was playing against giants most weeks as a junior player and I had to learn to adjust, so when I returned to play football at Redan as a 17 year old and had grown a little, I had more confidence to back myself on the field.
Those years ‘off’ football in my mid teens reinforced what a great game football was due to the team environment and camaraderie. I really enjoyed my time in tennis but it can be a selfish and all consuming sport at times.
What or who was it that convinced you to join Redan in 2003 and what were your initial impressions of the club?
I hadn’t played football for over three years to due to concentrating of my tennis as I mentioned above but was keen to get back into football as I was missing the ‘team’ aspect of sport. At the time I think North Ballarat U/18’s were either in the Bendigo League or aligned with Daylesford and I wasn’t keen on either of those two options.
It was Phil Knowles who was the U/18 coach who said to come and have a kick with Redan. My first impressions of the club built mainly off the back of Phil. He loved his footy and he was a competitor and passionate.
Once the season started I built a great respect for the senior guys, especially the likes of Mark Kennedy, Jayden Reid, Matt Walsh, Andrew Jones and ‘Sammy’ Ellis. A lot of those guys become great mates and premiership teammates. The senior guys went onto win the flag that year and I remember watching that day thinking, ‘geez I’d love to do that one day’…
What do you remember of your first senior game in 2004 and tell us what it was like playing under Kieran Murrihy?
I got the call up from the U/18’s to play my first senior game against Darley in Darley. I remember Mark Kennedy saying to me before the game, ‘Enjoy it and don’t give them a reason to drop you…’. I’ve used this line with plenty of younger guys in their first game over the years.
The game itself I remember it being fast and physical, a big step up from U/18 level. We had a good win and I think I kicked a couple of goals but definitely didn’t set the world on fire. I didn’t get dropped for the next week so ‘Kenno’ would have been happy.
Kieran Murrihy… ‘Muzz’ and I had a love/hate relationship in the early days. He was really tough on me but he saw something in me that maybe I didn’t see in myself. He demanded a lot from me, and all of the younger guys. I’ll be lying if I said I didn’t have days where I thought, ‘what do I have to do to please this guy?’
However, I can honestly say that if I had has a less of a coach I wouldn’t have pushed myself as hard to improve. Muzz and I are now great mates, he MC’d my wedding and he is also a great mentor of mine who I lean on a lot to this very day.
Describe yourself as a player?
I’m sure everyone’s internal perception of themselves as a player is different to the external perceptions. All I can really say is I feel I have always worked hard, prepared well and squeezed as much out of my ability as possible, which in turn has created some setbacks and triumphs along the way.
Season 2006 saw East Point finish atop the ladder with only one loss and a massive percentage. How confident were you that Redan could stop the Dan Jordan led juggernaut going into that finals series?
2006 was the most enjoyable year of football of my career. Great mates, great team, great coach and an inner belief that we could go all the way. We would run into the East Point guys at the pub early in that year and to put it simply, they were pretty confident and content with how they were travelling.
We had recruited both Julian Field and Jarrod Edwards from North Ballarat, and with our younger guys a year better after battling hard in 2005. Muzz kept us on edge throughout the latter part of the year leading into finals continually reiterating, “footy owes you nothing”.
East Point were a great side with obviously some great players lead by DJ. The starting midfields for both teams were as strong as any in country football at the time.
Redan – Field, Edwards & Peace/Dwyer.
East Point – B. Jordan, Hutchinson & Banwell/Faull.
We had four encounters throughout that 2006 season with East Point and we came out on top on three of those occasions. They were a great side however I truly believe we deserved the premiership that year.
What are your memories of the game itself and the role you had that day?
As with most games that are over five plus years ago, the memory of that day was a bit of a blur. It was an arm wrestle for the first three quarters before we ran away with it in the last. Fieldy had a great game in the midfield, so did Peacy, and I believe that went a long way in us getting on top later in the game.
My role that day was to start across half back and try to intercept in front Dan Jordan and other forwards if I could. I remember Shane Snibson jumped in front of DJ early in the game and ended up with a fractured sternum, which always puts a seed of doubt in the back of your mind as an intercepting defender. Snibbo courageously played on. Other than that like everyone else that day, my role was to play as well as I could to help the team ultimately win.
You took a couple of big marks late in the game and kicked two crucial goals, how often had you done this prior and what do you think is the key to a mid-size player playing tall?
I had been floating forward for short periods later in that year with some success, so there was always the possibility of going forward depending on the situation of the game. Muzz mentioned to me at three quarter time that I was going forward and I had this deep desire back then to not let him down. I think that feeling all stemmed from him challenging and supporting me in the early days. As I mentioned above, our midfielders got on top that gave us forwards plenty of opportunities in that last quarter. I managed to get on the end of a couple, as did Ryan Knowles and Derrick Micallef by memory.
I’ve always felt there are three key points to playing tall in a marking contest when you are on the smaller side in terms of stature.
The first is to mentally take height out of the equation all together. As soon as you say to yourself, ‘this guy is too tall for me’, you’ve already lost the contest’. You have to back yourself, regardless of height.
Secondly, I’ve always felt reading the flight of the ball in the air early was crucial. One of my strengths when I was playing tennis was anticipating early where the ball was going, and potentially that flowed over into my football.
Thirdly, and this relates to the second point, is to get in the best body position as early as possible in terms of your opponent and the area the ball will drop.
That season you made the All Australian Country side, tell us about the honour and do you know how many other Redan players have been selected over the years?
The whole of 2006 in terms of rep football was a bit surreal to be honest. I was in my second year of senior football and to be picked in the Ballarat inter-league side was a huge honour and privilege. Then to be picked for the Vic Country side to play on the Gold Coast later in the year was extremely humbling. And to make that whole experience even more humbling, my childhood hero Leigh Colbert was coaching the side.
I remember feeling almost guilty flying to the Gold Coast with the side thinking, ‘I am not sure I am good enough to be in this team?’ That night Colby came up to me, looked me in the eye and said, ‘Waighty, you’re going to dominate this weekend… I love the way you play’.
Similar to Keiran Murrihy the year before, Leigh saw something in me that maybe I didn’t see in myself. It gave me the confidence to go out, back myself and enjoy it. I had the support of Colby and my teammates to thank for such a great weekend where I was awarded the Rookie of the Carnival and All Australian selection.
The best of all though was that we beat ACT in the final during over time after Joe McLaren kicked an 80m torpedo on the siren to level the scores at the final siren. That weekend was an unbelievable experience and we definitely celebrated the win on the Gold Coast that night.
Jarrod Edwards was selected a few years later by memory and I remember reading Michael Smith made the side in the early 90’s. I’m sure there has been more but I haven’t really spent too much time on it.
You missed the 2007 defeat of Sunbury due to spending the season in the VFL but were part of the Brendan Peace led side which won the 2009 flag over East Point. What are your recollections of that win?
I remember getting a call from Peacy late in 2008 saying he was coaching the following year. I was absolutely wrapped and straight away I thought we could give it a shake again in 2009. Having Peacy appointed as coach at 24 years of age is a testament to the character of the guy.
We finished on top in 2009 but had a ‘shocker’ in the semi final and were defeated by East Point, which meant we had to play Lake Wendouree in the Prelim who were on the rise. I remember being as flat as I have ever been after a game in that loss to East Point in the semi.
Muzz had a quiet word to me a few days later and had a crack at me for playing selfish football. He was spot on. After turning it around and having a great, hard-fought win against Lakers in the prelim, I think we all somehow knew that we weren’t going to make the same mistakes against East Point in the Grand Final.
My memories of the 2009 Grand Final are bitter – sweet, mainly sweet but due to a heavy knock late in the 2nd quarter that bruised my kidney and cracked my hip, I had to spend the entire day in hospital. The great news was we were close to ten goals during that 2nd quarter so I could rest easy that the result wasn’t in doubt.
Before the game, we were as switched on as I can remember before any game. Everybody just had that look in their eye that’s hard to explain but we knew that we would be hard to beat that day. By the time quarter time rolled around it was seven goals to zero, and the game was all but over. The message at quarter time was not to relax and keep the concentration high.
I’d be lying if I said I felt truly part of that day, as I received my premiership medallion at 10pm that night once I was discharged from hospital. Upon reflection that was a little selfish but I was absolutely wrapped for Peacy and everyone involved in that 2009 year.
By far the most exciting of your three premierships was the 2011 cliff-hanger over Sunbury. Take us through that game and the last few minutes of that match.
That was just an incredible game to be a part of. I actually was in huge doubt to miss that Grand Final about ten days out with a hamstring injury. I kept that one pretty close to my chest though. Luckily Jake Bridges introduced me to a guy by the name of Mark McGrath who knows the way the body moves better than everyone else I’ve encountered.
I saw him probably 3-4 times in that last week and a half and it was the best I felt all year on Grand Final day. The boys did give me a bit a grief about the amount of stretching that I do but those stretches are all built off the back of what I learnt from Mark. I read a recent article from Luke Hodge and he wanted to thank the ‘mystery guy’ that extended his career. That ‘mystery guy’ was Mark McGrath.
The game itself against Sunbury was an arm wrestle all day. Jarrod Edwards and Ben Jordan went head-to-head in the middle all day. We had some wise heads come back into that team late in the season in Nick Bye, Julian Field and Sam Giblett. Even though we were three goals down at three-quarter time and close to four goals down half way through that last quarter, I always felt we were in the game.
Similar to the 2006 Grand Final I was asked to go forward later in the game to try and get a miss match in the air. I remember that last quarter being a bit surreal in the fact that having this feeling that we were going to win, even though we were down for the bulk of the quarter.
Damien Horbury had a great last quarter, as he did in the first quarter two years earlier against East Point. Horbs has played some great football at important times throughout his career at Redan, and it was great to share our 150th games together this year.
We managed to kick four goals late in the last quarter to put us up by two points with a few minutes to play. I must admit those last few minutes felt like an eternity as it was played predominantly in Sunbury’s forward 50.
I actually didn’t hear the siren, but knew something must have happened when all the Redan supporters starting running onto the field, similar to a scene from ‘Braveheart’. Those next ten minutes after the siren were the best ten minutes of my football career. To share the captaincy with Matt Hyden in a premiership that year was a special moment as well.
What are some of the other memorable wins that stick out during your time with Redan?
There are probably three games outside of Grand Final wins that come to mind. The first being the 2009 Preliminary Final against Lake Wendouree, which I touched on earlier. The second was the after the siren win against East Point in the 2006 Qualifying Final.
We were always going to play East Point in the ‘big dance’ that year. This game was just deciding who got their first. I don’t remember too much of the game to be honest other than Steve Nicholson kicking a ‘floater’ through after the final siren to put us in the box seat to make the Grand Final.
And the 3rd was a little known game throughout the 2006 season against Darley at the City Oval. I refer to it as the ‘Release the Hounds’ game. Darley were on the charge having won six or seven games in a row and we had a lot of senior players out that day due to injury. It was going to be tough to get over the more mature Darley.
Muzz was a great tactician on how to pick sides apart, but his main message this day was ‘Release the Hounds’. I’m not a fan of the TV show ‘The Simspons’ but apparently it’s a reference from Mr. Burns on the show. ‘Release the Hounds’ was a message to us young players to just go play football and back ourselves.
We ended up winning that game by 15 goals, and although it’s not talked about often, I feel that game was crucial in giving the younger players that year (Brendan Peace, Matt Dwyer, Matthew Pitt, Brett Dickenson, Derick Micallef and myself) the confidence and belief to back ourselves in big games later in the year.
What are your thoughts on the more recent run of preliminary final losses what they taught the playing group?
Disappointing. Redan was known as finals specialists for a long time and now that has been spun on its head. I’ve personally been disappointed that I haven’t been able to have the same level of impact in finals.
The mentality from 2011 and prior was ‘the only option is to win’. Even when we were four goals down half way through the last quarter in the 2011 Grand Final against Sunbury, I remember thinking, ‘we have to find a way to win this’.
I’m not sure the same level of attachment to the outcome has been there over the past few years. I think we have lost our ‘edge’ and I put my hand up here as well, and even if it’s a 5% drop, that’s the difference between losing finals and winning premierships.
Redan still has great people involved in the club and I look forward to looking on as hopefully the next wave of premiership players develop over the coming years.
Tell us about some of your experience playing representative football and the main highlights?
I always saw playing representative football as a privilege, and was lucky enough to get exposed to it from a young age when I was picked to play for Ballarat team in 2006 at the age of 20. I remember that Division 1 carnival (which they no longer play unfortunately) up in Albury as my first taste at rep footy and really enjoying the experience.
That almost set the scene for my great respect and enjoyment when playing representative football.
There are probably three highlights that sit above the others when it comes to rep football. Playing twice for Vic Country throughout my career are experiences that I will never forget. The first in 2006 on the Gold Coast playing under Leigh Colbert, and the second in 2013 at the Junction Oval under Peter Knights.
The other highlight that comes to mind was the 2010 interleague game against the Geelong Football League at the Eastern Oval. We were massive underdogs that day against the star-studded line up of Geelong. With Kieran Murrihy coaching that year, it was the best a Ballarat team has gelled in my interleague exposure.
We were well drilled and all had a specific role to play, and we cared about the result, which in my opinion is half the battle with a representative side. Some people are just happy to be picked and be able to wear the uniform and get the handshake from their friends and family.
We kicked the first eight goals that day to eventually hold off a fast finishing Geelong. It was a great day for the Ballarat Football League. To make that day even sweeter was that Redan had 7 representatives, Jarrod Edwards, Matthew Pitt, Brendan Peace, Isaac Smith, Sam Giblett, Ryan Knowles and myself.
Tell us about your time playing with North Ballarat in the VFL?
Being exposed to a sub elite environment playing next to and against AFL listed players was a fantastic experience, but if I could sum up those two years in one word at VFL level it would be ‘frustrating’.
I did play some senior football but struggled with injury across both years. I had never missed a game of football until my VFL years and I think I missed more than I played over those two years, however I learnt a lot about myself in those two years.
I think I slightly lost my way in those couple of years as it was the first time I faced ongoing adversity with football and I also didn’t feel I ‘belonged’. I couldn’t impact at VFL level due to injuries, and I felt a level of guilt for leaving Redan.
I’ve still got some great mates from those North Ballarat days and was wrapped to see those guys go on to win three consecutive VFL premierships. Even though things didn’t pan out the way I hoped at North Ballarat, I look back on those two years as a learning experience that I wouldn’t of had, had I never left Redan.
What can you tell us about Brendan Peace and Eammon Gill as your two most recent senior coaches?
Highly respect both for different reasons.
The way Peacy changed his game after becoming coach is something I hugely admire. It was for the benefit of the team but probably to the detriment of his own performance to the external eye. He became a hard-nosed, inside, tackling machine after he became coach as he knew he had to set the standard.
A lot of young guys at the club don’t know Peacy the player from 2004 – 06, but his ability to find the footy, break away from packs and do the freakish was a pleasure to watch, however I equally admired the way he went about it from 2009 onwards.
When doctors told Gilly he could never play football again in his early 20’s, I know he went through a tough time, however the way he has harnessed that disappointment and energy towards his coaching has been a credit to him.
His attention to detail and the amount of extra time he puts into his coaching and football knowledge is almost unparalleled at country level. We didn’t always agree on everything when it came to football, but I believe he has a big coaching future in front of him.
I’m lucky to call both these guys mates and who knows maybe our three sons - Lenny Gill, Harry Peace and Jimmy Waight can pull the Redan jumper on together at some stage down the track.
Who are the top five players you have played alongside with at Redan and your toughest opponent?
There are the obvious players that have been mentioned in quite of these interviews, Field, Peace, Edwards, Dwyer, and not to sell those guys short because they were great players and I loved playing along side of them, but I believe the unsung heroes are just as important.
Maybe I’m biased because he’s a great mate but I love the Geoff Smith story. He missed the 2006 reserves Grand Final team because he wasn’t in their best 22, however became a Redan senior premiership player just three years later in 2009.
Smithy’s story is a great one for any young player looking to break into the senior side. I loved playing next to Sam Giblett - a tough, reliable and no-nonsense defender that always got the job done. Joel Matthews and Adrian Meyer deserve a lot of credit for our 2011 premiership. They did the small things that not many people would be aware of, but it allowed others to play with more freedom. There are many more and these type of people and players are the ones who create success on and off the field.
Toughest opponent? I’ve played with and against many great players and competitors from Steve Clifton to Dan Jordan, however without sounding too clichéd I think everyone’s toughest opponent is almost always themselves.
It’s so easy to find excuses and let yourself off the hook after a poor game or year, and find justification in that performance - the could have’s, should have’s and would have’s. Everyone who has played football in Ballarat knows at some stage the challenges of staying motivated throughout the colder months.
Then there is the internal battle when you encounter injury in your latter years. Football is an extremely challenging sport, but that’s also what makes it great and what makes the team success so great as well.
Tell us about your business interests and some of the famous people you have interviewed in the past year with your podcasts?
As you can no doubt tell from my answers above the mental and psychological side of sport (and life in general) has always intrigued me, and how that impacts performance. The podcast called The Mindset Project is a chance for me to interview individuals from all walks of life and tap into ‘why they do what they do’.
I’ve interviewed cancer survivors, AFL Payers (including ex-Redan Isaac Smith), Olympians/Paralympians, gambling addicts, CEO’s and wellbeing experts.
Probably the episode that had the most profound impact on me was the episode with Trevor Hendy (ex Australian Iron Man Champion). I assumed we were just going to unpack his successful sporting career but the path this conversation took is something that will stay with me for sometime. Without giving it away (or boring you), if you’re one of those people that continually link your performance with your wellbeing (Ballarat footballers are a classic candidate) then I strongly suggest having listening to Trevor Hendy. He’s a fascinating and well rounded guy.
You have had a lot to do with Steve Moneghetti over the years. How has that association helped you with your football and professional careers?
Steve has been a fantastic mate and mentor for me over the years. I’m sure it was his celebrity factor that drew me to him initially, but now I don’t see him in that light at all. To me, Mona is just the wise bloke with four kids down the road who I can call a mate and catch up with over a coffee.
As a youngster I was void of a strong male role model figure and I lean of Mona quite a bit when challenges arise. But it’s not just Mona; Kieran Murrihy has been great as well as I mentioned above. Leigh Colbert has been that guy at times.
Without sport, without football and without the Redan FC, I don’t believe I would have had the same opportunities to be surrounded by positive role models. That’s why I always encourage young people to be involved with a sporting club, but also be aware which wing you land under when you get there.
What advice do you have for the junior footballers starting out their careers at Redan?
Redan is such a great club and built off the back of great people, not pay cheques. It can be very easy to be seduced by the money floating around, especially when you are in your late teens or early twenties.
I have always been a big believer that you build a career off what you do not what you get paid. With the salary cap recently being introduced this may not be quite a relevant as it once was. I’ve seen many promising younger players leave for money at a lower league just when I thought they were to take the next step.
I believe another important point for young footballers is for them to take ownership of their own training. You can’t get ‘fit’ just by going to training twice a week. You see the younger players that improve out of sight are the ones who train five to six times a week, especially throughout the pre-season period.
I think another important point for younger players to be aware of, but rarely gets talked about is the relationship between a player and a club. It’s no different to any other relationship in the sense that there will be some rocky periods and you wont always see eye to eye. Being able to stay committed, selfless and motivated throughout those periods will be extremely important to your enjoyment and legacy in football.
But most of all enjoy your football. Football is a hard enough game, let alone if you are not enjoying it.