With former number one draft pick Jack Watts announcing his retirement on Thursday, Dermott Brereton has looked back on his AFL debut, saying he was “thrown to the wolves” by Melbourne.
Watts first took the field on Queen’s Birthday against Collingwood in Round 11 of 2009, finishing with eight disposals and one mark.
The game is remembered for the Magpies players’ targeting of an 18-year-old Watts physically and verbally, as Collingwood crushed the Demons by 66 points.
Brereton believes Melbourne trying to play Watts as a key forward and sending him out there underprepared against Collingwood on the big stage summed up their mismanagement of him.
“The first thing I think of is, he got drafted by a team that at that stage did not know what they had,” Brereton told SEN’s Bob and Andy.
“Not that anyone truly knows, but you should do all your due diligence and 10 years into his career we all worked out that Jack Watts was incapable of playing as a key forward in AFL football.
“That’s after we’d seen him for 10 years. What made the coaching staff and the football department at Melbourne think he was capable of playing as a key forward in his very first game as an 18-year-old that we couldn’t see in 10 years?
“It’s one of the great ‘thrown to the wolves’ stories I think I’ve seen in our time.
“What he was very good at was kicking the footy, moving around for a bloke that big, he had very good wheels and he had very good balance.
“We got word that Jack Watts’ first game when he played against Collingwood in front of that mega crowd, the Collingwood boy thereafter every game verbally got into him about that first game.
“Whether it’s true or not, the opposition believed that they scarred him mentally, so that tells you something about the ill-preparation.
“I mean, they trotted him out as almost a marketing tool. It was a horrible thing to do.”
Former Western Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy admits he always hoped Watts would succeed because of the hurdles throughout his career.
“Any time a player is maligned, and you see them pushing through that, I always barrack for that. I reckon that’s one of the great things in sport,” Murphy said.
“He just had that moment for Port a couple of years ago, it was at the MCG, they’d won a big game, he played really, really well and he gave this interview after the game and it was as close to that moment in the sun as I’d always wanted for him and you could see how much it meant to him.
“And then the next week his ankle breaks and that’s pretty much the last we have seen of him as a player. When I heard that news today I was just a bit bummed out.”
Watts hung up the boots with 174 games to his name for Melbourne and Port Adelaide.