Twenty-two Jack Watts articles were published in the last year. Most will cover a brief run of form at former club Melbourne and his eventual trade to Port Adelaide. Some articles are behind a paywall. Some are about swim shorts. I have read all of them.
This makes me an expert on Jack Watts Media. I don’t know how I feel about this. But I am the best person to advise you on how to write your next Jack Watts article.
The Watts story is a narrative in three movements- his pedigree as the number 1 pick at the 2008 draft, the disappointment of his AFL career thus far (2010-2017) and speculation over his nebulous future (2018-TBA). These are the three ghosts of Jack Watts Christmas, and the shape of the every Jack Watts story we tell and consume.
Firstly, you’ll need words. Let’s feed these twenty-two articles into a word cloud. Proper nouns and common football terms have been removed, which leaves us with this distilled collection. (We will use this to reverse-engineer the classic Jack Watts narrative.)
The Ghost of Jack Watts Past (2008-2009)
‘pick’ + ‘draft’ + ‘best’ + ’elite’ + ‘kick’ + ‘forward’
With sticky hands, electric pace and a dead-eye for goal, Watts was the stellar underage talent who was supposed to save a football club. The underaged Watts was promising, but hyperbole is key. There should not have been a better player than the Jack Watts you describe.
[In reality, this was an unfair burden for a lone draftee. Three number 1 picks and a Brownlow medallist made up the nucleus of the Ratten-era Carlton midfield and collectively couldn’t save Carlton from mediocrity. Try not to employ this logic, common sense will derail your narrative.]
The Ghost of Jack Watts Present (2010-2017)
‘disappointing’ + ‘expected’ + ‘failed’ + ‘frustrating’ + ’pressure’
It would be easier to accept if Watts was a total and complete bust. But the Ghost of Watts Present is a portrait of inconsistency, the worst of all footballing sins. This has a basis in truth. Watts would show flashes of the player he was touted to be, before disappearing into lethargic spells in the VFL. If his deficiencies weren’t physical, they were thought to be mental. Try and speculate on this.
Profiles of the ‘player-at home’ should take a circuitous approach. Mention that he is a good table-tennis player. Or his swimsuit company Skwosh. (Their shorts have illustrated fruit on them.) These aren’t necessarily the tentpoles for a dynamic story, but we are preoccupied with the bones of another tale.
[Also ‘finals’ gets eighteen mentions, mainly to allude to the fact that both Watts and Melbourne have made none. Definitely, bring that up.]
The Ghost of Jack Watts Future (2018 – TBA)
‘career’ + ‘decision’ + ‘improve’ + ‘opportunities’ + ‘win’
The recruiting experience is found between extremes of investment and return. It dreads the high draft pick gone bust and covets the op-shop diamond. At the present time, Jack Watts will oddly occupy the intellectual space of both. You can go either way on this.
Maybe we can recalibrate the expectation of a top draft pick, not as the best player in a good team, but as a useful contributor in a successful one. Watts’ accurate kicking will have value as a link across the half-forward line, his inconsistency less obvious as a third option.
[Take Tom Boyd, a similarly maligned former top pick. His near-identical story of redemption has ended with his part in a premiership flag. All prospective Tom Boyd stories are now void. All stories start with the draft and end with a flag. This is how AFL writing works. I don’t make the rules.]
You may notice that there will be a problem with your story. It is the same problem with every Jack Watts story- none of them are about Jack Watts. How does he feel about football? How does he contend with performance and expectation? How has that changed over time? We don’t know and may have never asked.
But your story is about something else. It is about how we overvalue top draft picks and our inability to recalibrate our projections for players over time. It is about our comfort writing stories we predetermined a decade ago. Your story may not have been good, but it was consistent.