Max Gawn says the fact that Melbourne stuck by him following two knee reconstructions was more than enough to sign a two year deal with the club.
The club announced on Tuesday that the 208 cm ruckman had locked in a new contract. Gawn said Melbourne had signed him up previously when he had a “shaky knee” and he was determined to repay the faith, because “I’m over the knees and now playing some good footy”.
“There are a few things you throw up during the signing process, like what’s the list going to look like, who are we going to try and get in free agency and who’s the coach going to be?” he told melbournefc.com.au.
“In the end, Melbourne has supported me through two knee reconstructions and a pretty bad hammy (hamstring) earlier in the year, and they’ve played me 10 times this year, so they didn’t have to do that.
“I was always going to sign with Melbourne and you could’ve waited to see if Neil Craig’s the coach, but in the end [staying loyal with Melbourne] swayed my decision.”
Gawn said his loyalty strengthened with the club when he was on the sidelines with his two knee reconstructions.
“I’ve had four coaches in four years, so I’m going on [average] one a year. I’ve had Bails (Dean Bailey), Todd [Viney], Neeldy (Mark Neeld) and now Craigy (Neil Craig),” he said.
“So why I was so happy to sign was because when I had my two knee recos, I became a supporter and I went to every game. I went to every single one – even the ones interstate I travelled and I did a few things over there. You become really involved in the club and a big supporter, and that helps with where I’m at now.
“I just want this club to get a lot better. I’m not embarrassed, but it’s not great being down near the bottom of the ladder. As a supporter of the club, you just want to see them rise.”
Gawn, who has played 10 of his 14 AFL matches this year, believes he has made inroads in his game during the past month.
“When I was playing up forward earlier in the year, I still wasn’t sure if I could make it in the first six games that I played this year,” he said.
“Now that I’ve come back, I think I held my own against [Bulldog ruckman] Will Minson for three quarters, and played well on the two [Sydney] premiership ruckman [Shane] Mumford and [Mike] Pyke.
“[Brisbane ruckman Matthew] Leuenberger got me a little bit around the ground on the weekend, but I thought I rucked all right against him, so I started to get a little inkling that I might make it, because these guys are among the best three or four ruckmen in the competition.
“If I get a pre-season under my belt, then maybe I can be challenging them.”
With regular ruckman Mark Jamar missing seven matches this year, including the past five, Gawn said it was interesting times to figure out Melbourne’s best ruck combination, given Jake Spencer and Jack Fitzpatrick have also progressed in recent times.
“It’s a confusing spot, with where our list is at,” he said.
“Early on in the year, when Mark [Jamar] was our best No. 1 ruckman, I was the better forward/ruckman at that time. With my height at 208 cm, you’d think that the No. 1 ruck role is where I play my best footy.
“It’s just handy that I could play forward early on, and I played those six games without being thrown into the deep end straight away.”
Although the ruck remains Gawn’s No. 1 position, he has enjoyed his stints up forward.
“I had a bit of a taste of it in the TAC Cup, when we had a few ruckmen at the [Sandringham] Dragons – [Richmond’s] Tyrone Vickery, [Hawthorn’s] Luke Lowden and [Bulldog] Tom Campbell – they’ve all been drafted,” he said.
“There was a lot of time up forward and I kicked a few goals as well, but at AFL and VFL level, I’d never really had a taste of it before. It was good to get a taste, and I’ve definitely got a lot to learn to get a career up forward.”
Gawn said he was able to draw perspective on the game by being involved in other activities. He said it also helped being based in Melbourne “because there’s plenty happening”.
“There are a lot of different things going on for me and my family knows nothing about football, so if you go back to my family, they don’t want to talk about it, because they’re Kiwis,” he said.
“I can get away from it when I’m here, and I can help other people get away from footy as well. The Bledisloe Cup is on this Saturday night and we’ll be talking about that.
“I found when I was injured last year I was able to do ‘Gawn in 60 Seconds’ [on DeeTV] and it was a bit of fun. It came out on Friday and Twitter had fun with it. It was a bit of a relief because it’s a pretty serious business, the AFL.”
Gawn, who is also studying PE teaching at Deakin, said that was an important focus away from the game.
“That’s another thing that takes my mind off footy, so that’s good,” he said.
“It’s a little bit hard part-time, because you want to be full-time and get involved in all of the uni stuff, but it’s good to get away from footy for one afternoon a week.
“There is one practical and one theory lesson a week. Mondays are usually pretty free, because it’s the day after the weekend and you usually get the arvo off from three o’clock, so I can always go in at four o’clock. The tutes I do when I can.”
As for being a cult figure at the club and growing among the competition, Gawn said that mantle was now being passed onto teammate Jack Fitzpatrick.
“I don’t think I’ve got it anymore, I think Fitzy has stolen it. We can share it,” he said.
“I’m not a big fan of the guys who use the clichés in the media. I don’t get much media myself, but I’ve just never been a fan of the guys that are like a robot answering back.
“In footy, you’ve got to have a bit of fun, because it’s a serious sport and I think the fans like it when you have a bit of fun as well.”