GWS star reveals: Life during AFL lockdown
He's one of the AFL's unique characters and is known for his sense of humour.
So how is Greater Western Sydney defender Heath Shaw managing the AFL's shutdown and self-isolation?
He reveals what he's been up to, including a road trip back home to Melbourne with teammates Toby Greene, his Mad Monday week when the AFL season was first stopped, how he's kept motivated to train - or not train - and more.
1. Living arrangements
I originally lived with Jonny Patton and 'Cogs' (Stephen Coniglio) and then lived with Lachie Keeffe. His missus moved up this off-season, so I was pretty much on my own. Cogs moved in briefly but he's now with his girlfriend, so I'm absolutely on my own. I don't mind. It's good to have company, but it's also good to have your own space. I've got a small, single-fronted house in Surry Hills, a nice shoebox. I was in Melbourne as soon as everything broke. I drove to Melbourne with Toby Greene and stayed with a mate on St Kilda Road. The drive with Toby was good. We solved the problems of the world in those 10 hours - don't worry about that. We called a few people, listened to music, changed drivers, stopped off at Holbrook at the famous bakery, got ourselves a pie and bought a six-pack of beer. We had one beer each and drove home. I didn't want to be cooped up in my little house, so I thought it would be a good idea to go to Melbourne. Instead, I was in an apartment with my mate and then the restrictions got tighter when I got there. I couldn't even visit my family. I was there for a month.
Isolation is not good for a single bloke.
I definitely have a split personality when it comes to motivation. Jumping out of bed at 6.30am at 100 miles an hour, doing over and above what the training program has subscribed and having a strict diet and no drinking. The flip side is not setting the alarm, waking up when I feel like it, forcing a jog or any form of exercise, eating burgers, drinking wine and binge-watching Netflix 'til I fall asleep on the couch.
In week three all the players got together in our mentor groups and I think all the boys were in the same boat - week three was a bit of a downer. We were used to isolation but your motivation to go and train was probably at its lowest.
My burger of choice? There's Andrew's Burgers in Elwood Park, which was the hot spot, and there's a burger joint - and I will say this is the ultimate in laziness - which backs on to my street and yet I still get Uber Eats from them when it's deadset 50m walk from my house. It's called Bar Ume and my burger of choice is Chinese Fusion. I told you it was lazy.
I'm watching Netflix. I've watched series one and two of Gomorrah, which is a series based on the Napoli mafia. I've thrown in the Michael Jordan docos, the Lion King … I mean the Tiger one. I've also thrown in all the stock-standard ones like Seinfeld. Most nights, I either doze off on the couch or I'm in bed by 8pm.
ADHD and isolation are not a great combination. It's lucky I don't have a wife or girlfriend as I feel the relationship would've ended by the time all this is over. No footy means nobody to yell at, no long, boring meetings to complain about, no massages - and a lot of energy in the tank.
OCD is part of ADHD, which in isolation is good for house cleaning, spring cleaning and even arranging your wardrobe into categories and colour co-ordination. I'm very tidy and very clean. The fridge is stacked perfectly even in rows. I'm always vacuuming, always tidying. Everything is clean. I'm very particular, some of it's good, but I presume some of it would get full-on for others.
Two pre-seasons in one year is not good for anyone, especially 34-year-olds.
Like any off-season program we get, I have a quick look at it to see roughly what we are supposed to do, then I usually throw it in the bin and do my own thing anyway.
Mondays and Fridays involves low-level running and a kick. In Melbourne it was with Toby and up here it's with Cogs. We kick near the SCG. On Wednesdays, it's the same sort of thing but with a higher workload. They say Saturday is 'game day', so it's 10kms of running, a combination of sprints, a block of three to five minutes of running and repeat that three times with a few drills thrown in. To be honest, the club hasn't given me a program for the last two years because they know I'm not going to follow it. They're happy if I come back in reasonable shape, so they leave me be. Weights? Weights are not a fave of mine, so not high on the list at moment.
I meditate once a day and I'm trying to do it twice a day. I was very hesitant about it when it started. It was an idea floated by the club three years ago. With some encouragement from Leon Cameron ("you're doing it") and our meditation guru Gary Gorrow, who is a good friend now, a dedicated group of 10 players log on two days a week for one-hour meditation sessions. I also do two 20-minute sessions individually. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.
I went on a wellness retreat at the end of last season, after the Spring Carnival, for five nights. It was vegan, meditation, no coffee, no wine, no exercise, no phones, no lap tops, pretty much decompress everything.
Gary's all about living in the moment. I swear by it. I meditate 90 minutes out from a game to get me to relax. I drive to the ground, put down the bag, meditate for 20 minutes. If you lay down you fall asleep, so you sit up. I over-think at the best of times, so it helps me with the mental side of football.
Staying in touch with family without seeing them while in Melbourne was a bit weird, so FaceTime and phone calls have been a bit more prominent. The conversations go like this: Dad asks when we are coming back. Mum asks how I am and tells me how she worries about me. My brother asks me how he should coach. My sister asks if she can send her kids to me to be homeschooled.
I don't classify Rhyce as my best mate as he's my brother, but he is my best mate. I've got three other best mates, 'Dids' (Alan Didak) is one. I found this photo of Rhyce the other day. I was talking to a good mate and we were talking about the races, the Spring Carnival and how me and my brother and my mate might not be able to go this year. I found this photo on my phone of Rhyce and 'Shivo' sitting on a fake horse after a day at the races. I love the photo. And two years later he is coach of an AFL team. What a transition.
8. Horse racing
It's been a love of mine since I was a kid and very pleased it's one of the industries that has continued to function. I'm involved in a punters CLURB, yes it's called 'clurb' which is another funny story, with a few dedicated punters. I was with Kerrin McEvoy this week and he was so glad they are still going. He got suspended, so he's got the week off and we went for a run around Centennial Park. He's got four kids and he wanted to get out of the house. I always get the paper to see if there's any horses I know and I would flick on the races mostly Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I do enjoy a punt, I'm not going to lie.
My best bet in isolation? Last week I backed Kinane, a mate of mine's old man owns it. I got it at $15s, $13s, and $10s - I backed it a few times because he was confident and it jumped at $6.80. That was a good day.
I won't lie, week one of the season suspension was like Mad Monday-week for me and my mate who I stayed with in Melbourne. In week two, the semi-professional athlete came back and I trained hard during the week and on the main session on Saturday. Then followed it by watching races and having beers followed by a nice bottle of red (my favourite so far the 2016 Rockford Basket Press). Yes, I'm always drinking in isolation but in moderation. I've gotten into wine the past three or four years.
It's Italian themed. I'm learning to speak Italian. The wife of the head trainer of Collingwood is Italian and she teaches me. I FaceTime her twice a week to try to learn the basics. My mum's dad, who I never met, is Italian. We tracked where he was from in Italy Laureana di Borrello, in the province of Reggio Calabria. When I retire I will go and visit the town.
I'm also eating a lot of homemade Italian classic from friends - lasagne, schnitzels, sauces, prosciutto, zucchini fritte, roasted capsicum along with cheese bread. I'm not sure it's good for the waistline. My mate in Melbourne, Big John, put on six kilos and I lost three kilos, only because I don't do weights as much as I used to.
11. Heath's Happy Hour
I started as a guest on a Microsoft Teams call with all the football administration and some sponsors and it's turned into the Heath Shaw Travelling Roadshow. No topic is off limits, no person is safe. It's a one-hour show every Friday from 4-5pm - and yes, we have glass of red - and we have guests, trivia, a Q&A, Heath Shaw stats … the show gets better as the weeks go on, if I do say so myself. It's just for the staff who have been stood down. We have about 40 people log on. Two weeks ago, we had Tanya Hetherington from our AFLW team and AFL commissioner Gab Trainor and Sam Reid. Last Friday, we had Caitlin Bassett - one of the Giants netball girls - Sam Jacobs and Melissa Doyle.
What will the 2020 season look like? How it will work, will it be fair, will it change the game forever? We will find out soon. All I know is I want to get to 314 games to beat Uncle Tony and I want to win the premiership in 2020, asterisk, hashtag or question mark, I don't give a flying …
I've got two scenarios with the hubs. As it is now, I'd have two hubs, 10 teams in Melbourne and the eight non-Victorian teams in Sydney. If the borders come down, a two-team set up. Freo and West Coast travel together to Melbourne and play two teams, one set on a Saturday and then flip it over five days later and then fly home together. Then two teams fly to Perth and do the same thing, so you spend a week away, a week at home, a week away, a week at home and you pump out games. Players have to be open to hubs.
For me, retirement plans are in place, but I'm not as sure as I was. If it is, 2021 will be spent travelling the world following Swanny (Dane Swan) to all the major sporting events, festivals and nightclubs. Sixteen years I've been playing football and I want to go travelling.
Originally published as Shaw: 'Week one was like Mad Monday-week'