Past helps Eagle face ups and downs

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Jakeb WaddellBroome Advertiser
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West Coast Eagles rookie Francis Watson in Broome during the 2019 off-season break and right, training with the Eagles.
Camera IconWest Coast Eagles rookie Francis Watson in Broome during the 2019 off-season break and right, training with the Eagles. Credit: Jakeb Waddell.

Overcoming adversity has always been the norm for West Coast Eagles rookie Francis Watson.

The young gun from the tiny East Kimberley community of Balgo finally made his AFL debut this season after three years of injuries and setbacks at the club.

His short football career until now has been filled with gallant highs and devastating lows, but resilience and strength were traits the 24-year-old was forced to pick up at a very young age.

Francis never had a relationship with his biological mother or father and was raised by his grandmother from infancy, before being taken in by the parents of his best friend, a couple he refers to as Mum and Dad to this day.

His beloved nanna died soon after he was sent to Perth for boarding school in 2009, leaving him without any close family members — or so he thought.

While back home in the Kimberley on holidays as a teenager, Francis received a call from a woman telling him his father had died and that a funeral would be held for him in Perth.

That lady was his sister Caitlin, who had tracked him down via social media.

She was one of four siblings he had never seen or heard of before, but the two have formed a very close relationship since then — a bond so tight she flew to Alice Springs with her partner in July, knowing there was a 50 per cent change Francis would make his AFL debut against the Melbourne Demons. The odds were in his favour and the star defender notched his first game, sparking a stellar end to 2019 that included another senior game and some sensational footy in the Eagles’ WAFL side. While in Broome for his off-season break last week, Francis told the Broome Advertiserhe could easily embrace the ups and downs of AFL because of everything he had been through.

“When I look back on it, I think I am lucky because some people do not have a family there for them at all,” he said.

“Everyone has their own upbringing, their own story — mine just made me stronger and into who I am today.”

As humble as he is talented, Francis said there were still plenty of things throughout the year he could have improved on.

“It was definitely one of the best years I’ve had, it was amazing playing my debut and I was lucky enough to play at Optus Stadium the week later in front of 54,000 people against North Melbourne,” he said.

“But I think sometimes I was consistent and sometimes there were things I could have done a lot better. I still have a lot to work on and my major goal for next year is to play AFL football more consistently, clock up some more game time.”

Watson flew back to Perth for the club’s best and fairest awards night last Friday, but said he hoped to make it to Balgo and through other parts of the region before pre-season training.

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