ROOKIE EA­GLE RECHARGES AT HOME

Broome Advertiser - - Front Page - Jakeb Wad­dell

Home is where the heart is for West Coast Ea­gles rookie Fran­cis Wat­son, pic­tured, who re­turned to his beloved Kim­ber­ley for the off-season break last week. The rising star re­flected on his break­out 2019, a year he de­scribed as be­ing filled with highs and lows — much like his own past.

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-yearold 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 Ad­ver­tiser he 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 pre­sea­son train­ing.

Pic­tures: Jakeb Wad­dell and West Coast Ea­gles

West Coast Ea­gles rookie Fran­cis Wat­son in Broome dur­ing the 2019 off-season break and right, train­ing with the Ea­gles. Jakeb Wad­dell

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