For an old warrior life begins at 35
IF THE 2018 AFL season were a game of poker, Jarrad Waite has just gone “all in”.
Waite last October agreed to a one-year extension at North Melbourne, stretching a 231-game career full of freakish highlights, injuries and suspensions into a 16th season.
Turning 35 in February and now the fourth-oldest player in the competition after managing only 10 games last season, Waite knows he’s taking a risk.
But the enigmatic forward has never been the type to shy away from those.
“You live by the sword and you die by the sword. I’ve chosen to stay and I want to contribute,” said Waite.
“Obviously, I had to work out if my body could hold out for another year, but I didn’t feel like my speed or agility had tapered off too much, so I was keen to go on.”
Waite and defender Scott Thompson are among the few survivors of a ruthless twoyear Arden Street clean-out that’s taken the Kangaroos from the oldest list in the game to the third-youngest.
That pair are presently the only players at the club aged over 30.
“It was really the first year where I’ve contemplated not playing on,” Waite said.
“There was definitely a bit of wrestling in my own mind and I’d spoken to a few mates who don’t play any more, who said things like, ‘You’re a long time retired’ and ‘If you get another contract, go on’.
“Playing football and doing it in the AFL is a dream job.
“It was then one of the more stressful off-seasons not knowing [if he would get another deal].
“On one hand you want to know what’s going on, but on the other hand you have to understand the club is in a position where they have to make change and a lot of choices to see what’s happening.”
Waite missed chunks of last season due to a shoulder injury before nagging calf problems ended his year early.
But he has carefully mapped out what will almost certainly be his swan song.
“I sat down with all the physios and the conditioning staff here and probably for the first time, got a really solid plan going into the pre-season.
“I said to them, ‘I don’t need to be fit come December 1; I need to be fit come Round 1 and then get through the season’,” he said.
“I’ve always been one who wants to take part in every ses- sion before Christmas, but I’ve got to realise that’s no longer the smart thing to do.
“I sit out a few drills on a Wednesday, my major days are Mondays and Fridays and I don’t run two days in a row.
“I have missed a lot of football, but the fortunate thing is my body has had time during seasons to recharge.
“They haven’t really been debilitating injuries.”
The Roos’ aggressive list turnover means Waite now finds himself surrounded by fresh faces and, at least for now, a bunch of relative strangers.
“I’m horrific with names. I have to wait for the North Melbourne app to update so it’s got their faces,” he joked.
“I don’t act like one of the older boys, but I definitely feel it when these kids come along and they’re zipping around in training while I’m just trying to get through.”
While hopefully being a solid contributor next season, Waite will look to fast track the development of fellow forwards Mason Wood, Ben McKay and Nick Larkey.
He will also be doing some work with North’s recruiting team.
BATTLING ON: Jarrad Waite is still in the picture after an injury-plagued year.