A baby BOOM for our Eagles
CLUB WITH THE MOST DADS
IF fatherhood proved to be the perfect tonic to help Jack Darling find the form of his career this year, then good news West Coast fans — double daddy duty is on the way so who knows what the imposing forward can produce on the field in 2019.
The club’s baby boom is continuing with Darling and his wife Courtney expecting bub No.2 this summer while West Coast vice-captain Luke Shuey will be the next member of the dads’ club with his fiancee Danielle due any day now with their first child, a boy.
All the new hatchlings have made the West Coast’s rooms after a game resemble more a creche than a locker room. So far this season five players — Liam Ryan, Chris Masten, Jack Redden, Jeremy McGovern and Will Schofield — have become new dads. Already part of the dad’s army were Willie Rioli, Mark LeCras, Josh Kennedy and Lewis Jetta. Shuey will become the 11th member of the playing group to become a father — the most of any AFL club. It means half the team are fathers, and all 11 dads are expected to make the final 22 for the blockbuster preliminary final against Melbourne on Saturday. It seems now, perhaps more than ever, this is a “family” club.
Without doubt, Darling has enjoyed the best season of his career since welcoming son Max last year. But what should have been a joyous time started out as dire and nerve-racking, with Max born seven weeks early. Darling lost weight in the middle of last season as he spent time at the hospital around the clock during the stressful period. Darling and Courtney were told Max might need to be in hospital for up to seven weeks to gain enough weight; the little boy made it home in 13 days.
“We got through it and it makes you appreciate that the tough times as parents, they don’t seem as tough if you’ve been through something like that,” Darling told The Sunday
Times this week. “Courtney’s pregnant now, so we’re hoping to go all the way this time.” And Max, now a chubby 15-monthold toddler, is thriving. “He’s a pretty solid boy and cute as ever,” Darling said.
The West Coast forward said being a father helped bring a nice balance to his life as a professional footballer. “On my days off in the arvos, I just look after him while Courtney goes and works as a physio,” he said. “I appreciate that time just hanging out with Max and just watching him grow and learn. You become pretty selfless as a parent.”
In-form midfielder Redden said having seven-month-old daughter Izzy at the start of the year was “clearly not hurting my footy”. “Despite the lack of sleep at times, she brings so much joy that it balances it out well,” Redden told the AFL Players Association.
His wife Aymee agrees, saying her footballer husband was “born to be a dad”.
“He loves to come home and having Izzy to take his mind off the footy,” she said.
Fellow father Masten said having son Tex made him realise footy was just a game, not his whole world. “Now you’re going to bed at 7.30pm so it’s a bit of a different lifestyle but it’s for the best, definitely,” he told AFL.com.au this year. Livewire forward Rioli told
The West Australian earlier this year that son Martin was his “pride and joy outside of footy”. “Seeing him running around with a smile is better than me kicking three or four goals on a big stage,” he said.
All-Australian defender McGovern said the arrival of son Hudson meant less sleep, but he couldn’t be more grateful and appreciative of partner Madison.
He joked on 92.9FM that his partner’s “street cred” was “through the roof ” after enduring a painkiller-free birth, while he sat down at one stage because his back was sore.
“I’m glad he can read the play already so that I didn’t miss a game,” McGovern said soon after Hudson’s mid-week birth in May.
Shuey recently expressed how excited he was to be taking the next step in his life, after witnessing many of his teammates have kids.
On the club’s baby boom and the fact most of the new arrivals have been boys, Shuey said “there’s something in the water I think”.
For Ryan, embracing his partner Evana and baby girl River in the changerooms after last weekend’s finals victory made life even sweeter.
“To come in and get some cuddles, it makes you happier,” the electric forward said.
CHRIS MASTEN AND TEX WILL SCHOFIELD AND NASH JEREMY MCGOVERN AND HUDSON JACK REDDEN AND IZZY
LIAM RYAN, EVANA AND BABY RIVER JACK REDDEN AND IZZY MARK LECRAS WITH MOLLIE AND REX WILLIE RIOLI AND MARTIN
JACK AND COURTNEY DARLING WITH MAX
JOSH KENNEDY WITH SAGE AND LOTTIE