A baby BOOM for our Ea­gles

CLUB WITH THE MOST DADS

The Sunday Times - - Year Of The Eagle - KATE CAMP­BELL BRADEN QUARTERMAINE

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

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