How fantastic women's footy team created a new lease on life
ONE of Ipswich's most experienced footy coaches was planning to concentrate on playing poker before accepting a satisfying new role at the Ipswich Eagles.
He's so glad he did.
Coaching the Eagles Aussie rules women's side for the first time has become an unexpected delight for Rex Watts, especially with his team hoping to secure a home final this weekend.
"Believe it or not, it's one of the best things in coaching I've ever done,'' Watts, 70, said.
"They want to learn and it's totally different to coaching men.
"I wouldn't swap it for anything at the moment. It's fantastic.
"This has given me a new lease on life.''
Before being asked to coach this year's Ipswich side in the QFA Women's Division 2 competition, Watts had devoted 40 years to the game, including more than two decades at the Collingwood Park club.
The former club CEO was planning to sharpen up his poker skills before being invited to help out at the Limestone Park-based club.
"I retired at the end of 2018 from Collingwood Park and I was going to retire all together,'' Watts said.
But after an invitation to do some development work for the Eagles, Watts took on the women's team, assisted by club president Clint Bateman.
"It's a new space and it's going places,'' Watts said of women's Aussie rules.
"When I look at the whole competition, there's a lot of talented girls out there.''
Working with a squad of nearly 30 players, Watts has seen a massive improvement this season, especially among the players new to Aussie rules.
"It's my first year at the club and we recruited really well,'' Watts said.
"From where they were last year to where they are now, is just a big, big turnaround.
"We've got some absolutely gun players in the team and it's looking very promising at the moment.''
The third-placed Eagles women tackle Redcliffe at Rothwell Park on Saturday afternoon, after beating the previous second-placed side by 53 points last weekend.
The rematch with Redcliffe was due to the Eagles requesting a bye for the Ipswich Cup, having the game rescheduled for this weekend.
"If we win this weekend, it will put us in second spot,'' Watts said, eager to secure a home final and double chance in the playoff series.
The Eagles are the only team to have beaten competition leaders Hinterland this season.
That 41-9 result completed a profitable second half of the season where the Eagles boosted their record to nine wins and only three defeats.
The Eagles co-captains are Samantha Chisholm and Rebecca Mccarthy.
Some of the players have come from soccer backgrounds. Other players are daughters or partners of Ipswich men's squad regulars.
One of the most pleasing aspects is the men encouraging the women.
As the women run out onto the field after an Eagles men's game, their male counterparts form a guard of honour.
"There's a lot of camaraderie at the club,'' Watts said. "And the senior men, the respect they have for the women's team is second to none.
"The men always come to watch the women's game. It's fantastic.''
With finals on the Eagles' radar, Watts praised his players for their ongoing commitment.
"They listen. They ask questions. They want to learn,'' he said.
"At the moment, it's just a good bunch of girls that come together. Very proud of them.''