By Alice Barker
When Serene Watson takes the field, she has more than just her game on her mind.
The Bond University product is a natural born leader, a skill that Watson has soon come to realise could be her greatest asset out on the field.
“I’ve always had leadership qualities, and for this year’s Queensland team we were a really young team,” Watson told aflq.com.au.
“I identified that and had to realise that it wasn’t about my footy, it was about them and how they are going to develop and grow.”
This role she takes on without question, after seeing how some of the senior players looked after her when she first started.
Watson fondly recalls senior player Leah Kasler taking her “under her wing” at the Gold Coast SUNS club.
“She texts me all the time, checks on me,” she said.
“[Leah asks] if I want to go to the gym, do extra running, how I’m going mentally, how my family is.”
Now, in her draft year, Watson is learning just how much work goes into the road to becoming a professional footy player.
On top of juggling the younger girls development, the SUNS Academy defender has been doing anything it takes for the chance to be drafted into the AFLW this year.
“[I’ve been doing] extra trainings, under coaches asking what I need to do, all the leadership roles I’ve taken on board,” she said.
“I’m just trying to do lots of extras, but not burn myself out at the same time.”
It seems her efforts are paying off as she was one of six Queenslanders invited to the NAB AFLW Draft Combine in Melbourne two weeks ago.
“It went well, [but] it was kind of confronting walking in,” Watson said.
“It was like everything was just put on a plate and it was like ‘here you go, take it or leave it’.
“But it was good, I think I went well and I’m happy with the results I got.”
Watson came seventh in the gruelling yo-yo test, which is no easy feat.
“It wasn’t fun, it’s all a head game,” she said.
“I think my body was shutting down but I had to keep going, I had to keep pushing.”
Watson’s resolute determination to the testing speaks volumes of how she treats her football journey; hard work doesn’t stop.
“I think last year I thought [my hard work would pay off] when I made all the things I did, with all the accolades that I built up,” she said.
“But this year I realised that I had to keep working hard.
“If I want to go somewhere, I had to keep growing as a person and a player.
“So I think I really pushed myself this year, and I’m happy with where I am.”
With the NAB AFLW Draft happening on October 22, Watson is hoping to gain a spot on the Gold Coast SUNS team, which she credits to have sparked her interest in becoming a professional in the sport.
“I grew up playing with them and was on all the representative teams,” she said.
“[The SUNS] kind of birthed my junior footy and I really enjoy the club, good facilities, good people, good culture.”
For now, the savvy leader is taking things as they comes with her laid back demeanor allowing her to remain level-headed throughout the draft process.
“I think everyone was quite stressed going into [the draft], but it’s just a bit of testing and if a club likes you they’ll want you for who you are, your personality will also help along the way.”