By Terry Wilson
Highly decorated left-footer Clint Watts knows what it takes to win senior premierships – after all he won seven of them as a player.
Now, after completing his apprenticeship on the other side of the football fence, Watts is ready to stamp his mark on the QAFL scene as the new coach of Morningside.
Watts was an obvious choice by the Panthers to replace outgoing Steve Wildschut, who stepped down after the club lost this year’s Preliminary Final to Broadbeach.
The Coolangatta junior who went on to become a life playing member of Southport is returning for a third stint at Jack Esplen Oval after previous seasons there assisting John Blair and David Lake.
But after two seasons as assistant at Redland in the NEAFL, Watts has been handed his senior spurs and cannot wait for the premiership to start.
And, despite a view from outsiders that the Panthers may be at the crossroads in terms of ageing legs and retirements, Watts insists it is the other way around.
“At the crossroads? No, not at all,” he said.
“They finished third so they’re not too far off the pace.
“I will say that I identified, watching them, there were a couple of deficiencies.”
One of those deficiencies was perceived to be a lack of genuine leg speed, although Watts would not be drawn into that discussion.
“We had some problems, especially on bigger grounds, so we may have to change the way we play,” he said before touching on the retirements of club champion trio Kent Abey, Matt Logan and Nathan Kinch.
The departure of this elite trio leaves some big holes to full but Watts is adamant the talent is still there and that he will give youth every chance.
At this stage Ash Evans and Nathan Beck remain undecided about 2019 although Watts expects to know more early in the New Year.
“Hopefully we’ll unearth a couple a couple of key forwards from the reserves and colts and, absolutely, we’ll give any young player who wants to play seniors their chance.”
“I like the idea of trying to find a 16 or 17-year-old who can play seniors.
“I sort of see it is that there will be five or so new (name magnets) on the board come the first round.”
Watts said he has learnt from some ‘amazing coaches’ in his time. That list includes Norm Dare, Jason Cotter, Craig Crowley, John Blair, David Lake and most recently Leigh Harding.
Away from winning six flags with Southport and one, in a memorable 2003 season in the AFLSQ with Coolangatta, Watts won a number of individual gongs, including a Zane Taylor Medal as best in an interstate game and a Ray Poulter for best on ground in the 2003 Grand Final.
Watts was playing for Coolangatta as a weekend fly-in from Sydney after having moved to the Harbour City in his job with Qantas.
After two seasons Watts was back at Southport for three flags in four years.
An interesting attachment to the appointment of Watts at Morningside comes via Barry O’Brien, who is the new coach at Wilston Grange.
Watts and O’Brien played in that 2003 Coolangatta premiership side, as did Brett Andrews, who stepped down as Broadbeach head coach after they lost the Grand Final to Palm Beach Currumbin in September.
The Blues were coached by ex-Sydney, Brisbane and North Melbourne player Mark “Fridge” Roberts.
“Imagine that, after playing together in a premiership side 16 years ago, Barry and I will be coaching opposing clubs next year,” Watts said.
“And wouldn’t it have been great if ‘BA’ (Andrews) was still going around.”