Like the satisfied bliss of a two-month break after winning an AFL premiership, Jeremy McGovern knows football will not last for ever.
The time will come when his body will not allow him to rise as high as he wants for one of his trademark intercept marks, and crashing back down to the turf will take a heavier toll.
McGovern, arguably the AFL’s premier defender, is one of WA’s most high-profile examples of a professional athlete who is focused on setting himself up for life after sport.
A few years ago, the West Coast Eagles star co-founded West End Plumbing WA with friend Darcy Reader.
In June, he was appointed sales director of lightweight builder Vicore Construction.
His AFL lifestyle gives him a significant edge in promoting the company, while limiting the time he can spend with both companies.
But he is serious about a post-football career in the construction industry — and the steps he has taken so far will give him a head-start when the curtain finally falls on his playing days.
“I was involved with the (Vicore Construction) boys a bit before that but they gave me a specific role with the company after doing a bit of work with them,” McGovern, 26, said.
“We obviously do the plumbing through West End, which is my company. I reached out and said I’m interested in getting into building when I’m finished.”
Ultimately, McGovern has ambitions of starting his own building company.
But he said he was keen to help Vicore Construction grow — and learn about the industry.
“I think it’s a win for both parties,” he said. “These boys are my mates as well. I guess they’re doing me a favour in a way and I’d like to think I’m doing them a favour as well. I’ve done a fair bit of it so far and a lot of it is just networking and trying to get the boys a few sales.”
McGovern’s reasons for pursuing business interests outside sport are twofold.
First, it helps take his mind off football and gives him a greater sense of balance. More importantly, he will need something when he retires from football.
“Footy’s not for ever,” he said. “You’d love it to be but it’s not and you need something to fall back on after footy for the rest of your life. It’s the perfect opportunity for blokes to figure out what you like and what you want to do after footy.
“It’s so much easier now while you’re getting paid to send your feelers out and do some work experience.”
The Eagles and the Dockers encourage players to have something outside the AFL bubble.
Dockers young gun Bailey Banfield, 20, was a star student who started a commerce degree at the University of WA before he was drafted. He saw no reason to quit his studies once he entered the AFL system.
Banfield said the “vast majority” of his teammates kept themselves busy with study or work.
He was surprised by the level of support provided to players, such as a study room and help finding work experience.
Fremantle has two player-development managers who focus on everything other than football.
One of them is former teacher and career adviser Mark Anderson, who said study or work was also good for a player’s resilience and sense of identity.
“If you’re playing football at the club and you’re at the club all the time, you have a very football-centric identity,” Mr Anderson said. “So any knocks to that or injuries throughout your career can have a very big impact.”
Banfield said coach Ross Lyon was a big believer in planning for the future and had told the players more than once to “look after your 45-year-old self”.
“If you don’t do anything to prepare for you life post-footy you can come out of it at 28 or 30 … and then you’re 10 years behind blokes who have been in the regular workforce the whole time and it can be quite difficult to catch up,” Banfield said.
“And that’s best-case scenario if you have a 10-year career.”