THE WAFL website will be publishing columns from players throughout the 2013 season taking a look at what it takes to be a successful WAFL player and build a life outside the game. This week it's former 70-game AFL player, winning WA captain and East Perth ruckman Paul Johnson.
The biggest thing to adjust to when I came out of the AFL was the work-football balance. After growing up as one of six kids, dad always had us working so the workload wasn’t a huge demand on my body but I am working at City Motors from 7am-4.30pm and then it's the 4.30-5pm period when you have to get to training, get changed and be out on the track ready to go again.
The biggest surprise in it all has been the training loads. You are training just about as hard as you do to play in the AFL but squeezing that into three or four nights, instead of spreading it across the whole week. You have to be alert and giving your all at work all day, so you can't cruise and it was a great opportunity I was allowed to take at City Motors, and part of the reason they employ you is because you play footy so I have to make sure I give my all at footy still as well as at work.
After working from 7 in the morning most nights I don’t walk in the house until about 8 o'clock at night. I have only been married for a couple of years as well so I still try to spend as much time as I can with my wife and I'm lucky that she is so understanding. She has dinner on the table for me and all set and ready to go when I get home. The hardest thing has been juggling between dedicating enough time to work and footy, and also your life at home.
When I was in the AFL the lifestyle you've got is fantastic. You go to an early morning session and have a meeting before taking off a couple of hours for lunch. When I was at Melbourne you try to get down to a café, read the paper and have a couple of lattes or have a bite to eat while catching up with a couple of the boys. You would then go back for an afternoon session and you would be home by 4.30 or 5pm and at this stage my wife was working 8-6 so I had time to go to the supermarket to get dinner on the table, or clean the house or do the washing. Now that I'm getting home at 8 o'clock I just don’t have as much time to do things like cooking, washing and cleaning.
What I find, though, is that when I do get some time I try to get away from work and footy altogether. Katie and I have a lot of common interests obviously otherwise we wouldn’t be married, so we try to go out for dinner or to see a movie on a Sunday and escape from football completely. I find myself now not watching a hell of a lot of footy compared to when I was at AFL level just because you need that switch off time especially on a Sunday when I wake up a couple of hours later, not rush to have breakfast and get to work by 7. We try and get out and have a bit of a relaxing day on the Sunday whether it's an extended lunch with a couple of coffees looking over the beach or whatever helps relax to get away from it all.
Balance plays such a big part and once you get the balance right in your life, the footy takes care of itself. Even Brendan Lee has found that. He has come back this year after experiencing 12 months on the Essendon list and that has made him grow as a person, and a footballer. I've been lucky and I try to pass on a few of the things I learned over nine years in the AFL to the younger guys and even the coaching staff to try and help East Perth be a better place, better team and more enjoyable environment. Once you enjoy your footy, you tend to find that you play at a better level.
I'm finding that is really helping me to switch off where at AFL level you prepare to play a couple of days out from the game and then after footy you have all the recovery the next day and all of that. It does tend to take its toll a little bit more on the body but you do get a lot more relaxing time during the week where you get to switch off and go and sit in a cafe, and relax a bit.
I've been pretty lucky that at East Perth the guys have been great and welcomed me into the club since day dot. I've built some really good relationships with a lot of the guys and I'm really enjoying what I do at work as well with City Motors. I sell cars to the fleeting companies and other businesses so I meet a lot of interesting people who run massive companies that you dream of being part of one day. I go to work and go to training, and they are completely different environments. The stress of putting up a performance to play well and stay in the team or get up into the team at AFL level takes its toll over time, but I look at footy as purely enjoyment now. I love playing footy and have been playing since I was four years of age. The thing that scares is what I fill that gap with in three or four years time.
At the moment I work in the fleet department but the good thing about AHG is that there are so many different departments where if you have enough of one area, you can move into another. You've got used cars, service, paint and panel, new cars, finance and there's a lot of choices there that you can. Then there are manager roles so it's a huge industry I'm part of and I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity and I'm really enjoying it.