The luscious mullet, the socks pulled up, an aggressive key defender.
One wouldn’t be blamed in thinking Dragons full-back Corey Watts had travelled in time from the 1980s, but after claiming Sandringham’s Best and Fairest award in his bottom-age year in 2018, his focus now shifts to this year’s AFL draft.
It’s fair to say Watts has been met with a unique set of challenges along the footballing journey, though, and the first of these presented itself before the path even began.
“Mum wasn’t gonna let me play footy to start off with,” he recalled.
While it took some persuading, Watts’ determination eventually prevailed.
“[We] had a few friends and family and stuff who pushed her in the right direction and [I] ended up playing at around under 11s,” he said.
“I started down [at Beaumaris] and played in the age group above until probably under 15s, then jumped down to my own age group and it just took off from there really.
“Mum wanted me to play basketball and cricket, didn’t really want me to play footy, so it took a fair bit of convincing. It took her a while.”
Watts’ basketball ability also became locally recognised, playing representative basketball for the Sabres throughout his teenage years.
Another sporting pathway which he began to forge, it wasn’t until the 196cm prospect realised his football potential and enjoyment for the game that he decided to focus solely on the Dragons.
“Probably up until my under-18 bottom age season I didn’t really know which one I was gonna pick,” Watts said.
“Probably [started to] lean a bit more towards football because I was enjoying it a lot more than basketball.
“It took me a while to decide and it wasn’t an easy choice either, but had a few factors that played a role and ended up choosing footy and sticking with it.”
In 2019, Watts has faced the challenging prospect of combining full-time work with football, a rare test for an under-18, but one he has nonetheless embraced.
Rising before the sun, Watts takes on the lawns of the Royal Melbourne Golf Course in a role which requires long hours.
“I start at 6am every day and work eight-to-10 hours every single day with training after that, so it’s been pretty full-on, but I’ve definitely enjoyed it, and [it’s been] something to pursue outside of footy,” he explained.
“It’s been a big adjustment.
“You work a long week and roll up to a game early on a Saturday morning, there have definitely been some challenges around that and times where I’ve felt that especially, but it’s been real good learning as well though, because it’s sort of made me be a lot more organised and really stay on top of my preparation at the same time.”
When quizzed upon his source of motivation, that same doggedness and determination becomes a clear feature of Watts’ game, who is driven by an insatiable hunger to be the best.
“I’m real competitive, I just want to be the best,” he said.
“It’s probably what drives me to just keep working at it, and obviously the success ties into that, trying to win as much as I can and be the best I can.
“On a lesser note, just what opportunities footy can give you if you work at it and get to where you want to be.”
As a St Kilda supporter growing up, his childhood hero doesn’t surprise - although there’s some irony attached to it.
“I wanted to play like Nick Riewoldt and kick goals. It’s a bit ironic now that I’m a key defender and play at the opposite end of the ground,” Watts said.
It’s a position that Watts made his own in junior football.
“I probably only started playing defensive in the under 14 Grand Final. We played against the King brothers and East Sandringham. We got smashed 53 nil in a semi-final, then we won the prelim and came back to beat them by four points [in the Grand Final]. I played in the backline,” he recollected.
“I’ve been full-back or centre half-back ever since then really.”
It’s not the only facet of Watts’ game which has remained since junior football either, with the socks-up look initially inspired paternally.
“I’ve always worn socks up as a kid,” he explained.
“Dad pushed it when I was a little kid playing for the first time. I’ve tried moving away from it here and there, but it’s sort of become a bit of a superstition for me, I can’t really have them down to be honest.”
Combined with an impressive mullet, it’s a look which the football purist would undoubtedly deem aesthetically pleasing.
“[The mullet] goes alright, bit intimidating,” a jocular Watts said.
“It goes okay.”
The Dragons 2018 Best and Fairest winner will look to be taken in this year’s draft, set to be held on the 27th of November.