Men react in different ways to fatherhood. But obviously the best case scenario is when it makes them a better person.
That appears to be the case for gun Gunnedah Bulldogs midfielder Jake Spackman, after he and his partner, Taylor Wagener, welcomed Briley in November. Since her birth he has become a less “cranky” footballer, and potentially a better one. He’s found a better life balance.
The 28-year-old’s more mellow state has helped him deal with the extra attention sparked by his breakout debut AFL North West season in 2017, in which he was named best and fairest.
In 14 games for the Bulldogs in 2017, he kicked 41 goal. In the eight games played so far this season, he has booted 36 majors despite the attention of “one or two taggers” every match – spurred to elevated his game after the loss of Bulldogs player-coach Greg Piggott at the end of last season and the “40 goals” Piggott would have kicked in 2018.
Jake – “my mum calls me Jacob when she's mad at me” – Spackman has made a great life for himself and his family after relocating to Gunnedah for work, his dream of playing AFL gone. Last August he spoke to The Northern Daily Leader. “I’ve played football for 15 years, I’ve played for money, I’ve played for the wrong reasons,” he had said.
On Wednesday he said: “To be honest, when I used to play it was all about preparation, not talking … I wouldn’t talk to my missus three, four hours before the game. Now she comes along; they [Taylor and Briley] come to every game. I play for her and Taylor, and hopefully make her [Briley] proud, even though she’s young, and then do my job for the team.”
“I used to be a bit cranky on the field, especially if there’s a tension,” he added. “But there’s more to life than football. It’s just getting that balance right. And I think that’s [fatherhood] helping.”
Spackman kicked his second seven-goal bag – his best tally for the year – in the Bulldogs' 173-point win over Narrabri last round. He has three six-goal hauls this season.
The reigning premiers lost a host of players in the off-season, but go into the long-weekend hiatus second on the ladder behind Inverell, whom they beat by 52 points in round three.
“Hopefully I keep going well for the team,” Spackman said. “At the moment I’ve hit a bit of form and I know that there’s room for improvement … As a team I know where we want to sit. And Georgie’s [Andrew George] doing a good job coaching and Benny Maher’s stepped up as skipper, which is good to see.”
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