How Hurn used 2015 failure to spur on 2018 success

West Coast Eagles star Shannon Hurn has seen plenty during his career, including the departure of a club legend as coach and a grand final loss.

However, a career best season in 2018 helped ‘Bunga’ finally land the ultimate success – the premiership cup.

Jack Hudson: Tell us what it was like growing up in the Barossa Valley and what your family life was like.

Shannon Hurn: I got to grow up on a farm in Angaston, I enjoyed that bit of freedom where you go out in a wide space.

Kicking the footy, cricket, we had plenty of space to be able to do that and spend some time with mum and dad, which was great.

That was always exciting as a young fella.

My sister was always a couple of years younger than me, so I always tried to rope her into having a kick or playing cricket.

That’s how I worked on my skills, she was always good to have a kick with.

I started playing junior sport – football and cricket – at Angaston in about year three, I would’ve been about eight-years-old.

JH: What was it like the first time you played a game of footy?

SH: I’m not sure I can remember my first game, I can remember modified footy.

We used to play inside one of the 50s, just went junction to junction, cross ways.

I can’t remember too much of that; I remember before that at half-time of the A-grade, I was always trying to have a kick, even at every break I was kicking with mates, kicking at goals.

I was always down the park having a kick.

I remember playing a modified carnival, that would’ve been my first year, and we won it, so that was exciting.

Dad was still playing, and I think he was coaching the under 17s at Angaston.

JH: Further into your playing days, you had the decision of either advancing with your footy, or your cricket. Why did you pick footy?

SH: I was fortunate enough that I could play cricket in the summer and winter in the footy through Angaston and Central District, and Northern Districts and the SACA – they allowed me to do both up until year 12.

I was 17 going on 18, and that’s when I had to decide on what I would like to pursue.

The draft was coming up, I had a couple of opportunities in cricket as well.

Probably the main reason I chose footy was I was closer.

I think I was closer to the AFL level than I was with cricket.

Cricket, I was about three or four years with proper technique, going through the system, understanding my game, whereas football I was a touch closer.

I enjoyed that, so that’s why I went down that path.

JH: As well, you played in a couple of flags with Central District. How did that feel, especially being so young at the time?

SH: Being fortunate to have won one at 31 (with West Coast), when you’re young you think ‘this is what it is, this is how it happens, finals are what happens’.

Being so young, looking back I think I was just so fortunate to be a part of that.

To be a part of that side and such a period, from 2000, and playing in 12 grand finals straight.

I was fortunate enough to learn from a lot of players who had a little bit of experience or played a lot of SANFL football.

Even at Northern Districts, Ryan Harris and Graham Manou played Australian cricket, and I got to play a game with Darren Lehmann, but there were five or so others who had managed to play state cricket.

I got to win a premiership with them too, and I was fortunate enough from 17, 18, to be around a group of players who knew what it took to be successful and to win.

I was lucky enough to be a part of that, go along with the ride, and learn what it’s all about.

JH: Being drafted, what was the build up like for you?

SH: I remember I didn’t go over to the AIS Draft Combine because I was fortunate enough to play in a flag with Central District.

I did the state combine, you talk to a few clubs over the phone, the build up wasn’t that big, it was just something that you were hoping would work out.

Yes, a few clubs talk to you, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get drafted.

It’s always a bit of an unknown because you don’t know where you’re going to go, you just want to get an opportunity.

The day of the draft I was at home, because you didn’t have any control over it. I was a bit nervous about what was going to happen, but it’s out of your control, so you just need to wait for it to happen.

Luckily enough, I was fortunate that West Coast called my name out early on in the piece.

Shannon Hurn post-match at Optus Stadium. Picture: westcoasteagles.com.au

JH: How’d you celebrate with family and friends?

SH: We were just at home; mum, dad and my sister were at home.

I think it was Schoolies that week, so all my mates were down at Victor Harbor, and I didn’t want to go down to that, I just wanted to be a part of it with my family at home; I had a few mates come back on the Sunday.

I got to catch up with everyone on the Sunday and a bit on the Monday, the draft was on the Saturday.

I think it was Tuesday night or Wednesday that I was flying over to Perth.

I only had a couple of days turnaround.

I ended up going down to Adelaide on the Saturday night to catch up with the West Coast staff, they were in Melbourne, and they’d flown to Adelaide that evening and took me out to dinner.

I got to meet (Player Services Coordinator) Ian Miller, Trevor Woodhouse, and numerous other people involved.

That was just for me to go down and meet them, and what’s expected between then and Christmas.

They also got to have a chat with mum and dad, my sister and start the process of moving over to Perth.

JH: In terms of moving over to Perth, most clubs these days have housing arrangements. What was it like for you moving interstate?

SH: We had a host family, the club has always done that for interstate players, and even for players who have come from country Western Australia to relocate to Perth.

They go through a bit of a screening process through the club, but normally they have to be known, they have people that are known in the club, or previous host families’ friends.

They get to know the families, as such, and they have a fit of what family would suit the player, and vice versa.

I was lucky enough to be put in with a family who had come in from a country background, that worked out well for me.

They had a son and daughter in their late 20s who were involved in sport as well.

It made it a bit easier so you had something to chat with them about outside of footy.

Looking back, it just helps because pre-season is a bit tiring, you get home and the last thing you want to do is cook and clean, even though you help out doing that.

But it’s the process of being home, to being able to look after yourself with everything.

Shannon Hurn made his debut against the Brisbane Lions. Picture: westcoasteagles.com.au.

JH: You made your debut against Brisbane. So, what did you feel during the week, and then getting out there and playing?

SH: I was allocated to Peel Thunder down in Mandurah, we won three out of our first four games.

It was good to be a part of that, and leading up to the debut I know we had a couple of injuries, and I had a couple of reasonable games.

We talk to the coaches every week, they tend to give us a bit of an idea of how we’re going, we had a few injuries leading into that game in the backline.

I think John Worsfold after the main training session said I’d be debuting on Saturday.

I was extremely happy about that, the club notified mum, dad and my sister and they got to fly over and watch the game on Saturday night.

For me, it was exciting to be a part of it and playing an AFL game, because we had some great players playing for us then, and also Brisbane still had Simon Black, Jason Akermanis, Michael Voss, Jonathon Brown, there were some big-name players still running around.

For me it was a bit of excitement, nervousness, and luckily we won.

We kicked seven goals to one in the first quarter, and I think Chris Judd had two of them and about 12 possessions.

That was great to be a part of it.

JH: You mentioned ‘Woosha’. So, you went through a coach change from him to Adam Simpson. What was it like going through that and playing under both coaches?

SH: I suppose, because the club’s such a big organisation, it does take a little bit of time for things to change, or for what ‘Simmo’ wanted implemented.

Because ‘Woosha’ had been there for so long, from about 2002 and he finished in 2013.

He’d been around a fair bit, and all our training schedules, how our pre-season went, it was all pretty ingrained.

When Adam Simpson came in, trying to implement the things he’d like as well, he changed a bit of the philosophy of how he’d like to play football, different styles, different drills at training.

We still had our fitness coach in the transition, the running tends to stay the same.

But it was getting used to expectations, so what ‘Woosha’ required to what ‘Simmo’ would like it to be.

It was a whole playing group attitude towards it; it’s a change, but it’s not that big of a change because there’s different philosophies on how football is played and should be played.

JH: In 2015 you were named captain. What was your reaction to that?

SH: I was fortunate enough to have (Ben) Cousins for the first two years, (Chris) Judd for a year, then (Darren) Glass for six or seven years and retired halfway through 2014, when we had Josh Kennedy, Beau Waters, Scott Selwood, Matt Priddis and myself in the leadership group, so we rotated each week through the captaincy.

We had to vote for 2015, and I was announced captain.

The feelings, I was proud and excited about it, and looking forward to it, but you don’t really know the expectations that’s required for it.

The first year is a learning curve about how much you have to give to others, how much you have to do overall and what’s going on inside the club, and also that your football is up to standard – so, how you prepare yourself, how you train and how you’re playing your footy.

It was a learning and ongoing thing, and trying to find a balance about being open and being open to the playing group and making sure they’re going alright while you have enough time yourself to make sure you’re prepared for playing on the weekend.

JH: Later on in that year you probably had one of your toughest days in your career, the 2015 grand final. What do you remember of that day?

SH: It obviously didn’t go too well, but the whole week and day went by pretty quick.

That was even similar in our 2018 premiership.

Probably the thing for the day looking at it, we didn’t manage to play anywhere near our best footy, and that’s a credit to how Hawthorn played –they didn’t allow us to do that (play our best footy).

But we didn’t play good enough footy, we had enough shots in the game, especially in the first quarter and the second half, we had 3.10.

We were just behind the eight ball and Hawthorn were such a good side that they never let us get back into the game.

It was such a disappointing day for us as players and the club, that was hard.

After a while, footy moves on, you get moving into the next year.

It was disappointing, and you still remember it, but you just move on and it’s a part of football.

Shannon Hurn holds the 2018 premiership cup aloft. Picture: westcoasteagles.com.au.

JH: And in 2018 you had a lot more highlights, starting with your All-Australian selection. How did you feel your year went?

SH: Consistency is something that I’ve always tried to be about, and that was taught from my early days at Central District and Northern Districts with the footy and cricket, just about being consistent towards the way you train, your attitude, and hopefully your performance is at a consistent level.

I’ve been fortunate to be around football long enough to know what’s best for myself to prepare and know how best to play my football.

I remember cricketers talking about finding out what your game is, and over the last few years I’ve found where I sit in the football world, in the team, and get comfortable with that.

I enjoyed my football this year, we had a good team, down back we’ve got some great players which makes it easier.

Personally, I was happy to be able to contribute and play some good football, but I was also excited as to how we played as a whole team for the year.

JH: You capped it off with the grand final win. What were your feelings in those final few moments, and watching Dom Sheed kick the winning goal?

SH: Throughout the year and towards the end of the year, if we played the type of football that we wanted to do, to play team football and do the basics well and not panicking, if you do those things you’re always a chance to win football games.

I think we understood how to do that.

Then throughout the final series, we played Collingwood in the first week, then Melbourne in the preliminary final, it was a good all-round solid performance.

Going into the game we were pretty confident, but of course you never know how it goes.

Collingwood started well, five goals to nothing, which isn’t an ideal start.

But you need to make sure you don’t panic and you stay in the game, and we kicked a couple of goals in the first quarter.

We got back to playing how we wanted to play and settled into the game.

From the second half, not that I felt we had control, but we probably had majority of the play or more opportunities, but didn’t kick a score.

Going through the last quarter, the ball was going down our end and we kicked a few points, it wasn’t quite going our way.

Then Dom (Sheed) kicked that goal, which was obviously a cracking shot by him.

Then there was about a minute to go, we won the stoppage, kicked it forward, and I was happy for it to be down our (attacking) end.

It went out of bounds and the runner came out and said there was 10 seconds to go, so it was a bit of countdown mode from then.

They won the stoppage, kicked it forward, Elliot Yeo got it, kicked it back, and I thought there had to be only a few seconds to go…then the siren went.

It was more relief and excitement, but more relief and contentment because we achieved what we wanted to do as a team and win a premiership.

JH: You’re well known for your kicking style, you obviously a massive leg on you. Did you train that as a young fella?

SH: I was always kicking the footy when I was young, I think because of the space we had on the farm.

Dad was always teaching me about the basics of football, try and kick around your corner, your ball drop, and the follow through.

Every player has their tendencies on how they kick, but if you’re doing the basic things well, good technique and getting your body through the ball, that gets some distance in your kick.

I’m fortunate that I’m reasonably well built, so have a power through the ball.

It’s mainly about timing, it’s those three things, but mainly practice.

From about 10 to 20 years of age, I kicked a lot of footballs throughout those hours of practice, that helped fine-tune my technique.

JH: Lastly, the nickname ‘Bunga’ – what’s the story behind it?

SH: It started with granddad, Brian Hurn, he was called ‘Bunga’ at a young age, that got passed onto my dad, and then I got called ‘Little Bunga’, and my sister as well, it was a bit of an earned trait.

There’s been a few different stories about how it evolved, and granddad never really confirmed how it was.

I think he was more happy with the mystique of it all, it’s been through three generations.

There’s no real story behind it, it’s just how it is.

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