PERTH fans deserve to be excited looking ahead to the 2020 WAFL season with the revelations that gun recruit Chris Masten is refreshed, energised and excited about football again after admitting to somewhat losing the love for the game late in his decorated AFL career.
Masten's signing is a significant one for the Demons heading into the 2020 WAFL season as they desperately try to break through that wall of a first finals appearance since 1997 having gone so close in 2019 and indeed sitting in the top five the majority of the home and away season.
Signing somebody at WAFL level the calibre of Masten doesn’t happen every day and bringing in somebody at the Demons who played 215 AFL matches including taking part in two Grand Finals and the premiership in 2018 is significant.
But it can also be somewhat of a hit and miss prospect of how much someone who has spent more than a decade in the AFL system has left in the tank when he then signs for a WAFL club for the next phase of their career and then juggling it with full-time work for the first time and a young family.
However, what should have everyone at the Demons excited for what Masten can produce in 2020 is the fact of how refreshed and energised he is already feeling by coming to the Perth Football Club.
Masten makes no secret of the fact that had the Eagles offered him a contract for 2020, he would have jumped at it and why not considering he still played strong football in 2019 and was still in the team for the elimination final win over Essendon and semi-final loss to Geelong.
But once it became clear he wouldn’t get another deal with West Coast, Masten made the call not to chase a deal interstate and he admits to losing some of his love for football.
However, the moment he started pre-season training at the Demons he felt it start to come back and that has continued.
"I wanted to play on for as long as I possibly could but that's not where the club was at and fair enough. I am starting to feel pretty old these days and it's a young man's game," Masten told 91.3 SportFM.
"It wasn’t really worth looking to move to another AFL club. really early on I'd say I'd go anywhere, but then I started to think what's the point. I'd be 30, 31 and have two kids at home. I've won a flag and played enough games so I didn’t think I had it in me anymore to compete at the highest level.
"It is a big commitment and you have to really love the sport, and I reckon I had lost a little bit of love for it. That's a bit sad but I'm starting to get that back now with this new group at Perth that has refreshed me a little bit."
Masten, though, is enjoying life already working in the wine industry full-time and then trying to fit in a similar amount of training at WAFL level with Perth than what was his full-time AFL job with the Eagles.
But he has enjoyed the move already and can't wait to now start playing games in the red-and-black.
"It's going pretty good but it has been pretty tough too to be honest over pre-season. It's been some of the hardest weeks of training I've probably ever done on the footy field," he said.
"I was a bit shocked by that to be honest but we've gone pretty well and I'm now looking forward to playing some games. I'm sick of running in the heat at 6 o'clock at night so let's get the games started."
The change has been stark for Masten though. He made sure he knew everybody at the Eagles organisation both in the front office and then naturally who were involved in the football side of things.
But he felt he needed a fresh start to such a degree that a big selling point for Perth was that he virtually had no connections with anyone at the club at all.
That fresh start is exactly what he was after as he moved into this next phase of his football life.
"To be honest I've gone from a place where I pretty much knew every person in the whole building including marketing and every single person involved in the footy club, to not really knowing one person," Masten said.
"So that's a big change up to start with. Then the training load and how much you have to cram into a shorter amount of time while still doing almost as much as an AFL player is pretty difficult.
"But other than that, footy is footy and the drills are much the same, the way we want to play is pretty similar these days and then my ability to help teach younger players now stands out a lot more than it did in the AFL where we had endless amount of coaches to do that teaching."
Looking back at the end of his AFL career last year, Masten had no doubt physically he could have still gone around again in 2020 and made an impact just as he did throughout his entire 215-game, premiership winning journey.
But he'd also felt his passion for being in the AFL dissipating the longer he was part of that full-time, professional environment and while no one at the Eagles confirmed to him during the season his time was running out, he could see the writing on the wall.
"I didn’t know for sure but there had been talks up until a certain point in the season about 2020 and then they sort of stopped so you kind of know what's going on then. But you don't know for sure, obviously no one's spoken to you about it until much later on," he said.
"You kind of know where you sit at a footy club at all times really whether you're going to be playing that week or if it's about your contract. I think you have a fair inkling of what's going on, or you should, so I kind of knew but not sure."
Then once Masten decided a move interstate wasn’t on the cards for him and he wouldn’t chase an extension to his AFL career for a year or two, and with his post-football career sorted, it was all about where he would play on the field in 2020.
And the more he spoke with Earl Spalding, Garry Moss and company at the Demons, the more everything they had to offer appealed to him including that despite to break a finals drought that came so close to happening in 2019.
Masten soon had no trouble deciding to join the Demons and he couldn't be happier to be there now.
"I think it was a number of things. They haven’t played finals for a long time but have been on the cusp, especially last year and that's pretty exciting. I hope to be able to help the change that and on and off the field I think I can help us get a little bit better," Masten said.
"Hopefully that can push us over the line so that was probably one reason. And I probably ended up at a few WAFL games last year when West Coast were playing at Lathlain against Perth, and just the vibe around the place was pretty exciting.
"It's a bit of a fresh start and I didn’t really know anyone, but I think I needed it that way and I saw the club had a lot going for it. That's how I landed at Perth and onwards and upwards."
The move from an 11-year full-time professional football to one who still has to put in a similar amount of work to keep his body in shape and football skills sharp while working full-time and making time for his young family does take some adjustment.
But it's something Masten is fully embracing and enjoying every aspect of so far.
"Footy's definitely different when you're not required to do it every day as a job. I work full-time now and then go and train afterwards," Masten said.
"That has its pros and cons for sure, but I think I'm probably getting a lot angrier while doing it but I'm actually feeling way more excited than I used to be when I'm driving to training.
"I don’t know if that's because it's a new group or what it is, but it's just a little bit refreshing and I kind of like being angry. I'm old now and I think I've earned the right to abuse a few people. I'm pretty good at abusing myself too so that's alright."