Billy MacKay uses the themes ‘challenging’ and ‘fun’ interchangeably.
Isolation has been difficult for the extroverted 18-year-old, who is currently training solo, but it has allowed growth in cooking and gardening. Improvement he doesn’t think would otherwise have happened.
His signature dish is spaghetti bolognaise, by the way.
The crash and bash of playing senior footy for Old Haileybury was tough, especially with longer quarters than MacKay was accustomed to in junior footy.
So that must have been hard?
“Nah, it was so good,” MacKay quipped gleefully.
Becoming a ‘small fish in a big pond’ as MacKay put it, when joining Frankston was daunting, but proving himself as a player was exciting.
‘Small’ is a funny word to express MacKay; many of the music lover’s team-mates would dispute that description.
Weighing 86 kilograms despite only measuring 181cm, people always begin describing MacKay in the same way: ‘He’s built like a man.’
“It’s gone back and forth with how much gym I do,” MacKay said.
“I’ve tried to lose weight a few times to improve my running but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m always going to be built this way.
“I don’t do more gym than any of the other players would,” MacKay quipped (albeit after earlier speaking of his well-resourced home gym setup).
Having adapted to a new role in the back-line during pre-season, the Sandringham Dragons graduate insists he has, and is developing more assets to bring to senior footy than just his well built frame.
And given his hunger to improve, it’s dangerous to disagree.
“I’m not overly athletic in running or jumping but I pride myself on having a decent footy brain, being good at my craft, being tidy and someone who position themselves well.
“When you move down back you don’t see the ball as much so that’s where being neat is crucial which has been a recent implementation. It’s helped me grow.”
It was with school team Haileybury last year that MacKay felt he truly established himself as a player.
Like most footballers, he recalls that time in his life fondly.
“School footy was the best thing I’ve been a part of. We had a tight knit playing group and a few really good coaches.
“Playing with (guys now on AFL lists) was awesome.
“The main thing with (them) is other than being such good players they’re the best guys on the team as people: they’re humble and the way they hold themselves is as impressive as what they do on the field.
“They’re really good influences. Even if I can’t play as well as them I want to be like them; a good bloke who trains hard.”
Just like his hunger, MacKay’s humility is striking.
He stops short of calling himself a spiritual favourite despite being raved about internally within a fortnight of arriving at Kars St.
Notwithstanding the fact he was consensually loved for his schoolboy side as a junior.
Oh, and don’t speak of his intelligence either.
A dignified speaker, and philosophical thinker, he charismatically brushes off getting accepted to study commerce at Melbourne University like he would a big hit from the opposition ruckman.
As Aloysio Ferreira-Neto last week described, Frankston’s newcomers complement the existing playing group, who live by the principle of being hungry and humble.
MacKay might just be the most accurate representation of that truth.
–By Jonty Ralphsmith