Former AFL star Steven Baker has lifted the lid on a boozy bender that could have ended his footy career before it even started.
Baker, who played all of his 203 games for St Kilda, got up to his fair share of mischief as a young up-and-comer after being drafted to the Saints in the late 1990s and one of his earliest training sessions saw him end up on coach Tim Watson’s bad side.
Speaking on the Herald Sun’s SACKED podcast, Baker remembered a particularly big Friday night out with clubmates Barry Hall and Austinn “Aussie” Jones that saw a furious Watson dish out the silent treatment.
“I think Timmy Watson nearly kicked me out of the club after missing the first training session because I was hungover,” Baker said.
“I remember going out with Barry Hall, I think they were feeding me shots deliberately. Aussie Jones, all those troublemakers.
“And I woke up and I was naked in some weird house and I was wet thinking, ‘Oh no, I’ve peed the bed here’. And I walked in the house and there was this lady screaming and I said sorry.
“She goes, ‘I’m Barry Hall’s girlfriend’ and I just said, ‘Where am I? At his house?’ Then I looked at the clock and it was 11am, I was meant to be there (training) at 7am. (I had) 58 missed calls, (teammate) Lenny (Hayes) has called me 100 times … I’m thinking, ‘Oh no’.
“They made me do a four-hour gut circuit and (I was) throwing up in the gym and Tim Watson didn’t want to talk to me until Monday. That was on the Saturday morning.
“On the Monday, Tim Watson didn’t look at me and at the end of the session – I had a ponytail and an undercut at the time, I was a rude looking young man – he hadn’t looked at me all Monday and then he said to Aussie Jones, ‘You’ll be down in the twos next weekend’.
“Then he goes, ‘And effing Baker, if you do that again you’re going on the first train back to Colac and cut that effing stupid hair off!’
“So I went home that night and shaved my head, came in, sat in the front row the next day at the next training session and tried to work my way back into it.”
Baker, who debuted in 1999, remained a larrikin but admitted he learnt to become more professional as his career developed, helped by the guidance of ex-Saints skipper Lenny Hayes.
He went on to become one of the game’s premier taggers before retiring at the end of the 2011 season when he was told by then-coach Ross Lyon he didn’t figure in St Kilda’s plans for the following season.