JACK Watts cannot help but feel slighted by the criticism that has dogged his career, although he learned long ago not to take harsh comments to heart.
Critics have targeted the No.1 pick from the 2008 NAB AFL Draft throughout his seven years at Melbourne and the 24-year-old has tried his best to deal with life under such a harsh spotlight.
But he admits he found it difficult to shut out the negative comments in the early stages of his career, particularly because the people making them had never tried to understand him as a person.
"Was it necessary? I don't know if it was necessary. It might've been warranted," Watts told AFL.com.au.
"You deal with it as best as you can."
Watts still loves the game. You can tell by the enthusiasm he displays on the training track and by the way he holds his teammates and the club in such high regard.
He believes the challenges early in his career – starting with his now-infamous debut against Collingwood on Queen's Birthday in 2009 – have taught him some important life lessons.
"The journey that it has been has been an interesting one," Watts says.
"It's been a tough one, at times.
"But you come out the other end and I've learned so much and it's helped me be the person that I am today, no doubt."
He faced a potential flashpoint in his career at the end of 2013 – he could have left Melbourne and started afresh at a new club, leaving some of the baggage behind him.
Instead, he committed to the Demons and signed a three-year deal until the end of 2016.
He is content that he made the right decision.
"This year is by far the most enjoyable year that I've had playing at this footy club. With what we're looking forward to, even more so," Watts says.
"I couldn't be happier really."
Watts notched his 100th game with little fanfare against Fremantle in a 68-point thumping in round five.
He was then dropped just two weeks after his milestone game, 'asking' coach Paul Roos to be demoted so he could recapture his best form in the VFL.
Upon his return to the senior side against the Bulldogs in round eight, Watts' individual form has trended upwards.
He has embraced a new role on the wing and says he has learned plenty from playing on Andrew Gaff and Brendon Goddard, among others.
Watts' spell in the VFL allowed him to simplify things and to concentrate on five elements of his game – focusing on putting his head over the ball, winning the footy, being clean, making tackles and being defensively sound.
"That's when I play good footy, when I'm doing those things," Watts says.
Jack Watts tackles Alex Rance in Melbourne's win over Richmond in round four. Picture: AFL Media
He has worked overtime on his 'defensive actions' with development coach – and former Bulldogs senior coach – Brendan McCartney who has looked to add a harder edge to Watts' game.
"He's (McCartney) been outstanding in being tough and hard to get the best out of me and then knowing when to give me a little cuddle at the same time," Watts says.
The Demons have won five games in 2015, already one more than last season, and under Roos' mentorship are becoming a more competitive team by the week.
Watts says the feeling around the club, ahead of Sunday's game against St Kilda at the MCG, is poles apart from the gloomy atmosphere that had enveloped the club in recent years.
"It's a different feeling and an exciting one at that," Watts says.
"It's what makes the next six weeks so exciting; that desire to get a couple more wins and carry it into next season."