Dylan Shiel opens up about his new life in Melbourne, his obsessive nature and quitting sugar
28 minutes ago
Melbourne is known for its coffee, but it’s a black edition of the supermarket instant variety in a KeepCup that is the go-to for the Bomber at the moment.
It’s been an acquired taste.
He’s quit sugar — which has included ditching milk, given its naturally-occurring lactose — with new teammates [Zach Merrett] and Andy McGrath, not just for the apparent health benefits but also for the challenge.
He’s the type of person who relishes the test.
“I can honestly say I’ve probably tried every diet going around in sport,” Shiel says with a grin.
“(Going sugar-free) has been challenging.
“Little things like that … I enjoy the challenge and having some sort of task ahead of me that’s keeping me entertained.”
He can be obsessive. That’s just his nature, and not just with diet.
High school might have ended at Caulfield Grammar more than eight years ago, but the 26-year-old’s penchant for homework continued well beyond the schoolyard — including on his new club.
“I don’t feel like it’s just for footy — it’s something I try to apply to all things in life,” he said.
“I try to be thorough and be the best I can be and absorb as much information as I can gather in all things I’m doing, whether it’s footy, uni, investment, learning new concepts around training or diet, relationships, everything like that.
“When I decide to do something, it’s sort of an obsessive-compulsive mindset.”
He looks to the NFL’s Tom Brady, NBA’s LeBron James and soccer’s Ronaldo — the best in their field.
“Critical consumer”, Shiel loves researching fad diets and radical concepts from across Australia and the world.
With the trade being “the biggest decision I’ve made in my life to date”, it required the appropriate application as he weighed up his destination before the shift from Greater Western Sydney was ratified in October.
“I was going to give it everything in terms of my complete attention to make sure I’d analysed everything,” the former Giant said, ironically sporting bright orange at Bombers HQ.
“I tend to probably overanalyze things. But in the end, I went with my instincts and that was based off all of the intel I’d gathered and work I’d put in to get to that decision.
“Certainly I’ve noticed, especially in recent times, it seems to be the thing to say for footballers — to say ‘I’m not really into footy, I don’t watch footy, I don’t read the paper’. But I love the game. It’s what I do. It’s not my purpose in life, but I certainly enjoy it.
“And if you’re going to be good at something, you might as well try and be a student of it, I guess.”
There’d been suitors, most famously [Carlton who flew the star midfielder aboard a private jet to Noosa] in an attempt to lure him.
“I did like Noosa,” he smiled wryly.
“That was an experience in itself. I certainly appreciate everything the clubs did. It came down to a footy decision.
“It just seemed like [Essendon were on a journey ] that I wanted to be a part of. I honestly feel like I can reach my full potential at this club.”
Once that decision had been made, he made a conscious effort to contact the other three in the race — Carlton, Hawthorn and St Kilda — personally to inform them of the news.
It was just “the right thing to do”.
From there, it was all business — just what he expects next weekend’s opening round clash with his former teammates to be.
Attention has been a major adjustment.
Homesickness for the Harbour City has been a challenge, and Shiel may move back once footy ends.
It’s “one extreme to the other” between Melbourne and Sydney, having been prepared to embrace the spotlight.
“In Sydney, guys like (Giants) Josh Kelly, Jeremy Cameron, Callan Ward, could walk around Sydney and really go unnoticed,” Shiel said.
“AFL supporters, generally, would see you but would leave you alone … unlike in Melbourne where obviously football is like a religion, so to speak. People have no hesitation in coming up to speak to you.
“I’m going to get used to it. I said I’d really enjoy it. Saying that and experiencing it is two different things.”
He reckons he “probably lives a pretty boring life”, so hasn’t had to change too much.
“But I have noticed that there’s a lot more eyes looking at you,” he said.
“You get a lot more people coming up to talk footy to you when you’re at restaurants or going shopping.
“I’ll tell you one thing — I will avoid going to Chadstone Shopping Centre in the week leading into Christmas. It doubled my time there! I’ll never do that again.”
Determined to have an impact on the inside as a Bomber, Shiel is adamant he won’t stray from the strengths that earned him All-Australian selection in 2017.
There’s another job to deal with — shaking a new nickname.
“They do (call me Rolls Royce),” Shiel laughs.
“I’m trying not to let it stick too much. Tom Bellchambers has tried to make that stick, and in my opinion that implies old and a classic, which I don’t want to be that just yet.
“I’m happy to be young, exciting, fast … not slow and classic or something that the Queen drives. It’s all a bit of fun.
“It’s a reflection of the playing group accepting me … I’ve really enjoyed my first six months at the club and hope they’ve enjoyed having me. I’m having really good fun.”
Shiel’s addition to the midfield sparked hope, with Essendon considered by some to be well in contention — certainly for the top eight and for some, the premiership.
But the star is conscious of keeping expectations tempered.
The willingness of players to adopt the one-percenters — like ditching the sweet stuff — is a sign those at Essendon are “open to change”, Shiel says, and possessing “that growth mindset to get better”.
“It looks like it could be (a team that has success),” he said.
“So much needs to be done between now and getting to there. Like, a lot.
“We have to get a lot right before we can start talking about Grand Finals and prelims and those sorts of things.
“On face value, this club looks pretty solid and probably the word is more that there’s potential there.
“I spent most of my career at a club with potential, and maybe the last few years were we were there and the Giants probably still are there. It looks like in a few years, the club could be at a really good level. It’s not going to be just this year, but hopefully years after.”
What can be expected from the Bombers in a word turns Shiel pensive.
Eyes closed, head bowed toward the Blend 43, his declaration is simple.