In The Champ’s Corner, Part 5: The Good Mate
From the outside, motocross might appear to be an individual sport. But any motocross rider who’s won at the elite level will tell you that having the right people in their corner is an absolute prerequisite for success. We spoke with the key people in Todd Waters’ corner; those who proudly witnessed the likeable 28-year-old clinch his long-overdue maiden Australian MX1 Championship title.
“It was really special to be there at Coolum to see Toddy finally win his first Australian title. It’s long overdue. And the way he performed was just incredible. He overcame a nervous battle between his mind and body and never looked like losing a moto. And he didn’t.”
Matty Macalpine, Owlpine Group
TM: Your history as friends…
MM: “We’ve known each other since we were 10 and literally grew up together. Toddy is a cabinet-maker by trade, and when he was doing his apprenticeship, he’d come and stay at my place down in Cairns. He started racing a lot earlier than I did, but we spent a lot of years running amok at race meets. We’d ride together during the week, race together on the weekends, and fish and fart-arse around in between. It’s funny that we’re now actually neighbours in Burleigh Heads. So it was really special to be there at Coolum on the weekend; to see Toddy finally win his first Australian title. It’s long overdue. And the way he performed was just incredible. He overcame a nervous battle between his mind and body and never looked like losing a moto. And he didn’t.”
The Waters family…
“Todd is a lot like his old boy, Steve; a jack of all trades who’ll go out and buy an old busted-arse ute for two grand, paint it, work some magic, and go on to sell it for six grand. I feel like 90 percent of every journey to the top of Pro motocross begins with sacrifice from a family, and it was no different for the Waters family. The only thing that’s different is that this family is tighter and more close-knit than ever; from travelling the world as a collective to just having BBQs at home, they’re always together and pushing one another. Everyone in the Waters family is a classic. Their laid-back and positive attitude towards life is a perfect representation of Todd as he is today and how they roll as a family.”
“Everyone in the Waters family is classic. Their laid-back and positive attitude towards life is a perfect representation of Todd as he is today and how they roll as a family.”
What was different in 2019?…
“I feel like it had a lot to do with the DPH Husky team not only giving Todd the bike and support and atmosphere that he needs, but also being able to give him the latitude to bring a lot of his personal sponsors with him, despite the team’s commitments as a whole. For me, it was really surprising to see this happen as it isn’t common, but the DPH team obviously understands that support and budgets continue to dissolve within motorsport as a whole, and to give Todd this flexibility really helped build a strong relationship early on in such a young partnership. For instance, Todd brought Snap On tools, M2R helmets and Forma boots with him, which are all conflicting with the team’s current agreements. Giving someone like Todd this ability empowers him and puts him in such a solid frame of mind right from the get-go, which is a powerful thing. As a whole, things just clicked for Todd this year, on and off the bike. He came to understand how important social media was. With the help of his girl, Gill, he got his training, diet, recovery and routine tuned to perfection. He moved into a warehouse on the Goldie that’s right near my office and doubles as his workshop. I think that whole ‘less is more’ philosophy really worked for him this year. I feel this was triggered when he returned from Europe after his stint with HRC, arriving to what I’m guessing was financial restraints, rejigged living circumstances and just recalibrating life in general. He had to find ways to strip out all the bullshit from his life, create efficiency, sacrifice a big old sign-on cheque and get back to where he felt he could win. It was crazy to see how much effort he really put in and how hard he worked – both for himself and for his sponsors. He’s a beast in that respect.”
Going over and above…
“My business, Owlpine Group, represented Todd for the past five or six years. We still help him with lead generation with personal sponsors and online-based support, but he made the decision to take on a lot of those responsibilities himself this year, simply because he had learned so much in the past and because he’s prepared to do it. For me, it’s been awesome to see an athlete at his level learn and grow like that, and to take on that gig himself while operating at such an elite level in the sport. And he does a great job of it.”
“I put all the Cairns riders’ success down to a combination of humble beginnings and the fact they’ve all been brought up together – no matter what age – pushing and challenging each other in a healthy, positive, respectful way.”
What’s in the water around Cairns? …
“I know [laughs]; I get asked that a lot because so many top riders have come out of the Cairns region in the past decade. Aside from Todd, there are guys such as his DPH teammate, Wilson Todd, Jackson Richardson, Wade Hunter, Mitch Evans, Richie Evans, and a bunch of young guys coming through the ranks on 65s. I put their success down to a combination of humble beginnings and the fact they’ve all been brought up together – no matter what age – pushing and challenging each other in a healthy, positive, respectful way. It’s a tight-knit community where everyone helps everyone. A lot of that has stemmed from Peter Richardson [Jackson’s old man]. For example, Peter opened up a public track under lights, which we all probably executed 101 million laps around for five years while every other kid was asleep as night or watching TV. Looking back now – which I hadn’t done until you brought this up – there were so many amazing assets and opportunities for us all back then. And that includes our supportive families, who were all so close as friends and still are due to our obsession with dirt bikes.”
The Cairns crew at a simpler time: #1 Todd Waters, #425 Jake Wright #43 Mitch Evans, #94 Jackson Richardson, #442 Wade Hunter.
Wilson Todd and Todd Waters as grommies. Who knew they’d be celebrating together again in 2019.
Where it all began for young Todd.
“I think that whole ‘less is more’ philosophy really worked for him this year. He had to find ways to strip out all the bullshit from his life, create efficiency, sacrifice a big old sign-on cheque and get back to where he felt he could win.”
The emotion at the Coolum finale…
“It was funny how everyone in Todd’s corner was super-emotional about him finally clinching the title, but Toddy was his usual laid-back, matter-of-fact, laughing self. I think he’d just played that scene out in his mind so many times, so it was like he’d been there before. Even when he hadn’t [laughs]. Who knows? That was his first title, so maybe that’s just the way he rolls. By rights, he should have won quite a few titles in the past, but was deprived by injuries or mechanical issues. That’s not to say it didn’t mean the world to him. He was so chuffed and we went out and partied all night on Sunday in Coolum. But he got up in the morning after a couple of hours’ sleep, went down to the beach with his chick and went surfing. Didn’t skip a beat. And I can see him out the window now washing his car and painting something. I think he’s still running on the excitement and sense of achievement. I’m stoked for him. The fact it was a really special day for a lot of people just goes to show you how good a guy he is.”
“It was funny how everyone in Todd’s corner was super-emotional about him finally clinching the title on the weekend, but Toddy was his usual laid-back, matter-of-fact, laughing self.”
Why Todd is such a popular winner…
“It’s pretty simple; he’s humble and just a super-nice guy who has time for everyone. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say a bad thing about him. And he’s such a great ambassador for the sport in Australia and a role model for young riders. Come to think of it, he’s one of the best role models for Australian sport as a whole! Plus, I think everyone knew it was just a matter of time before he finally won a title. He’s had so much bad luck in the past with injuries or sub-standard race bikes or mechanicals that lost him the red plate. I know he was nervous on those last few laps. It was crazy because his bike ran out of fuel while he was doing a burnout back at the truck, meaning it was bloody close. Man, could you imagine if he’d run out of fuel on the last lap, and lost the title as a result? Seriously, I reckon he would have slung the bike over his shoulder and run it across the line [laughs].”