Like many Tassie Athletes, the throwing community are a tough bunch - after all, they're the proudest of the self-proclaimed nickname "Tassie Tossers."
Hobart-based discus thrower Jackson 'Jacko' Mellor is no exception when it comes to being tough.
His dedication to training, commitment to training and passion for the sport have seen the junior athlete develop into one of Tasmania's emerging throwers - something that caught my eye when watching him compete at the state championships event back in 2019.
'Work Ethic' is the title of Jacko's article - a trait further reaffirmed when we caught up to chat for the Tassie Athlete, as I think back to 3:30 pm on that chilly, winter afternoon at the Domain Athletics Centre.
I was trying to set up the camera gear as the sun rapidly set behind the Hobart landscape, while a fellow athlete pestered about what who I was filming and what I'd been doing recently.
Like almost every weekday afternoon, Jackson went about hanging up the nets around the discus cage (of which I am convinced a surgical degree is required) and once both set up, we filmed for just over an hour.
After eventually wrapping up, I set off on a training run myself.
With the sun no longer offering any warmth, I remember doubling back to put on an extra layer, grab my gloves and slide on the arm warmers before heading off.
It was around 7:00 pm when I returned, freezing and pretty much pitch-black dark.
While every other athlete had gone home to defrost, Jacko - along with a handful of other throwers - were still training in the cage, sending the implements out onto the soggy grass, continually perfecting their art.
Seeing this, I knew we'd chosen a ripper athlete for the latest Tassie Athlete article…
"I think I started athletics when I was about five or six," Jackson tells me. "I followed the traditional path through Little Athletics, doing every event under the sun with my friends."
"I think I just stuck with it because I enjoyed it and was kind of alright as a kid."
"I started doing senior athletics when I was about fourteen, mainly because I wanted to keep up with the sport but a big part was also sticking with my mates."
"I always had an interest in the throws. I think I was a pretty powerful athlete and this just worked in my favour. I started training semi-seriously and saw instant progress, and with that, I was hooked."
Jackson is now definitely part of the furniture within the local throwing community, having claimed a series of junior Tasmanian titles and regularly featuring at senior competitions.
Despite an absolute passion for the throwing disciplines, there's something more to it for Jacko.
"I thought about this a lot and to be honest, I just love the throwing community here - I feel it's different, like a family."
"When it comes competition time, there's the seriousness required - but unlike other disciplines or states around Australia, the other 95% of the time everyone isn't always thinking about beating each other or winning; we all want to help one another improve and that's special."
"At the same time, I do love throwing and always have, I can't pinpoint when or why but, I've just always loved it."
Having followed Jackson's new throwing page on Instagram recently, love is an understatement.
My athlete-friend from early had also seen Jackson's throwing presence grow, commenting on how his dedication to the discipline had also inspired her own attitude towards track and field.
As a runner however, things are relatively simple. It is one foot in front of the other, as fast as you can, and avoid the lactic-fridge that often finds its way onto your back.
As Jackson explains to me, the discus is a bit more of a complex event.
"With discus, most people see the spin and get pretty mesmerised by that, but there's much more to it."
"If someone were new to discus, to start, they'd do some standing throws just to get a feel for the release and to make sure the fundamentals are learnt."
"Once they were comfortable with that, the next transition is into the spin. It looks pretty advanced, however, it does help with increasing your distance."
I asked Jackson if there was any sole factor in the discus that was more important than the other.
"That's tough," he says chuckling, "everything in the discus is really important - for example, how fast you're going, where your feet are placed, each tiny aspect has to come together to make a throw good."
"The toughest thing about discus is getting everything to come together - nailing everything right," Jackson continues.
“It’s a centimetre perfect sport and that’s so challenging - if your technique or approach or release is off by even one centimetre, you could lose big distance."
“I’ve recently been watching a video of a guy who said that the release angle of each throw, down to the millimetre, could change your result by three meters - for better or worse.”
“Ultimately, with the discus, you’re seeking perfection across every aspect."
And when it comes to the spin...
“It is a bit of a unique element, however it helps so much.”
"The spin helps generate more power from the circle, and accelerate the implement as much as possible. If you were to just stand there and throw, it’s all upper body, whereas with the spin you’re also using your legs and body - which all just explodes out of the hand.”
“Not many people realise or see, but quite often, the discus is actually thrown from the legs."
“There’s a harmony required between the physical approach to each throw, but also the mental side too.”
“Before each throw, I do the same thing, which is shut my eyes, take a deep breath and focus. I concentrate on what I should be doing, rather than the throw itself, because I know that if I do the small things right - the discus will go far."
It’s an approach that works well for Jacko, the three time Tasmanian junior champion in the discus as well as recently being named in the COVID-19 cancelled International Melanesian games team.
“I’ve enjoyed my throwing journey to date, however my overall goal is definitely to make more Australian teams.”
“It was really unfortunate that COVID-19 cancelled so many events worldwide, the Melanesian Games included, which I’d been selected to throw in - but obviously everyone’s health and wellbeing was incredibly important.”
Despite his apparent success in the throwing arena, I learnt that it hasn't all been smooth sailing for Jackson - which lead our conversation towards a major set back he experienced during the previous athletic season.
"Before last season, around September, my work ethic wasn't great."
"While it was partially due to some family things going on, there was also just a lack of direction and motivation from me internally."
"Looking back on it, I wasn't taking training seriously - athletics should be done for fun, but if you want to achieve your goals at a competitive level, I've learnt that you've got to have a strong work ethic."
I was interested to hear about how Jackson, still a junior athlete, came to this realisation about what's required to perform at an elite level of track and field.
"I fouled out at the Tasmania All Schools last year, which meant I didn't make the state team..."
"I remember sitting at home while everyone else was in Perth competing at the nationals; I was devastated."
"It was really upsetting at the time," Jackson reflects, "but looking back at that moment, I'm thankful that it happened because after that I knuckled down and begun making the changes that I needed - I changed my work ethic."
"Because of these changes, I'm much stronger in my throwing, but also across the board as well."
Passionately talking about how his change in work ethic had improved his current training, I asked Jackson if he could define the term in a way that all athletes could benefit from.
"It's tough, but if I had to define work ethic, I'd say achieving consistency and having a positive mental approach."
"With consistency, for me personally, that's meeting goals and holding yourself accountable."
"A lot of this is behind the scenes and is that internal drive, but it's also about both setting and ticking boxes no matter the external factors like weather or what others are doing."
"The second part is the mindset, which is the approach you take not only to training but beyond it as well."
"If nothing else it's having a good mental state but also having a positive approach to gym, to diet, to recovery - all those 1% that we've seen other Tassie Athlete's like Scott Bowden and Sam Field talk about."
With the mention of fellow Tassie Athletes, it's fitting to talk to Jackson about his own love for Tasmania and what it means to him.
"Being an athlete in Tasmania is something I'm really proud of - I think we have such a positive community down here."
"Pages like the Tassie Athlete just further enhance this, increasing the exposure for athletes who may otherwise go unnoticed."
"This sort of promotion or stories aren't something that you see a lot of, so it's a great idea that gets some exposure for people who really deserve it."
"Just on that community feel, I can only speak from the throwing community but I know that we are all is out here to be our best."
"It's different - we are not so much competitors or worrying about each others distances but just helping each other, encouraging each other, and I think that is uniquely Tasmanian."
“I also think this was heightened during the recent COVID-19 period too, while everyone went about training individually, there was still a lot of support from the wider athletics community."
"Personally, I approached the COVID period really well too. I thought that I might lose form and strength but it’s actually improved. I’ve lost a lot of weight too and I’m now faster and stronger."
“The down time has actually helped me I think, I improved 20m over the last season and have been working hard during the winter so it’s been good and I'm looking forward to the season ahead."
This refreshed mindset and newfound approach to work ethic is clearly working...
As we excitedly hit publish on his article, Jackson has recently achieved personal bests at the Tasmanian All Schools Championships in Launceston in all the throws disciplines - his first competition of the season.
While the Tasmanian weather gets warmer, there's no doubt that at some point, Jackson will reflect back on those dark, dreary nights of winter that often saw him throwing alone; and in particular how his new work ethic has contributed to his success not only in this season, but undoubtedly in the future.
We're excited to see what's ahead for this emerging thrower, as we look forward to seeing you crush those goals.
Jacko, thanks for taking the time to chat with the Tassie Athelte - all the best for the rest of the current athletics season.
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