When Chloe Watson invited her Melbourne Vixens teammate Khao Watts to move into a spare room at her inner-city rental house last last year, the pair agreed to keep a distance that had nothing to do with three feet.
“We set the rules pretty early,’’ laughs Bendigo-raised Watson, with the pair driving to training and games separately, cooking their own meals and reluctant to bring too much netball talk home.
“We spend so much time together and we’re on the same schedules and everything, and I like having my own space.
"Khao was the same. Both of our fiancés live interstate and we both like to have that time when you’re driving around to just chat to them.
And I just didn’t want to have to be checking in with someone all the time; even when you’re leaving training you don’t have to be ‘are you ready to go?’ I know that sounds pretty pathetic, but you just get to grab your stuff and worry about yourself.
“When you’ve done things a certain way for so long, you just get used to being on your own schedule. But the number of times we leave for training at the same time and rock up at the same time and get out of separate cars, it’s so stupid!’’
Importantly, it’s also fine by Watts, who moved from Adelaide in October, 2016, to join the Vixens, two days after her high school sweetheart, lawyer Tim Graney proposed.
Watson, meanwhile, said ‘yes’ to partner Kurt Tippett at Easter, with Watts joking that she was she was a “massive beneficiary” of the latest engagement, so full was their townhouse of gorgeous congratulatory flowers.
“What I really like about it is that it’s just so easy,’’ says the qualified school teacher, currently working as a VicHealth ambassador at Netball Victoria and school academy coach, of the living arrangements.
“We’re very independent people, and we each like doing our own thing, so that was something we sat down and had a chat about.
“It’s nice just having the freedom, without worrying about the other person, really. It does sound a bit selfish, but that’s just what we like to do.
“As soon as she said it I was like ‘yep, got you!’ Another good thing is that we’re both engaged and in long-distance relationships, so we understand that when your fiancé comes over, you like spending time just together, and as much as we’re like ‘come hang, come hang’, we both get it.’’
A mutual preference for tidiness means there is no ‘Odd Couple’ delineation between a Felix-style neat freak and Oscar-like messy slob, and while each buys and prepares her own meals, Watson admits that “we share ideas and get a bit of inspiration from each other’s cooking, and I pinch some things if we’re desperate for food and haven’t had time to get to the shops!’’
Watts quips that plans for the Watson-Tippett wedding to be held in the next 12 months after are “putting me to shame”, but nor are she and Graney in any rush to the altar after 13 years together
Interstate reunions are frequent, and at least Melbourne is close(ish), Watts having lived in Perth and New Zealand during her stints with the Fever and Magic, respectively, before returning home to Adelaide in 2016. The 29-year-old is also relieved to be healthy again after a lingering knee injury which needed a surgical clean-up during the extended Suncorp Super Netball break.
Yet if wing defence Watson - now 24 and in the final six weeks of her law degree - is entrenched in the Vixens’ starting seven, and Watts’ court-time is more limited behind entrenched midcourters Lizzie Watson and Kate Moloney, then at least the housemates are not duelling for the same position.
“Imagine if we were both goalers or something like that. That wouldn’t be good,’’ laughs Watts.
“But, no, I think even if that was the case we’d still be professional enough and are good enough people that it would never be awkward. It’s all worked out really well for both of us.’'
By Linda Pearce, multi-award-winning netball writer with over 30 years experience.