Eric Mackenzie was one of five nominees for the AFL Players’ Association Madden Medal, an award that recognises more than on-field performances, with off-field achievements, personal development and community spirit also taken into account.
Very few AFL careers follow a stable path, just ask Eric Mackenzie.
Having missed the entire 2018 season due to injury, the 30-year-old announced his retirement after 147 games with the West Coast Eagles.
Two All-Australian nominations, the 2014 John Worsfold Medal and a handful of finals appearances are highlights that Mackenzie looks back on proudly.
Achievements that should not be understated given the struggles he has had with his body.
“I never actually did a pre-season, I had surgery after every season, so it would have been good to actually do a pre-season,” Mackenzie told AFLPlayers.com.au.
That is unfortunately the reason why Mackenzie had to cut his career short, after failing to recover from an arthritic condition that has affected both of his big toes to the point that they don’t move at all.
“It wasn’t just affecting me in terms of my football life, I certainly couldn’t get on the field, but it has affected me day-to-day. I’d wake up and never really know what kind of day it was going to be in terms of how well I could move, how much pain,” Mackenzie explained.
“There’s a lot more to life after football and I want to be able to run around with kids and have a kick with them as opposed to pushing it to try and play for another year or two.”
As a professional, Mackenzie had to develop the personal traits to deal with setbacks and disappointments both on and off the field.
“There’s very few jobs where you have a very public performance review every weekend and then every Monday in front of your co-workers as well so I think you have to develop a thick skin and resilience.”
Mackenzie is still currently employed by the West Coast Eagles in the Community and Game Development team where he works with the Naitanui and Second Generation academies.
He is also involved in the development of the West Coast Eagles women’s team which is a project he really enjoys as they are starting from scratch.
Away from the football field Mackenzie likes to keep his mind busy by following the philosophy to learn something different every year, which has seen him complete a sport science degree which will soon be partnered with a masters in the same field.
“I was able to do all of that while playing full-time footy so as much as it is a full-time gig, there is certainly a lot of down time and I think a lot of the boys don’t realise just how good they have it until they enter the real world,” he added.
“I always found by being able to study and keep my mind ticking over that when I did concentrate on footy I gave it my all.”
Mackenzie’s next academic step takes him to Lausanne, Switzerland, where he will begin a 15-month sport administration and technology course in September.
Much has changed since last September where there were mixed emotions for Mackenzie as he watched his teammates win the 2018 Grand Final from the sidelines.
Ultimately his ability to put the team first, much like the way he performed on the field, shone through.
“As much as you want to be out there, I’ve dealt with it before and there were other people going through the same thing so we all stuck together and it was always about not just the 22 on the field but the whole club.
“Every year I didn’t play a single game we made the grand final, so I offered them [West Coast Eagles] to stay around but not play a game.”
ON FIELD ACHIEVEMENTS
- 147 AFL Games
- West Coast Captain (2014)
- John Worsfold Medallist (2014)
- 2 x All-Australian Squad Member
- Player of Finals Award
- Players Trademark Player of the Year Award
- West Coast Eagles FC leadership group
- Master of Strength and Conditioning — Edith Cowan University (2016-2019)
- Bachelor of Science (Exercise and sports science) (2013-2016)
- Bachelor of Science (Health and exercise) University of Western Australia (2006-2013)
- Strength and Conditioning Coach (West Coast AFLW) (2018 – current)
- Sports Science Internship with West Coast Eagles Football Club
- Sports Science Internship with West Australian Cricket Association
- Game development officer for the West Coast Eagles
- AFL Players’ Association Board Member (2014-2015)
- Tabitha Foundation 2015
- Volunteer to support Christchurch Grammar School Football
- Support through visits to Claremont Football Club
- Active in the support for West Coast Eagles AFLW Academy