It’s been more than two years since I retired from the game — sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago while simultaneously feeling like it was yesterday.
As an AFL footballer, you spend the majority of your energy, drive and life into getting onto the field each week so when your career ends, it can feel a bit like falling off a cliff.
My former teammate, Matthew Pavlich, and I have been getting together weekly to do a bit of a running session to stay in shape — it would resemble a casual running session, really.
Being so involved in the AFL Players’ Association for a long time, Pav and I talk a lot about the issues current and past players face and the other week he suggested I run for a position on the AFLPA Board.
It made sense. I’ve thought about those experiences and issues over the journey and a lot more since my playing career came to a close at the end of 2015.
The Board is continually adding more diversity so the need to have past player representation is something I can add.
I took the transition out of the game seriously and had strategies in place to ensure it was smooth for me and I think I can help better this for the playing group.
Another issue I’m passionate about is mental health. I’ve not only experienced this from a playing perspective but also through the lens of a professional.
Since finishing footy, I’m training as a clinical pharmacist and currently work at a hospital in Perth. Studying pharmacy includes education around mental health and those issues are prevalent in young men in society, which extends to the playing group.
I’ve always been an ambassador for life balance as a player — I pushed that pretty hard when I was at the Dockers. The importance of having that balance helps your football but, more importantly, it’s great for your mental health.
That balance will also help set up a player’s life post football and I was lucky in that I had things to move onto straight away and those structures didn’t completely go out the door for me — it was a deliberate move due to conversations I’ve had with those who retired before me.
I’ve had a relatively smooth transition, although when the ball bounces you still have that desire to be out there at times.
Current and past players are always going to have challenges but there are ways to lessen their severity. I’ll be keeping my ear to the ground and look forward to being a voice for the players and helping improve their lives.