Dom Cassisi and Nathan van Berlo have been good mates for years, but circumstances have meant their relationship hasn’t always been straightforward.
“It was a little bit awkward. We got along and were good mates but then we’d try to beat the crap out of each other come showdown,” Cassisi told aflplayers.com.au recently.
The two faced off 14 times on the footy field, going hell for leather at one another at every opportunity. As leaders of the two South Australian clubs, footy fans wouldn’t have expected anything less.
Ironically, it was their roles as opposing skippers that initially brought them together.
“Obviously when we were both captains of our footy clubs we had to do a number of different functions and things together,” van Berlo said.
“We developed a close relationship over that period.”
“It was a little bit awkward. We got along and were good mates but then we’d try to beat the crap out of each other come showdown.” – Dom Cassisi
The pressures of captaincy – particularly in a footy-crazy, two-team town – were similar for Cassisi and van Berlo, but the two also faced a number of the same challenges away from the field.
While the role of an AFL captain is a demanding one, both Cassisi and van Berlo were keeping an eye on life away from the AFL during their times at the helm.
Cassisi admits he “probably lacked a bit of direction” in the early part of his career, but that changed as his career went on.
“As I got older, I understood more the importance of preparing for life after footy. It’s important to capitalise and make the most of the short career you’ve got as an AFL footballer.
“Some guys are lucky enough to play for 12 or 15 years, but for a lot of guys it’s three, four or five years and they’re out of the system looking for a job.
“It’s really important to make good decisions and have a really good support network around you that you can trust.”
While it took Cassisi a number of years to address life away from the game, van Berlo – who’s currently getting set to play in his 11th season at the Crows – found interests outside footy much sooner.
“I’ve always found – throughout my footy career – if I’ve got a keen interest in something outside of footy, my footy benefits from it,” the former Adelaide skipper told aflplayers.com.au.
“It’s about having that good balance. Quite often that can be just what you’re doing with your money outside of footy, or study… Since I’ve been playing footy, I’ve been really interested in property. But probably over the last five or six years I’ve had a keen interest in property development.”
With Cassisi taking an interest in finance lending, the two have teamed up with Astera Group, a company specialising in a range of wealth generation solutions, from property investment through to finance lending and financial planning. Working with long-time friends Luke Foster, a property developer, and financial planner Nicholas Heard, van Berlo and Cassisi are keen to share their knowledge.
“Part of what we want to do as a group is provide some coaching and mentoring to young players if they need it, to see how we can get them comfortable in their life outside of footy,” van Berlo said.
Though the 29-year-old is by no means done with footy just yet – he played 20 games in 2015, after missing the entire 2014 season due to an Achilles injury – his post-footy career prospects seem in good shape.
And with Cassisi retired and their on-field rivalry put to bed, the former Power skipper says the two are back to being good mates.
“We don’t have to face each other on the field these days, so we’re able to get that little bit closer once again.”