As 2016 progressed, I knew the writing was on the wall.
I needed a big season but even though my body felt better than it had in years, I spent the majority of the year in the VFL — which is never a good sign as a senior player.
My response was to put absolutely everything into my footy to give me the best chance to remain on the list or continue my career elsewhere.
The club was also honest with me. While they didn’t tell me they were going to de-list me in July, it didn’t come as a huge surprise that my career finished the way it did after everything unfolded and the feedback they were giving me along the way.
When I was de-listed by Melbourne, I wanted my career to continue at another club and felt like I had more to give. But, as it turned out, no opportunities presented themselves.
While I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel having not been picked up, once the trade and draft periods finished there was a sense of relief because of the uncertainty that surrounds your future during that time — you’re trying to plan for life after footy but also training, hoping and doing all the right things to continue your career.
So in one sense, it was a relief that period was over and after the initial feelings of disappointment, sadness and bitterness of my AFL career coming to a close, there’s now a feeling of pride in my achievements when I reflect on my time in the game.
Ideally, you’d play for as long as possible. Everyone dreams of playing for 15 years before they make their own decision to retire but that isn’t the case for most players.
If you said to me at the start of my career that I would play 100 games and captain my footy club, I’d take that in a heartbeat. It wasn’t the most successful period at Melbourne during my time but I still loved every minute of it and I gave it my all along the way.
My career ended a lot more abruptly than I would’ve liked. It wasn’t long ago that I was a 25-year-old co-captain of the Melbourne Football Club.
And while the end came bloody quickly, there’s an element of excitement that awaits the next chapter because I had prepared for this day.
When my mid-20s were approaching, I knew I needed a plan so I wasn’t left in the lurch when my curtain closed.
To get the ball rolling, I started imagining what my life would be like after footy.
One of the more serious ideas was building a personal training studio with my wife Jayde out the back of our house in Lower Templestowe.
My wife is a personal trainer, so she managed most of the operations of the business while taking the majority of the classes as my footy career was still going.
The business was initially meant to be some form of a hobby because we both love health and fitness. I did a PT course early into my footy career and have studied sport science and nutrition along the way.
But we didn’t expect anything to actually come of it.
The studio is completely separate to the house and self-contained and has bathrooms, lockers and more.
We thought it would be a good not having to rent a separate fitness facility — although we did have to build it, but at the least it would add a bit more value to the property.
Now everything’s going well, so the plan would be to one day own our own commercial gym and the studio is a good stepping stone to that while testing how successful we’d be in this industry.
But, in saying that, we are both doing some part-time work on the side, and still aren’t 100 per cent sure what lies ahead. My wife is also a relief teacher and I have dabbled in the property market while working at my brother’s wedding reception centre in the Yarra Valley.
When it comes to the studio business’ success, the most important factor was starting it during my playing days as opposed to after.
It was a lot easier to build something special during that time rather than trying to get something off the ground now, which would be stressful given the financials weren’t overly rewarding to begin with.
We feel like the reason the business has worked well so far is because we didn’t have the added pressure of wanting to make heaps of money when getting it off the ground.
The AFLPA does a great job with educating players on what a transition out of football looks like but for me, especially early days, I always took things onboard but it was always at the back of my mind and I thought I had time to worry about it later.
If I was to give any advice to current players it’s that your career is easy to take for granted. You could be in a great spot and all of a sudden it ends.
Players need to put themselves into the situation where their career has already ended — what would be their next step is the mindset that’s needed and that thought process will lead to actions.
The end can come for a myriad of reasons whether that be from injury or form but your career can take a turn for the worse a lot quicker than you can imagine.
When that time comes, and it always does, players need to be prepared for it.
It’s funny how I always thought a natural progression for me was to go into coaching but after playing for a while my mindset is to experience something outside of the footy world for a while.