Through the green, picturesque hills an hour North of Adelaide lies the vineyard of the Barossa Valley Estate and the workplace of Henry Slattery.
The 29-year-old former Bomber has been getting his hands dirty working in the famous South Australian wine region since retiring from the SANFL at the end of last year.
Having studied a masters in Oenology – the science of winemaking – Slattery says he’s always wanted to work in the industry and it’s a passion he developed early in his life.
“I was always interested in wine. I did wine-making at school and I’ve always wanted to live in the country and be hands on” – Henry Slattery
“I was always interested in wine. I did wine-making at school and I’ve always wanted to live in the country and be hands on. I did Agricultural Science at University then a postgraduate and a Masters in Oenology,” Slattery says.
“Mum is from a cropping background so I always loved to farm and loved the country. I suppose wine-making is a way to get involved in agriculture without having to own your own vineyard. I always found it fascinating.”
Beginning his studies while playing at Essendon, the 96-gamer made the most of his opportunities to prepare for life after football, making use of numerous AFL Players’ Association Education and Training grants, even after his playing days were over.
Slattery completed his studies after returning to Adelaide following his time at the Bombers, and says there were limitations of living in the city while learning about agriculture.
“I did Agricultural Science in the hope to do wine-making. I was a bit restricted when I was playing, so I had to go to the University of Melbourne. It was just impossible while playing to do anything more specific but ag-science has bridging classes so it’s all pretty similar.”
“I was planning for my career post football from day one when I got to Essendon and I was always excited about what the future brings. I’ve never been just a footy person.
“I knew what I wanted to do but you never know where life’s going to take you. A lot of people finish not knowing what to do but I’ve been preparing for a long time and it made the transition a lot smoother.”
Slattery flew through another pre-season in 2011 before a broken thumb in the last practice match curtailed his start to the footy year. He returned in Round 5 against Collingwood but things had changed and the club had moved in a younger direction.
“I’ve always been a glass-half-full person and my last year in the AFL was probably my most enjoyable even though I wasn’t really playing in the side” – Henry Slattery
Coupled with form woes, the South Australian native played only eight matches that year, followed by two in 2012 – his last season at Essendon – but it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
“I’ve always been a glass-half-full person and my last year in the AFL was probably my most enjoyable even though I wasn’t really playing in the side. Even though I spent most of the year playing in the VFL, I was playing really well and just enjoying my footy with the boys there.
“Internally I was just happy with how things were going. I managed to play a couple of games, and was emergency most weeks, but it was still a satisfying year because I was doing all I could.”
Slattery now resides in Adelaide, while staying up in the Barossa Valley two to three nights a week for work, with his wife of four years. He will play local footy at Nuriootpa for season 2015 with fellow ex-Bomber Jay Nash.
Through all the twists and turns of an AFL career, he’s managed to come out of the game and into a career he’s passionate about and says all players should use their time in the game efficiently while they can.
“I am grateful for how much the Players’ Association have done for the current and past players; I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their support and help.
“It’s a great resource and it goes to show how much you can achieve whilst you’re playing footy, so players just need to utilise it.”