Alumni Fans

Letter to my younger self — Jonathan Giles

The knee was no good; the osteoarthritis from years of bone on bone had got the better of it.

The reality of the situation hit me straight and hard.

I had that deep, empty, sick feeling in my guts and I felt a wave of emotions.

Anger, frustration, sadness, denial, helplessness, annoyance, disappointment and irritation to name a few.

I needed time to think. I still had a year on my contract so mentally I was sideswiped by the fact that my time was up now.

I began to reflect on how I was feeling.

Was I angry at myself for playing only 63 games over 11 years across four clubs? No, how could I be.

I gave everything I had, left no stone unturned and scrapped for every opportunity possible. I overcame adversity and made every post a winner.

Was I disappointed in my body for letting me down? No, how could I be.

My body endured 11 years of pushing myself to the max in training and performance day-in, day-out. My body came up trumps when I needed it to.

I realised how far I had come both physically and mentally from the skinny 17-year-old Kapunda draftee in 2005. I am enormously grateful and so thankful to have had the opportunity to be in the AFL for more than a decade.

My career didn’t pan out how I thought I wanted it to be — a one club 200-gamer. But only now, after reflecting on what has been, do I realise that this is exactly how I needed my career to play out, otherwise I may have never learnt the lessons that have shaped who I have become today.

You see, my failures were the foundation of my success.

I might add at this point that my success is measured internally, not externally. It took me a long time to work this out. At the end of the day, everyone will have an opinion, but I needed only to measure myself by the standards that I had set. These standards were higher and harsher than the outside distractions.

From my own goals I set out to achieve, I would say that I failed in my AFL career. Don’t get me wrong, I had some great moments and am immensely proud of what I achieved, but I was not the player that I strived so hard to become.

However, the silver lining was being able to separate my identity of being just an AFL player to being a person that used the highs and lows to create and mould who I wanted to be. I never wanted football to define who I was.

Getting delisted from Port after four years and zero games hurt a lot. I was told I would never make it at AFL level. I was told I would never dominate a game. That burned me up inside. It knocked me to the canvas. I was at rock bottom.

From that moment on, I made some tough decisions, picked myself back up and was determined to rebuild myself. Being delisted was the worst thing to happen to me, but with hindsight, it was truly one of the best things to have happened to me.

“The tree that endures the toughest winds, grows the strongest roots.”

Through my career, I am most proud to have never given in and to have taken every opportunity I could. Australian Rules is brutal in so many ways and some days you just need to hang in there and put one foot in front of the other.

I have no regrets and took the journey for what it was. There are too many people to thank individually here, but you know who you are. I have been fortunate to have such great support throughout my career from so many people, and I will be forever thankful.

Having completed a Degree in Finance & Economics, a certificate in Property Development and a Diploma and Certificate 4 in Building & Construction, I now look forward to the next chapter in my life, wherever that may lead.