Nick Dal Santo is one of seven nominees for the AFL Players’ Association Madden Medal, an award that recognises more than on-field performances, with off-field achievements, personal development and community spirit also taken into account.
Nick Dal Santo never finished university.
Through the cut and thrust of 15 AFL seasons, 322 games and 10 finals series appearances, the former Saint and Kangaroo tried his hand at various courses and work experiences throughout his football journey.
Now transitioning into a number of different careers post footy, Dal Santo proves you don’t have to study a Bachelor of Science, Commerce or an MBA to ensure your future is secure post footy.
“Half the challenge is finding out what you like and that means sifting through things you don’t enjoy along the way,” Dal Santo told Aflplayers.com.au.
“I’ve done a couple of courses over the journey. I’ve actually deferred from Deakin University doing sports admin and management, so I did that for a period of time.
“I’ve done a property course, a diploma in business and even a computer course, so I’ve ticked a few things off while also doing some part-time work.
“A little bit of that was through formal education, not that I ever actually finished uni, but I realised what I liked, what I didn’t like and what my strengths were.”
Spending the first couple of years in the system finding his feet, the Bendigo native was making his mark on the Saints side in 2004, earning his first top-four placing in the club’s best and fairest award and playing every game.
It coincided with Dal Santo beginning the search for a more balanced lifestyle after strong influence from his parents.
“After a period of time, I learned that having something outside was actually helping my football as well — just a day or two per week doing some study or work. I reckon around the mid-2000s I realised it was important to help me play better football.
“I was in a better mental state by doing something on my days off. Footy is time consuming and all-encompassing, it takes you seven days a week to be a good footballer, and I probably had a period there where I didn’t feel very productive.
“Then I got back into a bit of study and felt it was actually giving me more excitement when I was at the club and reaffirmed my love for the game. I felt like I played better footy because of it.”
The 33-year-old will balance media commitments with SEN radio during the season and coaching roles with his NDS Kicking Academy and the AFL Academy while continuing his business career.
And preparing for a career during your football journey as opposed to at the end is a philosophy that rings true for the former smooth-moving midfielder.
“There’s no guarantees when you finish footy unless you actually have a job lined up from the moment you walk out the club doors. The main thing I had done since I was 17 was play footy, but I really wanted to be able choose what I did when I finished playing.
“Doing things during your footy career gives you confidence for when you finish up because until you actually have something locked down nothing is guaranteed.”
Nick Dal Santo’s achievements on and off the field:
On Field Achievements
- 322 AFL Games
- All-Australian 2005, 2009, 2011
- 2nd Brownlow Medal 2011
- 3rd Brownlow Medal 2005
- Australian International Rules Squad 2004
- 2nd St Kilda Best and Fairest 2011
- Pre-Season Premiership Player 2004, 2008
Off FIELD ACHIEVEMENTS
- Founder of NDS Kicking Acadamy
- St Kilda FC Leadership Group
- North Melbourne FC Leadership Group
- St Kilda FC Life Membership
- AFL 300 Club