Oleg Markov’s two-year stint on the Gold Coast was a journey full of ups and downs.
From a football perspective, the now Collingwood defender admits he fell out of love with the game.
Midway through 2022, Markov realised his time at the Suns was winding up. The joy he felt being a young 18-year-old footballer drafted to Richmond in 2015 had dwindled and it was time to start thinking about his next frontier.
Little did he know that what he did next would reignite his ambitions of staying in the AFL system and would see him continue his career at Collingwood after being given the opportunity as a train-on player and eventually signed by Craig McRae’s team via the pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP).
“When footy finishes up you still have all this motivation, but you need to put it towards something. The best thing that footy has taught me is that happiness is only real when it’s shared,” Markov told aflplayers.com.au.
“So I jumped into something where I was helping people and bringing them joy and that aligned with my values, my strengths and it gave me a lot of purpose.”
That something was working with Being Mentors, an organisation which works to support people of all ages and abilities through mentoring, support work and guidance.
Markov got in touch with Jamison Shea who is well-known to players on the Gold Coast as a player at Southport Sharks, formerly the Western Bulldogs’ VFL team, and a Regional Manager with Being Mentors.
The man with the perfectly manicured moustache got involved with the organisation and volunteered his time to take participants to the movies or a concert and help mentor them to help them achieve their goals.
“There’s something about working one-on-one with someone and help them to reach their goals,” Markov said of his work with Being Mentors.
“It’s a joy seeing someone progress and get better and you’re a part of that journey.”
Markov was delisted by Gold Coast at the end of the 2022 season after 28 games with the Suns, following his 23 for Richmond between 2016 and 2020.
Confronting the fact that his AFL career had come to an end was tough, even though Markov was ready to move on.
After working through the transition process with AFLPA regional manager Tom Fields, Markov decided to become proactive and seek opportunities. It’s a sentiment he would like to pass on to other players in a similar stage of their career.
“I couldn’t just sit down and do nothing,” Markov said.
“I think that was something that I was scared of not finding something that was going to motivate me. I needed to understand what my strengths were as a person and understand how they’ve changed over the years.”
However, it wasn’t long before an AFL club enquired about his services with Carlton bringing him in as a train-on player after a series of pre-season injuries.
His stint at Carlton would be shortlived, with the Magpies moving quickly to secure him.
“I was only there for a day at Carlton before again another injury occurred somewhere else and Collingwood came and snagged me,” Markov said.
“Being at Collingwood and what we’re building there, it made it really easy. There wasn’t any pressure and their environment made it really easy for me to go and perform.”
With Collingwood suffering a few injuries in defence, Markov has been called upon in recent weeks to perform for the senior side – first as the substitute and then into the 22 against St Kilda in Gather Round.
“They’re big on making the person feel important and full of purpose and they know once the person is happy the best version of the player will come from that,” he said.