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Open Mike: ‘I just used to cop it all the time’

Former Essendon, Richmond and Sydney player Mark Eustice has spoken about his battle with bipolar depression and the pressures on AFL footballers.

Eustice, who played 137 games over 13 seasons, discussed the illness he fought since debuting in league footy at the age of 17, on Fox Footy’s Open Mike.

Describing the battle he faced since arriving in the game in 1980, Eustice says he encountered a culture that didn’t yet understand depression.

“Everybody would say … are you up today, are you down? What are you gonna give us today? Are you gonna be good, are you gonna be bad?” Eustice said.

“Everybody would say are you up today, are you down? What are you gonna give us today? Are you gonna be good, are you gonna be bad?” -mark eustice

“I just used to cop it all the time.

“In those days, footy clubs were, ‘you’ve gotta … what’s wrong with you mate?'”

Eustice explained how he’d go out to play footy but couldn’t gather the strength and would hide in the toilet.

“It was torture,” Eustice said.

“The fear of not playing well, and there was so much pressure on me … I used to get dropped so often.

“And a lot of times I’d play well, but back at Essendon we had so many good players, I played 29 senior games and 100 reserve games.”

Eustice also discussed his long battle with drug use, which he described as having “become a lifestyle”.

“I probably took more drugs than you could have in a lifetime over three days,” Eustice said.

This “bender” had him close to death before intervention from his former teammates helped him raise the $30 thousand required to enter a rehabilitation clinic for a month.

Eustice describes getting a medical examination from former Carlton medical officer Dr Ben Barresi when he entered rehab.

“My lips were grey, my face was purple. My system was shutting down,” Eustice said.

“Ben said I probably had another three days to live.”

Eustice says he’s been clean of drugs and alcohol for 2970 days, ever since former Swans teammate Greg Williams and wife Mary helped him into rehab.

Mark Eustice

“When I was in rehab, I had nowhere to live,” said Eustice. “They (the Williams family) found a shop, no bigger than this studio, and they went and renovated it.

“The day I got out of rehab … I walked into somewhere to live.”

To help support all AFL Players, current and past, the AFL Players’ Association offers a range of support and services to optimise personal health and wellbeing during and after their AFL careers.

The traditional range of mental health services are offered to help players deal with critical incidents or mental illness, as well as offering more proactive services to help enhance resilience and build flourishing lives.

Often players only think of using psychologists when things are going wrong. We invite players to think about the services we offer as an opportunity to grow and develop their mental fitness at any stage of their career.

AFL Players’ provide an independent, confidential service that focuses on your wellbeing and helps you to live the life you want.

Know a past or present AFL Player who is struggling? The AFL Players’ Association provides confidential mental health & wellbeing support to all of our members. Contact us at