Ricky Dyson has fond memories of his nine years in the AFL system but its fair to say he hasn’t wasted any time moving on.
A little more than 12 months after leaving the Bombers, Dyson has his own personal training business, a premiership medallion and a full-time job taking Physical Education classes.
While getting delisted can be a harsh reality for some, no one could say Dyson has failed to embrace his transition out of the game.
A key component of this is his willingness to waste no time in preparing for life after football.
When Dyson walked out the front door Windy Hill as a player for the last time, in his pockets were certificates 3 and 4 in fitness and small business management and his career as a personal trainer was already underway.
He admits his final years of AFL football became to feel more like a business and this mindset was reflected in his performance but it was also reflected in the steps he took to ensure he was prepared for the inevitable transition.
“The clubs and the AFLPA are fantastic with that too, they work really closely with the clubs to get everyone ready for when they get into their life after footy,” Dyson says.
Dyson co-owns Step into Life Thornbury, a group personal training business. Dyson and his brother-in-law took over the Thornbury license in November last year and since then they have been steadily building its client base.
Dyson enjoys working with average Joes who are there for the right reasons and with common goals.
“We cater for all ages and fitness levels. The beauty of it is, we always do it outdoors, nothing is inside and everyone can participate,” he says.
His clients value the guidance of a trainer with an elite sporting background and enjoy hearing stories of his time in the AFL – “I think it is interesting for them to know how people at the elite level train.”
Hi everyone, tomorrow we take over Step into Life Thornbury, Can't wait to get started. Come down for a free session. We do it outdoors.
— Ricky Dyson (@RickyDyson) February 27, 2013
In years to come when people here the name Ricky Dyson they will probably best remember his raking left foot, and with reason, there was something poetic about how it struck the ball.
But within the walls of the Essendon Football Club he will be remembered as a caring and thoughtful teammate with a strong community conscience.
Dyson was an ambassador for Essendon’s On The Ball program, hosting and visiting school kids to educate them on the importance of making good lifestyle choices.
He has maintained this focus in retirement and now works full-time at the Parkville Juvenile Justice Centre taking physical education classes.
Dyson enjoys having a positive impact on the lives of young men who have made mistakes in their short lives but are trying to make amends.
At Parkville, Dyson has coordinated an inter-school basketball program with some mainstream schools in the area.
“It’s great seeing them progress and being able to have an influence on the lives of these kids and hopefully setting them up for when they leave the system.
The 30 minutes before training is what Dyson misses most about the Essendon Football Club and the AFL system.
“Walking into work and having a laugh with your mates every morning and telling stories, telling jokes and taking the mickey out of each other,” he said.
“We had a really close group at Essendon so we stuck together outside of footy…It can be quite stressful and taxing on the body so just switching off once you leave the footy club and putting the mind to rest is important.”
The pressure is something he doesn’t miss and playing for Bundoora in the Northern Football League where the freedom to share a beer after training on Tuesday and Thursday nights has revived his passion for football.
“For me it was going back to a club that had a really good family environment and had a lot of mates to play with, some I hadn’t played with for 10 or 15 years.”
“They were a successful club who wanted to play finals footy and that’s what we did.”
For some AFL footballers, what lies beyond the boundary can be daunting but for Ricky Dyson it’s just been the next Step into Life.
Ricky Dyson was drafted from the Northern Knights with Pick 44 in the 2003 National Draft. He played 114 AFL games for the Essendon Football Club from 2004-2012.