In an era where playing for a team outside your home state is as common as a pair of white boots, feeling at home is paramount for performance and consistency.
‘As highly scrutinised as AFL football is, no-one is more critical of a person’s game than the individual player himself.’
During my time in Adelaide I saw many players come and go that had more talent than most could dream about, but often the difference between fulfilling that potential and falling short came down to a player’s ability to adjust.
Adjustments to factors such as diet, sleep, weight and training loads can have an influence on a player’s performance, but the most significant adjustment a player can experience – and one of the most underestimated – is the way relationships with friends and family are affected after a move away from home.
Initially, moving interstate is an eye-opening experience; everything is new and exciting. That’s certainly how I felt when I first moved to South Australia. But for many players, it’s also their first time without the constant care and nurturing they’ve received from a young age, and their first experience settling in unfamiliar surroundings.
After a few injuries, tough games or set-backs, being away from home can prove tough to handle. As highly scrutinised as AFL football is, no-one is more critical of a person’s game than the individual player himself. It’s a side many supporters and media don’t ever really see.
There are many sleepless nights, whether up icing or replaying the game mentally, where your mind just can’t switch off. This scrutiny of oneself can have a huge impact on a player’s training level and enthusiasm. Most players have terrific poker faces – but all players deal with the pressures and expectations differently.
Family and friends play a huge role in keeping a player on track, whether it’s keeping him grounded when times are good, or being there to support him when he’s facing the darker sides of the game.
Since returning to Melbourne, there have been plenty of things I’ve had to adjust to – the traffic on Punt road, crowds, every second shop being a ‘great coffee place’. It’s all becoming familiar again, almost as if I’ve moved interstate as an 18 year old all over again.
Seeing family and friends more regularly, not missing life events and milestones and being able to have home cooked meals are the little things that many take for granted, but that I’m appreciating now more than ever. Even dealing with ticket requests from friends and family has been enjoyable, in a funny sort of way.
There was a point in the club’s first win of the season where it all really sunk in. Singing the ‘yellow and black’, surrounded by my teammates, with each and every hair on my body standing tall was a moment that made me stop and think; it was a moment I savored, and one I felt truly privileged to be a part of.
With my fiancé Stacey still in Adelaide until season’s end, it’s an ongoing adjustment. Stacey couldn’t have been a bigger support to me during my time at Port Adelaide and even now, she’s racking up the frequent flyer points whilst completing her degree. Richmond’s ‘family comes first’ attitude shows the club understands the importance of family and what role they play in the overall scheme of things. It’s something that certainly resonates with me.
The welcoming arms of the club’s players and partners have made a lasting impression – one that’s stuck with me long after my name and registration number was called out at last year’s rookie draft.