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Trio shows there’s lots of life after footy

The more traditional route of a newly retired AFL player has been to stay in the industry — in the media, administration or the coaching ranks. But some, like Cassisi, are bucking that trend.

Cassisi joined up with business mentor Anthony Toop three years ago to establish a financial arm of Toop and Toop Real Estate, but was unable to fully immerse himself in his new profession until his departure from the Power.

“It’s pretty hard while you’re in your footy career, training a lot of the time,” he said. “I always felt like I needed some sort of outlet while I was playing so I’ve always studied throughout my career.

“It was just a natural progression into full-time work.”


Cassisi studied to obtain a Diploma of Finance and Mortgage Broking, and a Diploma of Marketing. He is interested in property finance and home loans are his core business. But his vision to create a one-stop shop for clients led him to secure Hartwig Air and its new charter service.

Working with Hartwig Air director David Johnston, Cassisi has financed a $100,000 flight simulator from America for student training, and another $260,000 charter plane.

Cassisi said he attributes his interpersonal and business skills to the time he spent as captain at Port Adelaide.

“I think I’ve experienced enough for my age that I should be able to adapt to most other situations throughout my business life,” he said.

“The things I learnt while playing footy, and especially while being captain through the tough period, to have experienced that at such a young age and in such a scrutinised environment I think helped put me in good stead” – Dom Cassisi

“The things I learnt while playing footy, and especially while being captain through the tough period, to have experienced that at such a young age and in such a scrutinised environment I think helped put me in good stead moving forward.”

Not every player has the experience of being experiences captaincy, however. That’s why the AFL Players Association says it has a crucial role in providing education and preparation for life after football.

Last week the association released its annual development and wellbeing report. It revealed that 127 players left the AFL system in 2014 — 27 retirements, 72 delisted senior players and 28 delisted rookies.

“Player support meetings have been conducted with 85 per cent of players, detailing their entitlements and future opportunities,” the report says.

“A follow-up phone call or meeting is then scheduled at their six-month mark.

“Career counselling and planning sessions are available for any members wanting to continue or develop their career post football. Resume preparation, job search skills, application review, interview skills and assistance with study requirements are provided as part of these sessions.”

The association also distributes grants to past players to further their education and training. Last year, 95 past players applied for these grants and the association providing dished out $117,589 in funding.

Association general manager of player development Brett Johnson said many players found undergraduate studies difficult to complete.

“It is often hard for players to see the light at the end of the tunnel with some university courses, but there are other options they can take,” he said.

In 2013, a study of 430 AFL players from 14 clubs found the average time spent on alternative career development was 4.4 hours per week.

Former Adelaide Crow Brad Symes, who started his career with the Power, is one of the few players to have completed an undergraduate degree while playing.


After notching up 20 AFL games for the Power and another 60 with the Crows, Symes retired from AFL in 2012. He graduated with a Bachelor of Finance in 2009, enabling him to help his wife Danielle Symes start her retail and online store Somethin Somethin.

Symes controls the financial side of the business, including budgeting, planning and tax. He is now midway through a Master of Applied Finance and will join Morgan Stanley Wealth Management as a junior financial adviser later this month.

Symes’ new job is a direct result of his involvement in a Players’ Association mentor program in 2011. There he met portfolio manager David Leon, who he will work under at Morgan Stanley.

Symes said one of the hardest things a retiring footballer needed to do was transition into the regular workforce.

“Not even going to one class or lecture throughout the semester when I was playing wasn’t ideal,” Symes said.

“On the flip side, at 30 most come out of footy with no qualifications.

“It’s going to be a roller coaster, but I’m looking forward to learning the craft and developing my own portfolio.”

Toby Thurstans, a teammate of Symes’ at Port Adelaide, also began studying while he was still playing.

The premiership utility studied for a construction management and economics degree part time and said it was difficult because the timing of lectures often conflicted with training.

“You’d have to will yourself to study at night after training, watching lectures online at home,” Thurstans said.

He retired in 2009 and did not complete his degree, instead working his way up in construction management. He is now a senior estimator with Desyn Homes.

Thurstans said because he retired, rather than being delisted, his transition from AFL was easier than others.

“The education surrounding the importance of studying has got a lot better, but it’s only useful if the player wants that help.” Thurstans said.

This article was originally published in The Advertiser and can be accessed here.