How do champions cope with life after sport?
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 20:30

Basketball great, Lauren Jackson, and former Sydney Swans captain, Barry Hall, have both revealed their struggles with mental health and wellbeing since retiring from professional sport.

Speaking with Jenny Brockie for a special, two-part edition of Insight, Jackson compared the period of time immediately following her retirement to being “put out to pasture”.

“When I retired, it’s really interesting; it felt like I was put out to pasture. Literally, I’d been one of their greatest resources … and then all of a sudden it was over, you don’t hear from them.”

She joins a cast of sporting champions, including fellow Olympians Libby Trickett, Matthew Mitcham, Jana Pittman and some of Australia’s most elite professional sports stars, as they share their experiences of life after sport with a room full of Australia’s future athletes.

Jackson also revealed she was on antidepressants while playing basketball and credits her family for supporting her through the difficult period. 

“I was on antidepressants during my career, so getting off all that stuff, I just didn’t have that support [from sporting organisations].”

“I did go into a shell. I stayed with my parents, I didn’t leave the house, and they really just took care of me … Without them I, you know, I hate to think what would have happened.”

Barry Hall also shared his experience with depression with the Insight audience. For “two or three months” after he chose to end his career in 2011, Hall says he “really struggled”.

“I didn’t get out of bed, I didn’t answer mates’ phone calls, I was eating terribly, I was drinking heavily. It was a tough time.”

“I didn’t know anything about [depression] because, you know, we’re big tough burly men who don’t get depressed,” the former All Australian Team captain said. 

A 2015 Australian study surveyed 224 elite athletes after retirement and found the most common mental health issues experienced were depression, eating disorders, and general psychological distress – though these issues occurred at the same rate as they do in the wider community.  

Nonetheless, the public nature of their lives makes struggling with change and transition a unique challenge for our sporting heroes. This week on Insight, champions come together to share laughs, tears, and their stories.


Game Over, Part 1: Tuesday 11 April, 8.30pm SBS - Catch up online now:

Game Over, Part 2: Tuesday 18 April, 8.30pm SBS - Catch up online now:




 PART 1.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Lauren, you're regarded as one of the greatest women basketballers of all time. You dominated Australian and American basketball courts for almost twenty years.  Who how did you react initially when you retired? 

LAUREN: Um, it was really difficult. I was pushed out because of injury obviously and I personally wasn't ready to retire. It was one of those things where I just, I couldn't run anymore and I wasn't, there was no way I was going to get back out onto a court so a group of doctors sat me down and said you're never going to play again, it's over and that was it and I just remember thinking okay. So I got out of the room and yeah, I broke down it was hard, I mean it was really, really difficult. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Were you prepared at all, was there any sense that that might be coming or did it really blindside you? 

LAUREN: Well, two, three years ago now actually I was in China and I sort of messed my knee up a little bit and I had about fifteen operations in the space of two years and then after the last injury was ACL, I tore my ACL, had that repaired in the hope of getting back for Rio and then six weeks later I got an infection in my knee joint and then I had to have a knee replacement. And then, yeah, when it was over it was over and I actually needed them to tell me it was over. I couldn't obviously focus. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You couldn't make that decision yourself? 

LAUREN: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Tell me a bit more about how you reacted? 

LAUREN: Um, initially, there was this tiny little bit of relief when I was sitting in the room with everybody because, you know, in my heart I think I knew it was over. But like I said, I could not actually make that decision myself. I had to be told and then within five minutes I was bawling, I was crying, I went straight back to my parents' house, my parents have been my biggest supporters and throughout my career I found that they're really the only people in the world that I can trust. So I went back to my…

JENNY BROCKIE:   Is that right, that's how you feel, they're only ones? 

LAUREN: Yeah, you can't rely on anyone, and for me, you know, my parents have just been that rock and without them, I don't know if I would have, you know, got to the heights that I did in my career.

JENNY BROCKIE:   How long did that sense of devastation last for you? 

LAUREN: Oh, a couple of months until I found out I was pregnant and moved on. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Alright, that's a lot to cover in one, one answer. 

MATTHEW:  So that's the secret? 

JENNY BROCKIE:   That's right, you all get pregnant, excellent, good luck with that Matthew. You're gliding over this a little bit though.  I mean two months is a long time.   What was going on during that time? 

LAUREN:   I did go into a shell. I stayed with my parents, I didn't leave the house and they really just took care of me and yeah, like I don't really want to go into great detail about how hard it was because it was really, really difficult and without them I, you know, I hate to think what would have happened. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What about you Barry Hall?  You were one of the best forwards in the AFL.  You played almost three hundred games.  How did you react when it was all over six years ago? 

BARRY:  Well I had a different circumstance, I chose to retire, I wanted to retire. I got the feeling that when I went to training every day that I didn't want to train any more, didn't want to prepare to the best of my ability to, you know, perform on the weekend. I think when you get to that stage when that's when it's time to give up the game.  Did I struggle after the sport finished? Absolutely. 


BARRY:  Certainly did. Just getting out of bed, nothing to get out of bed for any more, it was a real struggle. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You're all agreeing with this, yeah? 

BARRY:  I'm a very driven person. So I …

JENNY BROCKIE:   So what did do you? What…

BARRY:  Well I had two or three months, pretty much a similar amount of time as Lauren that I really struggled.  I didn't get out of bed, I didn't answer mates' phone calls, I was eating terribly, I was drinking heavily, it was a tough time and look, I didn't know it at that stage that that was a form of depression.  I didn't know anything about it because you know, we're big tough burly men who don't get depressed.  Hang on, what are you talking about? So, and that's why I was, um, steadfast in coming on this show because I think it's a real issue in sport. So one thing I did do was start to set little goals for myself. I'd go to the gym, I'd get up at 8 o'clock every morning, and I'd try and get PBs in the best press or a late -- or something like just a little goal to get me out of bed and that's where it started from. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Because that was what you were trained to do? 

BARRY:  Absolutely. 

LIBBY:  Isn't that interesting because as athletes we are so often told, we have our routine set and we have our goals that we talk about with our coaches and then when you get into retirement, you get into the real world and it's like you have to make your own routine and that's something that was so foreign to me. 

BARRY:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Well Libby it's interesting because I mean you were a four time Olympic gold medallist, former world record holder, world champion many times over, you're Miss Sunshine on the surface. 

LIBBY:  Mm-mmm. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   That smile? 

LIBBY:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was it like for you when it was over? 

LIBBY:  Um, well I had both experiences.  I chose to retire in 2009 from swimming and in that first retirement it was very similar.  I definitely fell into depression.  When you're training 35 hours a week you can eat a lot of food and when you're not training 35 hours a week I continued to eat as though I was training at that Olympic level. I put on a lot of weight, had no routine, stopped all forms of exercise, stopped wanting to catch up with friends and family because what would you talk about now?   You know, how…  

JENNY BROCKIE:   See that's really interesting. You're saying I didn't trust anyone but mum and dad.  Barry you're not taking friends phone calls, and Libby you're saying the same. Why does that happen? Do you feel you don't connect with people any more or is it that you want to push them away? 

LIBBY:  Well I had nothing outside of swimming really. You know, I, I tried to create something outside of swimming so I was doing university but it wasn't necessarily a passion.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And you say you didn't know what to talk to people about? 

LIBBY:  Yeah.  I didn't know what was happening in my day that I could talk to people about. 

BARRY:  It's funny, I actually used it to see who would keep trying to keep calling me and who was actually in my circle of friends. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   That's interesting. So it was a test? 

BARRY:  Yeah, we always talked about footy and they loved being around my career but I actually used it a little bit against them and who would stick around? 

MATTHEW:  As litmus test? 

BARRY:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Why did do you that Barry do you think? 

BARRY:  I'm not sure.  It's the trust thing and look, I've been through a few things in my career where I've trusted people and they've just dropped off because things haven't gone my way and it looked like I'd fall of face of the earth but I eventually fought back and come back and these people try to call crawl back into your life, I don't like that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So did you feel that people were only interested because of your career in a sense? 

LAUREN:    Well I think when you're a really elite athlete there's a lot to gain from having you.  Like whether you're a coach, you're an administrator, whatever, you need to get the best out of your athletes and when you're not getting the best of out of your athletes then you move on, and I think for me after, when I retired, it's really interesting, it felt like I was put out to pasture.  Literally, like it was, I'd been one of their greatest resources and you know, athletes and whatever, and then all of a sudden it was over, you don't hear from them. But you know, meanwhile my body's crap, sorry, you know? 

JENNY BROCKIE:   That's okay. 


BARRY:  You just did. 

MATTHEW:  We just beeped it. 

LAUREN:  I could have said something else. And yeah, but a whole depression thing, trying to get, like I was on antidepressants during my career so getting off all that stuff, I just didn't have that support where you think, you know, you've spent so much time doing this one thing your whole life and then all of a sudden it's over, you know? And you don't have it anymore.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Were you on antidepressants all of your career because of the pressures of the career? 


JENNY BROCKIE:   Or do you think that might have been the case anyway? 

LAUREN:   No, I think that, you know, I definitely had my own demons throughout my career and I had to deal with that and I would have had them regardless whether I was an athlete or not, but you know, I think a lot of that stuff has subsided for me now, thank God. But it's, you  know, I'm glad that I retired because I feel like I'm a more whole person now that I've found myself, you know, away from what defined me as a human being for so long. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Matthew, you won gold in the diving at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when you were twenty. Did you ever wonder what life would be like for you when that was all over? 

MATTHEW:  Um no, and I think that's part of the problem. I remember as an eight year old having this really powerful thought that I just wanted to be the best in the world at something and I didn't care what it was, I hadn't even started sport yet but I thought, yep, if I'm the best in the world at something then like everyone's going to love me, and when sport came into my life, um, you know, I just grabbed it with both reins, with both hands and just went with it. Possibly to the detriment of, you know, all the other areas of my life. You know, I just put all of my eggs in one basket with diving which means that, and because I was so focused like with the blinkers on of achieving that one goal I didn't dare to, to create a plan B, I didn't even want to entertain the thought that I might not be the best in the world at something. And so then when it did happen, I was just kind of left with like, well, what now? I haven't prepared for this. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you ever think you might be at risk? 

MATTHEW:  Um, yeah, yes, because I suffered from a pretty profound period of depression from fourteen to eighteen and because of the nature of sport, well, also because of my own faulty beliefs around my mental health, I didn't want to tell anybody about it because I saw it as a weakness.  Well I didn't want anybody else to see that I had a weakness and exploit that. So I just tried to manage it myself which ended up resulting in me retiring at eighteen and going a bit off the rails with, with drugs and partying and stuff and I, when I retired at  eighteen I actually had no intention of ever returning to the sport. But it wasn't until a wonderful man called Chava Sobrino who is the diving coach at the New South Wales Institute of Sport he actually said look, if you ever want to start diving again I'll always have a place in my squad for you. And that was enough for me to reconsider my retirement, move cities and start diving again just fifteen months before Beijing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So what was it like then when you did give up? 

MATTHEW:  So I never actually addressed any of the underlying causes of my depression so after Beijing happened, which was amazing, yea, all of us, like after a while the self-esteem stuff started to kick back in again and I started to believe that nobody actually liked me, they just liked the medal and that I was just a coat rack for the medal and I had no value as a person, that's when I had a relapse of my drug addiction. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Jana, what about you, you had a couple of goes at retirement. How did you cope with it? 

JANA:  I don't even know if I've really retired yet to be honest, I think. Whereas these guys have had it a bit differently, it's funny listening to how you talk, I'm not really sure I've actually coped with it yet and I was talking prior to this interview with my family about what I'd want to say about athlete retirement, but I've actually teared up quite a few times just hearing what you guys say so I think I'm probably in the midst of my retirement at the moment and feeling, and I'm getting very fat right now with is the amount of food I have.

JENNY BROCKIE:   You've just had a baby? 

JANA:  I have just had a baby but I feel like I can't stop eating which is a funny thing and I haven't turned off my athlete.

JENNY BROCKIE:   You should talk to Libby. 

JANA: I think so. But yes, I think it's probably the hardest thing I've ever dealt with and for me, whereas these guys have obviously succeeded, I didn't ever hit the goal that I was hoping for in my career. So growing up as a child wanting to win the Olympic Games is all I've ever dreamed of so I guess I'm going to get teary, funny, thought I was ready for this, don't know if I am, I never made it so for that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  But you were a world champion? 

JANA:  Don't do this. I know but that's not what I wanted. 

JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, okay, so that sense that you never quite got there, does that mean you've never quite retired in a way?  Are they connected? 

JANA:  Yeah, because I mean I've at a beautiful family, I've got three beautiful kids, I'm studying to be a doctor.  Like I've got so many things that I can't fit training in any more, but kind of like Barry, I'm not interested in being there but for some reason I can't let go because that elusive goal medal never happened. So my poor family, every minute, I’m retired, I'm done, I'm done, and then five minutes later no, no, I'm back in the gym mum, can you come and look after the kids?

JENNY BROCKIE:   Yeah, well you went from the hurdling to the bob sleigh as well, didn't you? 

JANA:  Yeah.  I thought that was going to be it because it was such a wonderful transition to go out of a sport where you were supposed to win the Olympics to go into something where one, you're part of a team so that's amazing, and secondly, you know, it’s a different sport  where you're not expected to win. Like it was just about the Aussies going out for, I mean let's be real, bob sled in Australia, it's not really, not really the big thing, so it was really amazing to have that opportunity and I thought that was it but yet again, straight after that the Olympics I'm fit and I'm uninjured. And then to be injury free, you think sweet, it's two years till Rio, give it a go, and then now right in the back of my head it's like sweet, it's three years till Tokyo. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you still think, you still think about Tokyo? 

JANA:  Can't help it. That's why I need an off switch and that's where I haven't had, I would love a set of doctors sit me down and say you are done. Like I am going to be a doctor and I still can't tell myself I'm done.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why do you think it's so hard for you? 

JANA:  As I said, I think it's that I haven't won that elusive medal that I put on my wall for so long. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Why is that medal, I mean obviously an Olympic medal is hugely important, but why have you not been able to let go of that idea? 

JANA:  Identity I think. It's that you have caught yourself up so much in what you want and believe is who you are and to sort of not, I think actually for me it was also a little bit and this is a great message for the young audience in our room is I made a lot of mistakes with the media. Again a little bit like Matt, I was so desperate to be liked, so I grew up as a real nerdy kid, hanging out in the library and not really having a great social network and I saw sport as a platform for me to make friends and to be popular and no one in their right mind would want the media to say negative things about them.

Like let's be honest, none of us stand up and say I want to be hated by the public, it's not just something we do. But I thought by talking and being really honest  as a young kid, so I'm talking nineteen, twenty years of age, that the more I spoke, the more people would understand and like you, and it sort of backfired.  So I think part of my lack of retirement issues with it was trying to prove to other people that I am actually a good athlete, that I am actually worth who I am and took a long time probably, probably getting into the medical school before I realised that actually I'm okay just as I am and that the people that matter are the people like Lauren who are your family. You can really trust the people behind you who've been there from day one before you were famous, before anything mattered. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   When you see athletes like Grant Hackett and Ben Cousins with the struggles that they're having at the moment, what's your reaction as elite athletes? 

LIBBY:  Well for me personally I think it's incredibly sad. I mean there's no other real way to observe or describe it. Especially most recently with someone like Grant, you see his family are in the media and you can see how destructive mental illness and potential addiction things can be. Not just to the person who is suffering but to the family unit. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You said that you went through a period of depression as well, having been in those kind of slumps, you know, what reaction do you have personally when you see people on the edge like that? Do you feel a long way from that or can you imagine that you could have gone down those paths? 

LIBBY:  Oh, very easily you can go down those paths I think. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What do the rest of you think? 

LAUREN:    No I mean, I agree it's frightening to watch it because yeah, you can identify a little bit with it and for me I know quite easily I could have fallen into that same trap.

JENNY BROCKIE:    Lauren, when did you, when did being a basketball champion first figure in your thinking? 

LAUREN: Well apparently I was about two years old. My parents both represented Australia and my mum, the story is she had me naturally and two weeks later was back on a basketball court. She was the captain of the Australian team and, yeah, so apparently that's what I'd said to my mum, I was a ten pound baby. 


LAUREN: Yeah, she deserves congratulation. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you ever see yourself as anything else? 

LAUREN: Never, never. I always thought…

JENNY BROCKIE:   What, from the age of two you never thought oh I might do this or I might be that? 

LAUREN: I mean, well I remember when I was four telling people I was going to play in the NBA, you know, and mum and dad never said no, that's for men, you know, it was never anything like that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You fully intended to play basketball with the men? 

LAUREN: Oh, yeah, I thought I could then when I was four. Like I actually had this, like similar to what you were saying about wanting to be the best in the world.  I was like that to the basketball, I had no other direction, so it was in me for sure.

JENNY BROCKIE: Matthew, what did you want as a kid?

MATTHEW:  Um, I think the, like the trigger for this thought that I just wanted to be the best in the world at something was that I felt maybe a bit like neglected or that I wasn't getting the positive reinforcement and the validation that I was craving and…

JENNY BROCKIE:   This was at home? 

MATTHEW:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   With your mum or? 

MATTHEW:  Yeah.  I mean she was sick at the time anyway and was a single parent, like single child, single parent in a house by ourselves, you know, and she had chronic fatigue and stuff so she spent a lot of time, like a lot of time in bed and so I was by myself a lot and so not getting any of that validation that I was craving.  And then when I did actually do something great, that only acted as confirmation to this belief that if I did really great things, I was going to get this, this validation, this positive reinforcement. And then so you know, my mind just went straight to yep, if I'm the best in the world everyone's going to love me, mum's going to love me, everyone's going to love me and that acted as a really, really powerful emotional motivator right throughout my teenage years, and like I still stayed in diving even though I was not enjoying it.  I stuck with it because I felt like this was my one ticket to being special.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Wow, those are really high stakes then particularly if you're operating at that level when you end, when it's over? 

MATTHEW:  You know, my self-worth ended up being reflected back to me into the judges’ scores.  If I got an eight, they really liked me, if I got a nine they really liked me and if I got a ten I was perfect, and my whole self-esteem was based on these numbers that I was getting from the judges or the feedback that I was getting from the coach or, you know, how  many twitter and Facebook followers I had, like all these external sources that are all really quite fragile. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You were measuring all the time how much you were worth? 


JENNY BROCKIE:   How much of your self-worth was tied up with basketball do you think Lauren?

LAUREN: Um, I don't think, I don't think I've ever had a problem so much with self-esteem. Like I had so much confidence in basketball, like by the time I was in year 7, I was telling people at school that by year 10 I'm going to be at the AIS playing basketball, and I was, and for me it wasn't so much about that, it was the highs and lows that I really struggled with in life. Like I was either very high or very low and it's just a chemical thing for me what I was dealing with. So you know, with basketball, the minute I got out on the basketball court I could just forget about everything else that was going on in my life and just play and that's sort of how I threw myself into sport and how I became the player that I was because I just left it all out there, you know?

JENNY BROCKIE:   Jake, you played AFL briefly for Carlton, you could have chosen a cricket career which you were also really good at. Why AFL?  What drove you towards AFL? 

JAKE:  Well I guess I've got a bit of a family history in AFL/ VFL football.  Growing up my entire life, grew up on a small farm down in Victoria, my great grandfather played over a hundred games for the Footscrays or the Bulldogs and my grandfather played over a hundred games, fifty for the premiership the Bulldogs.  My old man played a hundred games more with Collingwood, Richmond and the Bulldogs and my cousin Shane O'Brey played 250, nearly 250 games of AFL football.

So, I remember a conversation I had with my old man one day and he come into my bedroom and, he goes look, mum can't deep driving around to cricket and football the whole time so you've got to make your mind up because I'd just been selected for Vic in cricket and football as well. And he goes make up your mind, we'll leave it up to you, whatever you want to do, you know, it’s your choice, it's your life, and he turned around, went to walk out and he stopped and he turned around and he goes but you know the family history in football, don't you? So obviously in that moment I remember thinking look, I was always going to play AFL football.    

JENNY BROCKIE:   What were you hoping to achieve as an AFL player? 

JAKE:  A hundred games AFL, because to me anything below that was fail.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And once you made it to Carlton what was it like with all that history behind you, waiting to see if you'd get picked on or not? 

JAKE:  Yeah, it was a big moment in time, I certainly remember it as clear as today, so yeah, I had the expectation of getting drafted.  I was a 17 year only so I was a bottom age recruit, so I'd just fixed year 12 and then got drafted to Carlton Football Club and for me it was such an exciting period.

JENNY BROCKIE:   How much of your self-worth do you think was tied up with being an AFL player? 

JAKE:  You know, I see so many young faces in this room and you know, when I was in year 12 so probably roughly some people in this room would be around that age bracket, I didn't have athletes like this as role models that were actually real and honest and raw about the realism of becoming an athlete. All I saw was, you know, the highlights of playing AFL football.  But yeah, look, certainly the transition period was quite, quite difficult for me. 

JENNY BROCKIE:    PJ Marsh, what about you, you grew up in Blackwater in Central Queensland.  Did you always want to play in the NRL? 

PJ:  Yes.  Since Lauren started talking here before I've just been nodding about every single thing that each person has said at every stage of their career, when they finished.  I was eight years old when I decided I was going to play in the NRL, back then it was the Winfield Cup. We put a time capsule in the ground in, I think it was year 3, yeah, I was turning nine and it said, the class teacher said to us you need to write on the bit of paper what you'll be doing in the year 2000 and I wrote on it I'll be playing for the Brisbane Broncos in the Winfield Cup or I'll be mowing the lawn so I can watch the football for free. It seemed like a fool proof plan. 

In 2000 my mum and dad rang me from school with all my relatives laughing, I was an apprentice greenkeeper at Parramatta Stadium and I'd played about, oh, a handful of first grade games with the Parramatta Eels.  So, I know when earlier they were talking about what they wanted to do, goals and all the rest of it and plan A, plan B, my plan B and C and D was all the same, it was plan A, playing in the Winfield Cup. You know, your plan A for every young people here should be to be a millionaire, to be a sports person, playing in the NRL, it should be that, but just be working on your plan B all the time and I think that's a real, real important thing. But yeah, for me, eight years old and I just did whatever I had to do to get there. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So what was it like when you were asked to the join the Parramatta Eels? 

PJ:  Yeah, a dream come through.  You know, when I first cracked it with Parramatta Eels, I looked around at all these more talented people than me and thought what have I got to do to catch those guys? There and then I quit drinking, I never drank a drop of alcohol for ten years, I started training whenever my mates went out and it's hard to describe that feeling. I'm not sure whether they were getting that same feeling or whenever people, you know, head out and party, if they're getting that same feeling but when I ran onto that field it was amazing and I remember it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And you played more than a hundred and fifty games for the NRL and four State of Origins.  How much of your identity got tied up in being in the NRL? 

PJ:  Yeah, that was some of the nodding when Barry said about the friends because PJ Marsh the NRL player, that’s what I was to my mates. Played in the NRL so every time I went back home it was like they kept, you know, they always wanted to know about football. We'd talk about football, what's it like? Now I, you know, I don't go out a lot because it's, you know, talking to my mates, what am I going to talk to them?  

JENNY BROCKIE:   That's what Libby said? 

PJ:  Exactly, like I can't tell them about we're doing at Brisbane Broncos at the moment or what we're doing at the Warriors because I'm not there anymore. 

JAKE:  You know, just on that, youse are all wearing polos and that now. One thing that I attach myself to was I lived through that jumper, and as you're saying PJ, like if I'm not wearing that jumper what value do I bring to people's lives and I think moving forward, yes, you want to become an athlete and you want to achieve great things, don't get me wrong and it's terrific but you're so much more than a polo you're wearing right now because if I had known that back before I started playing, I sure as hell don't think I would have went down the path I would have went down.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Who'd like to ask a question of some of the people here? 

COURTNEY:   Do you think it's the sporting culture though because we're all drilled into like training eight sessions a week, because I'm a swimmer myself, like swim eight sessions a week, you've got to go to the gym, like then once you quit you're like, well then there's nothing there, do you think/

JENNY BROCKIE:   You're a swimmer Courtney? 


JENNY BROCKIE:   A marathon swimmer, yeah? 


LIBBY:  Oh, well done. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   No pressure Libby, no pressure. 

LIBBY:  Yeah, I think it is partly the culture, because I think we're also laser focused on what the goal is and, you know, for me that involved an Olympic gold medal and you know, personal best times and all those elements. 

COURTNEY:  Yeah.  Did you know it was time to retire though? 

LIBBY:  I got injured so I had a year out with my first retirement, came back, managed to make London and had every intention of going on to Rio but I had a full wrist tear which required a reconstruction and I thought it was going to take three months to rehab, it ended up taking about ten months and I just knew that amount of time at that age was not going to allow me to get back to where I wanted to be. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What are you most interested in Courtney as somebody who's because you're aiming for? 

COURTNEY:  World Champs. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   World champs, yeah.  So what are you most interested in when you hear these stories about retirement? 

COURTNEY:  Well I've been through the depression stage, not recently, like back when I was younger, like moving towns, like moving from a city area in Campbelltown like Sydney and then moving to like a country region area in Orange which has no swimmers my age, which I'm the oldest by five years, so trying to get that push and drive, but it's just nothing when times up to quit the comps. Like it's, and…

LIBBY:  I don't think you can know until you're there. 


LIBBY:  And then even if you do make that decision sometimes you can come back and that's fine too, but like I still miss it. Like I still, swimming is still such a huge part of who I am. It's given me basically everything in my life including a husband and a baby. 

MATTHEW:  Well done.  

JENNY BROCKIE:   Well you've joined your first swimming club when you were four, yeah? 

LIBBY:  Yeah, I learned to swim when I was one, I grew up in Townsville so you just had to learn to swim up there.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you ever set your sights anywhere else or was it always just all swimming? 

LIBBY:  To be honest I never, I wasn't like Matt or Lauren, I didn't know that I wanted to be on the Olympic team, on the Australian swimming team, until I was probably a bit further down the path. I knew that I was very competitive. Like I would ask, I remember maybe I was three or four and I would ask my mum to count how long it would take me to run from her to a tree and back and then I'd do it again to try and go faster. So I had that competitiveness from…

JENNY BROCKIE:   Barry's liking this? 

LIBBY:  From the very beginning, like I think that's part of our DNA. 

MELANIE: As a former rival of Libby I can attest to that.

LIBBY:  Intense. Yeah, very intense.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Mel, you're an Olympic gold medallist as well. Did you have the laser focus? 

MELANIE:  Probably not to be honest, maybe to my detriment of the level that I achieved. Obviously winning an Olympic relay medal is fantastic but in swimming it's an individual sport, the pinnacle is individual. So for me, I always wanted to be an Olympic gold medallist but for me also a relay was just as good as an individual and I never had that, I wanted to win an individual medal but I never had that like need and such focus that I just, it had to be that or nothing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So what's that meant for your retirement? 

MELANIE:  I've probably handled it quite well to be honest. There's a lot of things that have been said tonight that I actually don't relate to at all and probably if I could pick out the things that stick out to me is that a lot of people here have started their sports so young whereas I started a lot later. I also had the desire and the passion to be a doctor before I ever wanted to go to the Olympics. 

LIBBY:  Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Jana, did you always want to be a hurdler? 

JANA:  I've always wanted to be a doctor as well which is why I always found it really interesting why I've struggled with retirement so much because medical school, like I was that kid that carried, I hear you guys all talk about when you're in your childhood talking about sport, I carried a doctor's bag around and administered medication to all my brothers and sisters.  So I'm not really sure why it still is such a big thing for me but what I have noticed is, I now have highs in medicine.  So instead of just being Ps get degrees to be doctor, I'm obsessed with being getting HDs and it means it's very, I've got to somehow learn in every part of life you need to be…

JENNY BROCKIE:   You've got to be top of the tree?

JANA:  Yeah, I've got start moderating.   I'm learning that even listening to you guys, I'm learning as much as these young people that I need to moderate that behaviour, so I don't want people at home or in the audience to be scared to think that sport is something you don't want to try. It's been the most amazing thing I ever done in my live, incredible to be up there, representing your country, wearing the green and gold, hearing your anthem play and the Aussie flag rising above everybody else, it’s incredible. But you've just got to be prepared that most of aren't like Barry, we don't get a choice and you just have to a little bit of a backup plan.

JENNY BROCKIE: Barry, you started out at a boxer.  Why? 

BARRY: I just wanted to impress dad, I did. I just wanted to impress my dad, like most young kids. He was a boxer so you know, from the age of six or seven we had a punching bag out in the garage and I used to just go and punch it and he'd be working on his cars or whatever and I'd only punch it when he's watching, you know, trying to show off in front of him. It was just one of those things, I just wanted to impress my dad, I didn't really want to do it to be honest, it's a hard sport, really hard sport.

JENNY BROCKIE:   So how did you move to AFL? 

BARRY: Well, I lost my last fight and I actually used it as an excuse to get out of boxing and my dad was so disappointed because there was an Olympic Games coming up and because I was the state holder, we go to nationals and you could qualify for the Olympic Games.  So!

JENNY BROCKIE:   How did dad react?  

BARRY: Didn't like it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Is that all, you didn't talk for quite a while?

BARRY: No, yeah, yeah, it was quite a few issues. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What sort of advice did your dad give you growing up?  What kind of things did he say about what sort of life advice? 

BARRY: My dad's a really hard man. Probably he hasn't got very good words of wisdom but it was all about…

JENNY BROCKIE:   What were they? 

BARRY: It was all ego driven and it was drummed into me at a young age to not let anyone have anything over you, always fight your way out of corners, all that sort of stuff that was just drummed into me at an early age. When I could channel that in a right way, I could benefit from it but on the other sense, it hindered me in a lot of ways as well. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Well, the few years led up to your retirement were really tricky for you, weren't they, and controversial.  There were violent incidents on the field. This one famously in 2008 where you punched West Coast Eagles player Brent Staker. 




JENNY BROCKIE:   What's it like looking at that now? 

BARRY: Yeah, I don't like it at all. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What was going on for you when you were doing that on the field? 

BARRY: I was just an angry, frustrated man. Super competitive, like Libby, we all spoke about being competitive, I was competitive to the point of being unhealthy. That I'd make it personal if someone beat me, I'd make it personal and I'd do anything to get them back. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And do you think that was because of the way you'd been raised?  I mean do you think that was why? 

BARRY: Well it was pretty ruthless the way I was raised, yeah, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:   In what way? 

BARRY: Well, one day I come home with, I got a cut on my cheek, got beaten up at school and the instructions were to go back the next morning and fix it up, don't come home unless you do. So it's just a pretty brutal way, and I didn't want to go back and fight the kid but I felt like I had to. So as I said, it's not something I'm proud of. Like I look at that and I'm disgusted in it because he has to live through that now, not only me. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You were dropped by the Swans, you went from being co-captain in the mid-2000s? 

BARRY:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   To being dropped in 2009, what was that like? 

BARRY:  It was hard but one thing I've done now is you've got to accept responsibility for what you do.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you think about retiring then? 

BARRY:  Yeah, I did, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And what stopped you? 

BARRY:  I just thought I had more to offer the game and I didn't want to go out of the game as a disgraced player. So then I started talking to Western Bulldogs, talking to Rocket Eid and he said you just need to enjoy footy, enjoy it for what it is.  You've done all the hard work, you don't have to make it, you've made it, enjoy it, and it just opened my eyes. I had a pre-season, I actually looked forward to coming back, I was rejuvenated, I was like a different person, a different player. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How did you know when it was time to go? 

BARRY:  Driving to training all the time I didn't want to go, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   PJ, what happens with serious injury?  In your case you had serious injury that pushed you out? 

PJ:  Yeah, I remember earlier the different, hearing Barry say he got to call it quits when he wanted. 23 is when I first broke my neck and was told I'd never play again and didn't play for two years. And then came back to play and then I obviously was never the same player again. I woke up one day and couldn't move and it was scary because the first thing you do when you've had neck injuries and back injuries, and I woke up and my hands and I couldn't move and every time I did go to move it hurt more and more and I was really to play two days later and I was, you know, so proud I was picked to play for the Aboriginal All Stars side in the first ever year it was held and I was looking forward to it and then I literally got a needle so I could move. Put in a car, driven back to Brisbane and I never ever played ever again. I never got to have that game where I said thank you to people and they maybe clapped me off or it was in the off season, I disappeared and I disappeared not just from football but I disappeared from everything for about three, nearly four years.  I went way back out west where I grew up and I never talked football, never spoke about football.

MELANIE:  It's really interesting, it's seems to be a common theme that you know, that one day you're playing or competing and the next day it's over and how do you handle that? And I wonder, sort of makes me think that that is an important part of it because you know, my own experience, I was injured as well, had about three year injury, eventually it got me and I was able to rehab it enough to swim one last time at the Olympic trials, knowing I would not make the team but having that meet to be able to swim that last time and say goodbye to my career.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Like a farewell meet? 

MELANIE:  Yeah, and I guess for me, I remember standing on the block and having that feeling like I did when I was a kid, that I was just out there having fun and there was no pressure and it was just that farewell meet for me, and I wonder if that is an important part of it. That when it does end so suddenly, if that just compounds the issue. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Justin, your promising AFL career with the Brisbane Lions was cut short last year with a serious concussion.  What was it like for you giving up elite sport so early in your career? 

JUSTIN:   That was probably the hardest part about it, was the fact that I knew that I had, I believed that I had, you know, six, eight years good footy, probably the peak of my career to come ahead of me. And so I guess that part of it was the hardest and has been the hardest part to deal with. It's something that I still struggle with. Like I wish I was able to go out there and run around and play sport with the boys. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Are you okay?  

JUSTIN:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Yeah, I mean really difficult and so random those things? 

JUSTIN:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   They're just so random, aren't they? 

JUSTIN:   They are but I guess I'm incredibly lucky in the respect that I have an identity other than football and I think that something that's incredibly important to develop outside of your sport is an identity.

JENNY BROCKIE:   You do have an identity outside sport and you had a very clear plan about what to do as well, which is what makes it interesting that, you know, it's still so devastating when something like that happens. Because tell everyone what you studied and what you're studying now? 

JUSTIN:   Yeah, look growing up I came from an incredibly different background to a lot of you in the respect that I played sport for fun right up until I was eighteen and got drafted. I was incredibly fortunate to be plucked from relative obscurity in country footy to get picked up in a rookie draft and suddenly, I was working in a grain silo one day, just finished year 12 and the next second I was up training with the Brisbane Lions, like what the hell, that just doesn't happen. I couldn't believe the circumstances that I was in and so I guess from that background all through my younger years I identified much more as an academic person. I was, you know, not, not the coolest kid at school. I was a bit of a dork and, you know, wore black shoes when everybody else was allowed to wear sneakers and stuff.   And so I loved the schooling and that's probably what I was best known for. Like I played sport and I was pretty good at it.

So suddenly I was plucked and shoved into a football environment where it was, holy moly, like this is what all the kids dream about. They dream about growing up and being like Barry Hall and you know, like Dan Merret and John Brown, all those super stars that you think about and you want to be like. Whereas for me I'd sort of grown up I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, design planes and fly them and love that sort of stuff.  So suddenly I was, I was almost inserted into someone else's dream. It was a dream that I'd always had but I'd never really bothered to fantasise about because it was so…

JENNY BROCKIE: Did it change, did that change your sense of your identity? 

JUSTIN:   A little bit but I always wanted to be known as Justin the person and I think the identity of becoming a footballer certainly was developed very quickly because I had to adjust to that professional environment.

JENNY BROCKIE:   How long did you play for? 

JUSTIN:   Five years. So I managed to play fifty six games and it was January last year, it was just a stock standard training session.  I woke up, you know, went to training and like the play could run a million times and I would have been fine and so it was just one of those things that is pretty raw, that it's just a fluke accident. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And it just completely changes your life? 

JUSTIN:   Yeah, absolutely.  One second I was a footballer and loving it and that was where I wanted to be and next thing, bang, I was completely out. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So how have you managed then in the time since you've been out? 

JUSTIN:   It's been an interesting transition. I'm probably really fortunate in the respect that I can't remember much of the transition. With the memory loss that I've had around that time, it's sort of a bit blurry, which is probably a great thing that I can't remember where I was in those periods. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Are you still studying? 

JUSTIN:   Yes. So basically the call on my career was dictated by doctors.  I didn't have any say obviously over it and I had this test called a neuro psych test, and my memory was about 30 percent of what it should have been and so to be confronted with the fact that a third of my memory, my memory isn't there at the moment is something that was incredibly confronting and it was pretty much right, that's it - Like I can't play footy anymore. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So the decision was kind of made for you? 

JUSTIN:   The decision, the decision was very clear and so from that point on it was about managing what came next. I knew that I was incredibly lucky, I've got this path in my life that I can pick up and go and run with and so I did. I started with one subject at uni and trying to deal with that and progressed to three in the next semester and at the same time I'd sort of been building up my ability to exercise properly and so the next sort of question became, you know, what sport could I get back into? Such a large part of my life that's been taken away, sort of had an opportunity to get into rowing, which is a very different sport for a kid growing up on a farm three hours north of Adelaide where there's not a lot of water, pretty random sport to be inserted into, and so I guess that was the point in time where I had something to work with that could offset the university studies that I was having.  

JENNY BROCKIE:   And offset the sense of loss? 

JUSTIN:   Yeah, definitely, and so I threw myself into it.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And thank you very much for sharing your story with us, incredibly brave of you.    

MATTHEW:  I think it's something about the story that like even you were saying the identity, having another identity other than sport is so important to help you have like, you know, a purpose or just something else to move into. 

LIBBY:  A value in the world.

MATTHEW:  Yeah, so that you aren't left floundering and you had that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And neither of you had that? 

MATTHEW:  No, and you had that with aeronautical engineering and yet we can still see that there's something about sport that even if you are prepared for it, there's something about the loss of sport that can be just so devastating.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Melanie, what advice did your dad give you?  

MELANIE:  Many times as I grew up, I couldn't even tell you how many times, my dad always would say to me that my best was outside of the swimming pool and you know, there was never an expectation that I'd go to university or anything like that but it was something I always wanted to do. As I said, I wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember and that was always my plan and so for him to say that on-going constantly reminding me of that, I think just throughout my career it really levelled me all the time. Which just allowed me to realise that all the time I was swimming this was a part of my life that was going to end and I was very well prepared for that because of him, I think. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Lauren, did you ever have a job? 

LAUREN: No, never, never even considered it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did making a lot of money, you made a lot of money out of basketball.  I mean did that make it easier or harder do you think to deal with retirement? 

LAUREN: No, well it gave me an option. You know, I think for, like I said before, like there are a lot of times during my career where all I wanted to do was get in a Kombi van and travel around Australia, like that's it. I just wanted to be away and do nothing and, you know, obviously making money definitely gave me the opportunity to do that if I wanted to when I retired. So it gave me the option either to sit down and do nothing or, you know, whatever I wanted to do. But the thing is I ended up taking up a job offer I got within a month of retiring because sitting at home was clearly doing nothing for me and I was actually going crazy.   

JENNY BROCKIE:   And Barry, what about you? I mean you had no job outside football? 

BARRY:  No, job, no, useless. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So ill-prepared for retirement, do you think? 

BARRY:  Um, yeah, well, in the AFL it's actually they're pretty good at preparing people for the aftermath in terms of financial and getting guys to study and all that sort of thing and people used to tell me all the time it's going to be over in the blink of an eye and I used to roll my eyes and go shut up you silly old bugger.  So now I'm saying the same thing to young kids, so listen please,  and I didn't listen and as I said I'm very lucky and fortunate that I was managed well and that I kept my profile ticking along because I'm not qualified at anything to earn money.  So education, I've got no qualifications, so if I don't get endorsement deals what do I do? I've got no income. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   That's why you do tissue ads? 

BARRY:  Yes.  Well, I was, thanks for bringing that up. Yeah, look, that's one thing I've been very blessed and lucky with, you know, that that sort of stuff has popped up. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So this is all about a profile of course? 

BARRY:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And it's how high a profile you have and how desirable your profile is or how interested people are in your kind of profile? 

BARRY:  I shouldn't say I've got nothing because I own some mechanical shops because my family are into mechanics and my brother runs all those.  But yeah, in terms of me actually going out and do something or getting a job, there's probably not a lot I can do. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Mackenzie, you're a goal keeper with the Western Sydney Wanderers Academy and you're hoping to play A League.  You've got a question? 

MACKENZIE: During your sporting career, how did you balance your schooling with your sports commitments? 

MATTHEW:  I've been doing my undergraduate for the last seven years and I've only just in my second year.  The university recently sent me that letter saying you do realise you have a ten year time limit on your degree and you need to hurry up. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   I think the question though, I think what Mackenzie wants to know is just how, when you're training and doing all that kind of thing, how do you balance school with?

MATTHEW:  I guess the point was like I'm doing it very, very, very part-time. High school I had the option to do 11 and 12 over three years.  I ended up getting impatient and actually doing it in the two years but I guess our training sessions were structured around school so you know, we would train 6 to 8.30 and then 3 to 6.30 to accommodate that and I never ended up doing homework because of that, or seldom did homework and just tried to get it all done in that six hour period that I was at school. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Lauren, what about you? 

LAUREN: When I was your age, I failed high school miserably.  Like I missed a hundred days or something in year 11 and ninety in year 12, I didn't even get my HSC, and then it wasn't until 2010 that I started studying at uni. But I think the difference for me was too learning was how to study. Like for me being in a classroom at your age wasn't where I wanted to be, I wanted to be playing basketball, I wanted to be training, as that's all I could think about and that's all I was good at. But times have changed, you know, and I think if you've got the opportunity there to play sport and do your schooling, do it because when you get to our age you're going to wish you did. 




JENNY BROCKIE:   And welcome to you all. Libby, you've hit that pool wall first so many times? 

MATTHEW:  And many times she broke her wrist. 

LIBBY:  Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Yeah, here is one of your favourite wins. We're going to show everyone, the 100 fly in Beijing.




LIBBY:  The first overwhelming feeling is relief. 


LIBBY:  100 percent relief because you're just so, so thrilled that everything came together. Because it's not just four years of training or however many years of training you've gone before you but you have to have some luck on the day. You have to make sure you nail your race process. And to touch the wall and win gold and achieve a dream that you've been thinking about for so long, you're just so relieved that it's there and you've done it. 

MATTHEW:  The relief is that it's all worth it. 

LIBBY:  Oh, it's so worth it.  

MATTHEW:  All the stuff that you've put into it, the previous ten years, all of the training, all of the sacrifices. 

LIBBY:  Sacrifices. 

MATTHEW:  It's all been worth it. It's actually been worth it, you know, all of that emotion. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What's the high like though?  Is there anything like it?  Does anything compare to that feeling? 

LIBBY:  Well, I mean one of my favourite things about racing was actually the moment before I got on the blocks. It's the anticipation of what's going to happen. You don't know, you don't know how it's going to play out. And there's something so special about feeling so physically fit and so ready for a moment. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Is there anything like it in the rest of life? 

LIBBY:  No, there's not, and you know, I got married and had a baby and you can't, you know, because so often, especially now having a little girl, people go oh, you know, it must be, how does it compare and you can't compare it. 

MATTHEW:  Underwhelming. 

LIBBY:  Average at best. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How would you know? 

LIBBY:  You can't compare it, you can't compare it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about the rest of you? I mean the highs? 

LAUREN: I don't really remember.  Like that high for me,  I go into I guess a state of euphoria and when we've won championships or it could be anything that's happened that I've been on that real high, I don't actually remember that exact feeling that I felt and like I mean I still, I can't watch footy because I get so emotional watching it. It's really bizarre. 


LAUREN:  Yeah. So I don't, like I sort of stay away from that, I don't like getting too emotional off the court. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What were you like on the court in those moments? 

LAUREN: Completely emotional. Adrenaline always took over when I got on court but I was one of those athletes that, I was always sort of scared off the court.  Like I was always, look I'm a very aggressive basketball player, absolutely, the minute I step on the court I go for, I'll do anything to, you know, win. Off the court I'd always, it took so much energy to get ready and it just got to the point where like I was scared I wasn't going to be good enough,   like all the time I was …

JENNY BROCKIE:   You were scared you weren't going to be good enough? 

LAUREN: Yeah, always scared I wasn't going to be good enough so that drove me to train more and everything. And it's just, it's such a weird cycle that I'm still trying to figure out, like I don't know how I actually managed to do that for so many years.  That's why it's funny, listening to you talking about having a baby too, so when I had my son, that was the greatest moment in my life. 

LIBBY:  Oh, and I wanted to make a point that this may have come across as really I'm a terrible mother. 

LAUREN:  I don't think so. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  But Lauren, just going back to that, it's really interesting because it sounds like the emotion of it was just massive for you? 

LAUREN: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   All the time? 

LAUREN: Well that's where I struggled, like off the court because I could never, I don't know how I actually did what I did on the court and then off the court the highs and the lows of being a professional athlete I just could not deal with and there was never any middle ground with me, there was just up here or down here and like I don't miss that one little bit, I never will miss it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What about you Barry, were there highs for you like when you, you know, kicked a crucial goal or took a crucial mark? 

BARRY:  Absolutely.

JENNY BROCKIE:   I mean did you get exhilaration from that? 

BARRY:  Yeah, we won a Premiership at the Swans after a 72 year drought so it was kind of a big deal. I wanted to be a boxer but in the background I always loved football so I used to always sneak out the back paddock and kick the ball up and down and I actually held up a block of wood as the Premiership cup when I was a kid and I got to do the real thing. Never thought I'd ever do it but it's, and I still get emotional now watching it the same as Lauren and probably you guys. You get emotional still. I'd go to talk at a function and they'll put that up there and I'll be like, oh hang on a second. 

LIBBY:  But you know what went into that moment. You know how much.

BARRY:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So is that a problem in retirement, replacing those moments? 

MATTHEW:  Absolutely. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Or finding something that can compensate for that not being part of your life? 

LIBBY:  Well, cause nothing does compare, you know. It's such an unreal world and an unreal moment that happens, if you're lucky, every four years.

MATTHEW:  That's why so many athletes have come downs after the Olympics. 

LIBBY:  Yes, called post-Olympic blues. 

MATTHEW:  Exactly, it's a really common phenomenon because of the intensity of the emotions, the adrenaline, the endorphins all of the stuff like that comes with the Olympic - stop it. 

JENNY BROCKIE: There you are. 

MATTHEW:  Then you are left with, you know, a crash afterwards and nothing.  I mean that's why, you know, I brought up before it was about, you know, do you choose to keep chasing those highs because it can being quite an empty unfulfilling pursuit.

LIBBY:  And that's why people spiral into drugs and alcohol. 

MATTHEW:  Exactly. 

LIBBY:  Because they don't know how to manage those…

MATTHEW:  Drugs, either like coffee, the high that you get, you know, from the Olympics or alcohol numbs the feeling that you get so it's no surprise that so many athletes or people in general do turn to those things because chemically it replicates that same feeling that you get and you do get hooked on it.  Like after the Olympics, you're like oh my God that was the best thing ever.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Do you get those highs from anything now Jana? 

JANA:   I actually genuinely do have that high every time I deliver a baby I guess because I want to be an obstetrician, gyne and to be honest, I remember the day I decided not to do Rio was the day I didn't want to drive to training because I wanted to stay back for this surgery and we were there for three or four hours.  I missed the training, didn't tell me coach at the time and went home to see my kids and it was probably that day that I realised I was done. Exams for med for me are so hard and I feel like I’m on the borderline of failure every five minutes and you get yelled at by doctors, like they’re coaches, so for me I've really found it's replaced,  that medicine has very much replaced the highs because there are, it's life and death on many occasions and you get to be a fly on the wall in those rooms. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Has it replaced the highs for you? 

MELANIE:  Probably not as much.  I think I probably never really chased the highs to be honest, I was very intrinsically motivated.  I was always one that just wanted to see how good I could be and to be honest I retired doing more than what I ever expected I was capable of, so I actually exceeded my potential. Actually mine and I think that's a huge difference because if, like for Jana, you know…

JENNY BROCKIE:   That's a very good place to be? 

MELANIE:  It's a great place to be, but you know, for Jana, you know, that gold medal that she was always craving, that's the gap that's missing I guess and you know, I don't know, if because if you lower your expectation you may never get there, which I didn't, so is that the difference? Had I raised my expectations would I have got there? Maybe, I don't know.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Matthew, that dive of yours, which was the highest scored dive in Olympic  History.

MATTHEW:  Still is. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   By the way, still is by the way. 

LIBBY:  Still competitive. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Still is. 

MATTHEW:  I'm not an athlete anymore, I just have to, you know, like I do worry that like I'm fading into insignificance because Beijing was like eight, nine years ago. 

MELANIE:  Nine years ago. 

MATTHEW:  Thank you. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   No, but what I want to ask you about is what happened after that for you? 

MATTHEW:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Because you went and checked your rating, didn't you.  So how soon after that dive was that? 

MATTHEW:  It was maybe just within two weeks, maybe after getting home, I for some reason just thought in the back of my head came back up again, you know, like I want to be the best in the world. And so I actually went onto the FENA diving website and had a look at the rankings that were from the whole year and I was actually ranked number two in the world because the Chinese diver who came second had actually won more events in the year than I had and so all of a sudden, in my mind, I'm still not the best in the world.  I mean which did act as, as a very powerful motivator to keep going. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   But you were still counting where you were? 

MATTHEW:  Absolutely, I was still counting, even after an Olympic gold medal I was still, it didn't satisfy all of the things that I thought it would satisfy in me.   

JENNY BROCKIE:   Jake, I want to ask you a little bit more about your career because we heard how important it was for you to make an AFL team and to play a hundred games. You were diagnosed with depression while you were playing for Carlton.  What was going on for you during that time? 

JAKE:  Yeah, it was a pretty confronting period for me, when I was nineteen, two years into my career, I started noticing some behavioural changes in myself and I was always a confident kid at school, go along with everyone and I started noticing things like just getting out of bed was really, really difficult. I'd start just crying for no reason. I'd find myself on me way to training I was getting a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress. And then I kind of just, you know, I had to man up.  In my mind, it was just like, you know, I'm supposed to be an AFL footballer, why are you going through this and why are you thinking this way? Get over it, get to training, don't let anyone think that anything's wrong with you. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you were trying to push through it? 

JAKE:  Absolutely, yeah.  I looked at football as like a drug, it was my addiction because when I was out on the field and I was playing, as everyone said here, my life was perfect. It's was great because I was doing something that I was bloody good at. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Other, you were nodding about the idea of it being a drug Libby? 

LIBBY:  Yeah, absolutely, I think when you have that intensity of focus and drive for something, you know, you kind of like it's a compulsion to go to training, it's a compulsion to try and achieve something and you know, that's definitely, I think, along the lines of an addiction absolutely. 

JAKE:    Yeah.  And I actually quit and went back home to the farm and the club, you know, to their credit, Roddy Ashman, he was the welfare guy at the club at the time and we sat around the table for the first time in that whole period going through everything, I had the opportunity to kind of talk about what I'd been going through and it was a massive relief, but for me…

JENNY BROCKIE:   But did you leave AFL at that stage? 

JAKE:  No, I didn't. I didn't want to leave AFL, I just wanted to get away from what was going on in here.  

JENNY BROCKIE:   Inside you.

JAKE:  Yeah, because I was looking at my life going here I am, I'm an AFL player, I'm living my dream, I've got the best parents that I could possibly imagine, two older brothers who were great role models, I've just signed a contract for $180,000 a year as a nineteen, twenty year old, how good is life?  Why am I feeling like this? This isn't normal, that isn't me.  So that scared the hell out of me so the opportunity…

JENNY BROCKIE:   And what happened after that because you were then delisted from Carlton? Yeah? 

JAKE:  Yeah, Carlton offered me another contract as a, almost like a demotion from senior list down to a rookie list and I said look, I'd already made my mind up that I was going to try and go somewhere else and the Western Bulldogs gave me the opportunity, that's where I met Barry there the pre-season and I think it was a fairy-tale for me because my great grandfather and my grandfather and my old man had all played at that football club. 

And I remember walking into that hallway when I first got there and my pop's and dad's names up on the wall everywhere and I'm thinking how good is this. This is a fairy-tale, I get the chance to reboot my career, the pressure went away. I had a verbal agreement that was in place, but you know, come draft day, I remember I was sitting having a coffee with my partner at the time and I just assumed that I was going to be picked up and drafted, but I got a phone call from my mum and it was like, you know, well, what's going on? What are you talking about? She said well your name hasn't been called out and I just remember my world just come crushing in. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What happened after that? 

JAKE:  That demon or that black doing just really took control and I remember thinking what am I going to do now the rest of my life?  I was so set on becoming an AFL player that I didn't have anything behind me. And the only way that I could find a release was to go out and party and drink because when I was doing that, it replaced the sense of validation because I was partying, drinking, everyone wanted to be around Jake Edwards, right? All the girls and that would come up and want to be around me, all me mates wanted to be with me and that just kind of escalated into an environment that I was really addicted to and yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:   So addicted to drugs and alcohol? 

JAKE:  Yeah, so alcohol was quite rapid. In 2011 was the first time I tried a narcotic and that was after a Premiership win at 3 am in the morning at the Crown Casino walking across, I just thought you know what, everyone else is doing, if I'm ever going to do it now's the time.  What's the worst that could happen? Yeah if I had known at that moment what it was going to for the next three years of my life, it literally ripped me apart and it led …

JENNY BROCKIE:   What did happen in that three years? 

JAKE:  Yeah, so it kind of led from something I thought I was in control of to where, you know, nearly four years down the track I was using probably every, every day at the end of that four years I had an episode where a few things had triggered in my life. You know, I was failing in business, financially I was on my knees.  At one point I had 45 cents in my account. I remember trying to sell a flat screen TV and X Box games in Cash Converters just to get some money to actually go out to my best mate's birthday party that night. They wouldn't take the flat screen TV because it had a crack in the corner and I remember walking out on the street and sitting in my car and just thinking how has this happened? Like I'm supposed, I was this AFL player, you know, family's there, everyone's there, but here I am sitting in my ute on Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds in Victoria, you know, crying hysterically and I sat there for about an hour and it all just, the realisation of where things had got was quite gone in the way of how do I get out of this now?

A few months down the track, a girlfriend of me at the time, she walked out of my life and that was a triggering point where I, and it was a Thursday night and I made a decision that well, you know, this is it. You know, this thing you call life, I suck at it because I'm clearly failing in every area of my life. And I just kind of made the decision that I just don't want to do this anymore and I went out partying Thursday, Friday, Saturday,  Sunday night, about four hours sleep, you know, alcohol fuelled and drug induced, yeah, and I tried to take my own life in my bathroom on Monday morning. And I remember the moment I was on the floor, my phone called and of all people in my life, you know, check my phone book, the last one I'd expect to call would be my dad. Just because growing up, you know, he was very hard and fair and I love my old man to death but just I wouldn't expect him to call me in that moment and I think it literally saved my life.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Why do you think it got so hard for you because you know, we watch public figures, sports people, you know, in these situations where they're in real trouble. Why do you think it got so hard for you, Jake? 

JAKE:  Well I like to think that like you've got these great athletes up here, you know, everyone, these guys here sitting next to me, I know Barry looks like superman but you know, probably underneath his shirt there he certainly doesn't have a big S on his chest and the fact is we're not, we are human and we are people and the frustrating thing I get from the community, is that naiveté that people like, I know Buddy Franklin's been through some stuff, you know, Mitch Clark, Ben Cousins of recent times, you know, we live in the communities that everyone else around us lives so the challenges and issues that we face…

JENNY BROCKIE:  You are the community as well as being sports stars? 

JAKE:  Yeah, and we are and we face the same challenges. I guess for me it was such a level of expectation growing up, having failed in my eyes that I didn't achieve. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You didn't get to that hundred games that you set as the goal that you wanted to get to? 

JAKE:  That's right, yeah, and I used that, you know, as a mechanism I guess moving forward as to everything else in my life couldn't possibly reach that potential any more. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Can you gauge how much of what happened to you, you could attribute to a sports career and being an elite athlete and how much of it might have happened anyway? 

JAKE:  Yeah, I think the fact how it kind of happened at the age of nineteen and the fact it kind of really crept up on me out of nowhere. I don't blame my mental health or depression for my football career. There's aspects of my career looking back I know I didn't do well enough, but indirectly or directly, whether I like to admit it or not, my diagnosis and what I was going through symptomatic was affecting me as a young man and that was going to directly affect my performance as an athlete. And that's something I couldn't come to terms with. I couldn't possibly sit…

JENNY BROCKIE: What about the pressures that being an athlete put on that young man as well? 

JAKE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   The young man you were? 

JAKE:  Yes, I get upset a lot in terms of the pressure cooker, I mean you know, sitting in that environment. Football in my life didn't leave me when I left the club rooms. Like I wasn't a top twenty draft pick so I'm committed to becoming an AFL footballer, nothing else exists outside of that so I was on the cusp the whole time.  So I didn't know if I was going to get picked. I didn't know if I was going to be playing in the reserve reserves that week you know, and I brought that home and it affected my relationships, it affected my family life, it affected a lot of things that were going on outside of football.  

So looking at another team mate in the eyes and having, I guess, the environment where that conversation might happen, where they say mate, are you alright? Is everything okay? That scared me more than anything. I'd rather go out on the footy field and get back into the pack with him running to full forward and get smashed, rather than actually having a conversation with one of my team mates because I didn't want them to think that I wasn't mentally strong enough to be a footballer.  And because I knew physically I was fine, but mentally I knew that I wasn't coping and that scared me because I didn’t want to be seen to be weak. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Barry, you talked about your depression before after leaving AFL. How did you deal with that, how did you come back from it? 

BARRY:  Well I just set little goals for myself because there was nothing that I could do that was competitive for me anymore and tick that box. I loved being competitive and competing against people; I couldn't do that anymore so that was a real issue for me. And I didn't even realise that I was depressed or, you know, I couldn't talk to anyone.  I wasn't talking to anyone because I wasn't answering my phone. I was just doing stuff that wasn't me at all. So it was probably three months, I reckon, where the penny dropped for some reason. I don't know what it was, was like this is ridiculous.  You know, I slept in till 10, 10.30, it's not me. I'm usually up and at them, I'm energetic, I'm, you know, a go-getter so I just set a task for myself that 8 o'clock every morning I'm up and I've got to be at the gym by 8 o'clock. I try and push myself for PBs in if the gym. I go to local footy clubs and train with the guys because I feel part of something now and I can teach them something and it makes me feel good about myself. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What about all that aggression, where did you put that, where did you put that? 

BARRY:  I do some boxing now.

JENNY BROCKIE:   The boxing you hated?  The boxing you hated? 

BARRY:  Yeah, I hated it but I enjoy it now because it's a competitive thing I can do and I hated being a kid because it was hard and tough and I wasn't mentally attuned to be like that at that stage. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And you weren't choosing it? 

BARRY:  Yeah, I wasn't choosing it.  So now that I can do it, it's a competitive thing I can tick off again and it really challenges me still. 

LIBBY:  And you're good at it, it’s nice to feel good at something. 

BARRY:  Look at my nose, I'm not that good. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Jake, how did you climb out of the trouble you were in? 

JAKE:  The turning point for me was I had to sit down in front of my psychologist I'd worked with during my AFL career and listen to her put my mum on loud speaker and say look, I'm with Jake.  As you know he's here with me and before he comes home on the farm you make sure, I need to make sure there's no guns available that he can get access to and self-harm and I, even to this very moment tonight when I go home, the hotel, put my head on the pillow, it's a lump in the throat I can hear mum every single night. Now if I didn't have any bigger motivation to get some help and to get some serious change - that was in that moment.

So I had to go spend time in rehab and spend time working with a psychiatrist and learning about mental health, learning about depression, what is it?   I'm not cured from the depression, it's going to be with me forever, but what I've learned is that and I still have crappy mornings. Yesterday I was in a really crappy way and my girlfriend would attest to that and I think it's important that over time what I've learned is strategies and techniques to implement into my life. You know, I love my music.  You know, I go to the beach, I spend time on the beach.  I think it's really critical you spend time by yourself and learn about what you're going through and becoming self-aware.  These are things I've learned over time that are really important to me that keep me, keep me in check. But certainly doesn't cure me. 

MATTHEW:  Mental health is one of those things that's not, you can always be happier.  Like you don't have to wait until you get to the absolute worst to actually finally, you know, do something about it as an absolute last resort. Like I did, like you did. Like you could be a happy person but you could always be a little bit more resilient or a bit more happy or a bit more, you know? 

JENNY BROCKIE:   It's a good message for the younger people in the audience to listen to. 

JAKE:  The greatest thing my psychiatrist taught me is that I think as an athlete, we've got something greater set up underlying than the normal average individual and that is that we do have commitment and dedication and we make stuff happen really fast and we want to be the best in that field. So what I was doing was I was focusing on clearly resourceful things such as drinking and drugs and fuelling that anxiety and levels of depression.  So once I got my mindset into, okay, finding that purpose, who I am, want I want to do the rest of my life, once I realised what that was, the commitment and dedication it just came natural.

JENNY BROCKIE: PJ, after you were forced to retire from the Broncos because of injury, how did you get yourself back together again? 

PJ:  I think there was a number of things, it wasn't just one thing. I know that there's always that saying and a lot of people say oh, there's a lot of other people out there that have got it worse than you and I just figured to myself that just makes me feel worse, someone else out there feels worse than I do and I feel like this. So I was like well that's just silly, and other people were saying I understand what you're going through and I just felt that that was disrespectful to say that they understand, they're not me, they don't know. So I found that thing that I really enjoyed doing and I was probably doing it without even knowing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And what was that? 

PJ:  That was working with young people.   I had somebody that really supported me at a young age because I didn't get that scholarship straight from school so I had a lot of sort of failure.  I felt as though I'd failed before I even started as a sixteen year old, I never finished school to get that scholarship or anything and I had to work for a year, not that it was a bad thing.  I look back at it now, it's great that I had to do that and I went the long route around to getting to the Parramatta Eels at that stage. But there was a number of different things that happened.  It was going away for two weeks and coming back home and my wife had signed my oldest boy up to play football and I was like I don't want him to play. I'd already enrolled him in tennis, in golf, I had him doing swimming, everything but football because, as I said, I was dark on football. I didn't, I was angry. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   But how did you get yourself back into gear? Was it working with the young people? What was it that kicked you out of where you were? 

PJ:  It definitely was starting to work with young people and understanding that the young people I work with want to do what I done, and that's play State of Origin one day, play in the NRL and to see their eyes light up when I tell them a story and, as I said, to see my young fellow get excited about playing sport again. So my passion for sport came back. So what it was, I started appreciating the things that I had achieved in my football career.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Mmm, rather than looking at what you lost? 

PJ:   Rather than what it had taken from me because I still miss football. To this day I'm very much like the guys, you start talking about sport and you watch it. Grand final time it's hard to watch sport, it's hard to watch football because I'm wanting to do it. So I work in, for Headspace, you know, it's a youth organisation, deals with mental health, so I'm talking with young people every single day that come in with anxiety and mental health issues. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And so are you Jake? 

JAKE:  Yeah, so I was asked a question, my psychiatrist Jake, what do you want to do the rest of your life, and I'm like mate, I've worried about not having a beer and you're asking me what I want to do the rest of my life.  That's a big question, right?  I sat down with my mentor and I got talking with her about this idea I had about creating this organisation that can you go back to community sport and I sat there for forty five minutes and literally he didn't say one word. He finished his latte, looked at me straight in the eyes and he goes:  Jake don't wait for change, be the change, and then he just got up and paid for his coffee and walked off. That's all he said for forty minutes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So what are you doing? 

JAKE:  So I'm running an organisation now called Outside the Locker Room which works with local sporting clubs across Australia, working in a welfare and education space, so supporting, yeah, young adults and parents as well with transitioning.  It's basically finding that conduit to get them to clinical support in their regions, drugs, alcohol, mental health, all those types of issues. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Libby, how did you get out of the slump after retirement? 

LIBBY:  The first time or the second time? 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Both times? 

LIBBY:  The first time I got back into swimming. The second time, because I was, I think because I'd had that experience the first time around, I think that did prepare me a lot better. I kind of knew what to expect and I knew my mental health plan that, you know, you really do need to take consideration of it I think in your life and so for me that was exercise. I need to exercise every day because I think that obviously allows my chemicals to balance and you get that wonderful rush of endorphins, you feel like you're working towards something. That creates a balance in my life in my mental health and talking to people.

So I see a psychologist regularly, she's the lady who I was seeing when I was swimming so she knows me as an athlete, but now she knows me as I've transitioned as well and I think when you find those people that you can engage with, that you trust and are separate from, you know, family and friends as well, I think that's a really important part of that transition period.

JENNY BROCKIE: How much do you miss the adulation? 

MATTHEW:  Heaps. 


LIBBY:  See I'm the opposite, I never did it for the adulation. 

MATTHEW:  Oh no, it was all about validation for me and so I guess it's no surprise that I ended up like veering off into a career into theatre. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  In cabaret? 

MATTHEW:  Yeah, into theatre where, you know, it's like it's all about the applause. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Let's have a look at you. 




JENNY BROCKIE:  Interesting combination there. You can sing, yeah? 

MATTHEW:  Thanks. You know what, it's all, it's been all about the training. Honestly, like um, for the…

JENNY BROCKIE:  But is this about still wanting to be in the limelight? 

MATTHEW:  I think it is actually. And so it's been a real exercise for me to let go of that perfectionism because you have to let go of a lot of the control. Like I mean I find music very therapeutic and I've used the cabaret as a vehicle for me to tell my story about my struggles with mental health problems in the past, my addiction to crystal meth and my recovery from that. Over the year since, the year and a half that I've been retired, like the reason why I retired was I thought, you know, I'd just done Dancing with the Stars and I'd just done Sunrise Weather and so I thought yep, that's it, I'm going to be on TV, like you know, this is it. And so I quit in order to be as available for all of these jobs that were definitely about to come in and they didn't and you know, and the novelty of not being an athlete was great for a while and I watched a whole lot of TV in bed with peanut butter, but then the novelty wore off and it didn't come a choice anymore because I didn't have anything to go into. And I just got so exasperated waiting for all of these, waiting for the phone to ring which it didn't and then so because of that…

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you had this sense of expectation and almost entitlement? 

MATTHEW:  Entitlement, totally I had sense of entitlement because I'd seen other athletes just, you know, walk into you know, TV jobs.  I thought, you know, what's something, had no skills, TV seems like a great thing for me to do. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Oh, okay. 

MATTHEW:  That's what, so now I'm studying writing and trying to do some journalism subjects to hopefully be more employable.

JENNY BROCKIE:   What about you Lauren?  Tell us how you got out of your slump after retirement? 

LAUREN: I don't know.  Well I fell pregnant so I had to, you know, I didn't really have any other option and then I also got a job offer that I took up and I think emotionally I figured out that I needed to be in safe spaces, you know, with my family and my friends who I consider family obviously. But just, you know, staying even as well, like not trying to get too high, not getting too low, you know and that's been something that I've struggled with throughout my career and so, but that is the one thing that has actually helped me and that works for me. So until I had my child I had been even but the highest moment in my life was those twenty four hours after I had him and I've never, ever felt like that in my life. So I know I can feel that way again, which is fantastic, I just have to have another kid, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   But that's obviously been a very big thing in terms of…

LAUREN: Huge. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Just coping with the change? 

LAUREN: Well you know, as an athlete and anyone in this room can tell you, you focus so heavily on yourself.  You know, and for my whole career I've focused on my, I've been the most selfish human being in the whole entire world. It was funny because right before I had him I remember thinking oh, my God, this is, like I just went into complete breakdown. I melted down and I thought am I really going to love this kid? Is this the right thing? Like what am I going to do, how am I going to deal with this and it just changes and I think that, like it's frightening how amazing this is, you know, for me, like it's a little bit scary because I am still on that high, but yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What about you Mel having kids? 

LAUREN: It does give me a new purpose, yeah. 

MELANIE:  For me as well it was a natural progression, I finished my swimming career, I always wanted a family and so it was a natural progression and the same as Lauren. Like the moment you hold your child for the first time there is nothing comparable to that and it's a very different to winning an Olympic gold medal but for me it was better.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Libby, it wasn't so easy for to you start with, was it? 

LIBBY:  No, no.  I mean yes, I had that rush of emotion when you first hold your baby, but I didn't find the transition into motherhood very easy at all. I found it incredibly difficult, probably because I was incredibly selfish as an athlete and very self-centred, always focused on what I wanted to do and what I wanted to achieve in the world and then all of a sudden you have this overwhelming sense of responsibility for this tiny little being that is completely dependent on you and I hated that. I was scared because I didn't think I could give enough to this baby. I didn't think I was going to be enough for her and you know, it's taken a long time and a lot of counselling and a wonderful GP who helped me through that to, you realise that whatever baby you get it's so individual. You never know what you're going to get and you just have to love the baby, your child, for what they are and know that you are doing your absolute best. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Barry, you're about to become a father, when's the baby due? 

BARRY:  This is all just spooking me a little bit.

LIBBY:  It's fabulous, honestly. 

BARRY:  Seven weeks will be at forty weeks so around about seven weeks, but…

JENNY BROCKIE:   What do you think you'll be like? 

BARRY:  Well, I'm going to take a lot of my doings in life and sport and what's made me successful and try and pass it on to my child in terms of values and hard work and invest in yourself and all those sorts of things. Being punctual and all the stuff you do in sport I would definitely push onto my child because they're good values, they're really good values. But I certainly won't be a pushy parent. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Around boxing? 

BARRY:  You're playing AFL or boxing or whatever it may be. I certainly won't be that.

JENNY BROCKIE:   What would have helped you with the transition to retirement, to getting out of elite sport? 

LIBBY:  I think these conversations are a really good starting point. I think in the long run we need to create programs or workshops, something to educate athletes further. It's hard because you know, having thought about that question a bit of what would have helped me, I don't know that if someone came to me with a workshop or a counselling program at, you know, twenty years of age that I would have listened. Because at that time you know, you're six foot tall and bullet proof and you're like well that's so far down the track for me that I can't actually process that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   But Mel, you felt that you didn't get support when you finished? 

MELANIE:  To an extent, yeah.  I mean I was fortunate enough that I probably didn't need it but I think the fact is that there were athletes who retired at the same time as me who did need it and at the moment the current strategy is offer support through emails or maybe a phone call and that's it. That's the end of the conversation. And so how many athletes are actually going to take that up when it doesn't really feel like it's legitimate anyway? It's really a tick in the box. You know, I think the letter that I received started with:  "So you didn't make the Olympic team", and it's like well?  

LIBBY:  Oh, that's lovely. 

MELANIE:  Okay, thank you. So you know, it really does feel like a tick in the box at the moment and I do actually think that's largely to do with resources. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Lana, you're part of Swimming Australia, your response to that? I mean what does Swimming Australia do to support athletes afterwards? 

LANA:  Yeah, we're building our program at the moment, so under the Australia Institute of Sports Personal Reference National Framework we have transition program for the retirement phase, but we're very aware that it's a five to ten year prospect to build these programs into what, you know, we need them to be. 

LIBBY:  Do you think you need a program that starts when athletes are junior level, like even at that very early stage starting to prepare them for life after school and then life after sport? 

LANA:  Absolutely. At those key progression events we can intervene throughout the whole pathway, not to sit at the end, I do think that's a really valuable strategy. 

JUSTIN:  I think it's really important to acknowledge codes that are doing it well and I feel as though the AFL is actually going quite, about it in quite a decent manner, probably driven by the fact that there's a players association. It was impressed on us right from the word go that you needed to have something going on, whether it was university or TAFE or an apprenticeship or something that was happening outside of football. And I think that that's something that should be acknowledged and should be maybe a blueprint.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Marissa, you work with the AFL players association on player development. What does the AFL provide to players leaving the game when they retire? 

MARISSA:  Yeah, yeah, it's really pleasing to hear Justin's feedback around that and we've done a bit of work with Justin, and clearly will continue to support him as we do with all of our players.  But probably the piece that's really important from our end is that, transition doesn't start at the point of transition. We work with our players at really, and the industry really as a whole, talking to a philosophy of pure individualisation when the players are in the game. So we would work with clubs to develop action plans for players whilst they're in the game for off field development. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Is that voluntary or is it compulsory? 

MARISSA:  Yeah, we don't make any of our programs compulsory. We understand that if you force any people to go in a certain path it doesn't appeal to them at any given time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So how many people actually use it, access it? 

MARISSA:  We had about 30 percent of our players, all players on the eighteen AFL club lists, that identified as having some kind of plan around their off field development. The second year after we implemented Mack 360 that number went up to 53 percent and the third year, which was last year, that was at 66 percent. So we see that really graduate increase, that tells us that right now we've got about two-thirds of our playing group who have some kind of a written plan that they're working with, their own support network within the club, within the AFL PA towards their goals and their targets.

But the other piece I want to raise here too is there's a really important structural part to this, and we talk programs and workshops, from where we sit this is much more about the way player development is embedded in the life of a football club, embedded in the industry and therefore the career of these guys, and now girls in our case, and the understanding that a really well balanced, happy, growing, developing individual is actually going to perform better in their workplace and also be happier and be able to transition hopefully much more smoothly. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Barry, would you have you accessed any of that? 

BARRY:  I wouldn't have at that stage but I think football clubs and a the AFL PA have come a hell of a long way since you know, since I retired and that's only, what, six years ago. I think you've got to create an environment where players are comfortable to talk and I think that's a lot better now. I was still in that macho, you know, I'm too tough to be depressed stage and a lot of players were and I wasn't comfortable with talking to anyone about it.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Paul, you're head of the NRLs Wellbeing and Education Unit. You run mandatory programs don't you, mandatory wellbeing programs? How are they working with your players? 

PAUL:  Well, with our under 20s competition we make it mandatory you have to work or study so you have to do something.  We don't, we don't try and steer anyone in any direction but it's just something else that gives you some value in your life and a purpose and self-esteem and self-concept in your life.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Whose responsibility is it to transition well?  To what extent is it your responsibility individually to do that? 

MATTHEW:  That's very uncomfortable. 

LIBBY:  I think ultimately it always comes back to you the individual and I think as athletes we all know that. You know, our performance always came down to us. 

MATTHEW:  But we don't know unless we know, and so now that's there, now that a conversation has stated and now that we're saying it is the athletes' responsibility…

LIBBY:  But you need that support and network? 

MATTHEW:  Yeah, the facilities need to, the infrastructure needs to be there in order for you to take responsibility. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Because you're used to having structure around you.  So I guess my question is, you know, how do you move into a situation where you have to start taking the responsibility? There isn't somebody demanding you be at training every day. You've got to actually do something to change your life. You know, to what extent is the obligation, or do you see it as the obligation of these sporting bodies to do something and to what extent do you think it's your responsibility as well? 

LIBBY:  Well I think we need to create that culture so that, you know, from the guys who are coming through now, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, that they just know now what they're working towards outside of their sport. For us who have already retired and you know, we're sort of trying to make that ground, you know, we have to, we do have to take responsibility for our transition and, but it would be helpful if the organisations that we were performing for and competing for help us through that.

You know, you devote so much of your life to, to your sport and you would hope that they would return the favour and help you make that transition a little bit easier as well. But also keep your athletes engaged in the sport, you know, because we are role models whether we like it or not and you know, there are so many athletes coming through who watched you and watched you compete and you can give back to the sport and I know that is something that I so value now, is still being engaged with swimming and you know, promoting swimming and making sure that people know what a wonderful sport it is. That gives me value and validation and you know, hopefully helps the transition as well, I think. 

PJ:  I say I don't want people to watch this show and think oh, poor athletes, oh he had a great, hundred and fifty games, every kid would have loved to have done what he done, what's he whingeing about? I blame nobody, I know that I needed to prepare better and it was just probably, you know, I probably didn't have things in place and it was my fault. You know, and that's why now I do what I do, going out talking to young people and just making them aware of it. I want them to focus on their plan A, but just be mindful that plan B you may and you probably will need it one day. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Do you still miss it? 

PJ:  Every day.  

LIBBY:  Yep.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Every day? 

PJ:  Every day. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Barry you're a commentator now, you're a part-time comment coach with the Gold Coast Suns, do you still get the urge to be out there? 

BARRY:  Yeah, just before games when they're warming up and you get that feeling of when you used to run out and what that felt like and the adrenaline, I do miss it. I don't miss the day-to-day during the week stuff. 

LIBBY:  Yeah, don't miss the training.  

BARRY:  But you miss the game day, yeah. 

LIBBY:  Yes, the adrenaline. 

MATTHEW:  I don't miss the anxiety.

JENNY BROCKIE: Lauren, you're the commercial operations manager at the Boomers, the Melbourne Boomers, how's that going? 

LAUREN: Oh, I love it. I've really enjoyed becoming an administrator and being behind the scenes, I've, you know, I love it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Do you miss being out there? 

LAUREN: I don't miss the pain, I don't miss, there's a lot of things I don't miss. No, not yet. I will at some point I think but I don't right now, there's just too much I went through. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What about the rest of you, Jake? 

JAKE:  Yeah, I think, well I left AFL, went home to the country, played a year, went back to VFL to semi-professional, then went back to country for four years and now I've gone back to semi-professional in the VFL. I miss that real competitiveness, but I also miss that high level of training and that camaraderie, all moving together in the one direction to achieve the ultimate outcome. Yes and no. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   PJ, do you miss it still? 

PJ:  Yeah.  I said every day, I miss it every day.  I suppose I go to junior sports now and I watch my boys play and I'm actually not allowed to say anything on the sidelines.  My wife tells me I've got to stand a certain distance back. But I watch and I see the enjoyment that they get out of it as I did as a kid and it is fulfilling. 

JENNY BROCKIE: Libby, what are you doing now? 

LIBBY:  I'm on a radio show based out of South East Queensland and Brisbane, so yeah, that's fun. Live radio is kind of a little bit adrenaline pumping so you kind of get that little pay off that I probably look for.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Performing? 

LIBBY:  Yeah, exactly, you are performing, definitely. So that's a lot of fun and obviously my daughter keeps me on my toes a lot. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And do you miss swimming? 

LIBBY:  Yeah, absolutely, but it's becoming less and less.

JENNY BROCKIE:   How are you managing now Matthew? 

MATTHEW:  Oh, I still feel totally unemployable. SBS, if you're watching, like totally free, hey? Yeah, like I'm always looking for, honestly I'm always looking for work.  I want to work in the media entertainment business and until, you know, like a radio or a TV job comes along, I feel like the cabaret is something that is good to tide me over because it's something that I can control in my own time.  

JENNY BROCKIE: Mel, how are you going? 

MELANIE:  Yeah, busy. Just taking it day by day, sometimes hour by hour but look, I'm on a pathway towards a goal that I have wanted to reach my whole life. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   To be a doctor? 

MELANIE:  I've really just, I guess, replaced one addiction with another.  So eventually becoming a doctor, that's the end goal and yeah, that's where I'm headed. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And Justin, what about you, how are you managing? 

JUSTIN:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Where are you up to in your degree? 

JUSTIN:   I'm two and a half years into my Mech and Aero Space degree and hopefully, you know, I should finish it no worries at all. Obviously I miss the game terribly and would love to be able to play, not necessarily at the AFL level but to be able to go back home into the country and play against, with my mates again, but I know that I'm never going to be able to get that so that's probably the next step that I also miss is as well. But in terms of life goals, I guess that railroad has ended and I'm back onto the other one again and I've just got to take that and go forwards with it. 

JENNY BROCKIE: Thank you all so much for joining us, it’s been really good talking to you and really appreciate you sharing so much with us. And that is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks everybody.