Preparing for My Football Career

A football career can have highs and heartbreak but the My Career Program can prepare players for life beyond the game.

I Used To Love Her is Common-s ode to hip-hop and in many ways it-s a reflection of my love for the beautiful game.

When I first discovered football as a young boy, I would spend countless hours practicing and dreaming of one day following my heroes (Milan Blagojevic, Ned Zelic, Rui Costa – and my brother John, who played over 400 games in old NSL and represented Australia at the 1992 Olympics) to become a professional footballer.

I was fortunate (some would say lucky) through passion and dedication to achieve this boyhood dream.

Life as a professional footballer has many magical moments; every time you walk on the pitch you-re realising a goal. A career is filtered with highs and lows. The moments of greatness are very public, but seldom do we see the other side – the heartbreak.

I have been blessed with the clubs I have played for: Sydney United, Marconi and Brisbane Roar. To have represented and worn the jersey for these clubs is an honour and a privilege that means so much to me. But somewhere along the way, that childlike joy goes and the game becomes a job like any other.

By the time I-d left the game I had fallen out of love with it. I needed to completely remove myself from football and for three years did just that. Focusing solely on the game since my early teens had taken its toll.

I had many creative interests that due to football commitments or culture I could never explore.

But by the end of 2010 I-d come full circle and my passion for the game returned. In fact, I saw the game in a way I never had before. I appreciated the journey football had taken me on and the new direction it was taking me.

The game had become a metaphor for my life. No matter what path I took or different people I interacted with, football was our common bond. And at the start of 2011 I made a commitment to give something back to the game that had given me so much.

The My Career Program has been set up to help players setting and achieving goals, both in and out of football, and preparing them for life after game, even while they-re still playing.

I was invited to a career transition forum in January last year, along with a cross-section of recently retired Hyundai A-League and Westfield Matildas players, and representatives from FFA and the PFA.

As usual, during the FFA and PFA presentations, the players sat quietly and listened. But during the players- open forum, something clicked in my head. I-d talked about my transition, and how it had taken three years to work through my own transition since giving up football. As I finished I discovered most players had similar experiences and we all started sharing our thoughts.

I left the meeting wanting to make a difference to the game. Don-t get me wrong, being a professional footballer is an amazing experience, the realisation of a dream. But I felt I now had an opportunity to achieve more in the game than when I actually played.

I could now give back and make a difference. Throughout my playing days and more so post-career, the My Football Career program has been there to offer advice and direction for my journey through both football and life.

Following that experience, I designed a program for players on the importance of networking throughout their careers, to help introduce life balance, promote the game and assist players in their post-football transition.

I also delved into mental health issues, an often stigmatised social issue that is also significant problem in male sporting culture.

The program was presented to all A-League teams and the Matildas, and the response from the players exceeded my personal expectations. Presenting to my peers was the most nervous I had ever been in a sporting environment, but I was completely honest and spoke from a place they could understand because I had been where they are.

The My Career Program helps us as players see past the ninety minutes and educate and inform us, no matter the direction our career may take.

My love for football is back, stronger than it ever was. I see the game in a new light and now as a fan. As I continue my own personal transition and commitment in pushing the game forward through future player networking functions, the My Football Career program will remain an important resource.

No matter what stage of your football career you-re at – apprentice, Socceroo or after the game – My Football Career is designed to guide professional players in their journey through the game.