I was fortunate to have found myself in a position where I could make a decision without worrying too much about finances. From the moment I was drafted, I had a plan to manage my money in a way so that, when the time came to leave footy, I could be a bit selective about my next career path.
As soon as I could afford the mortgage, I bought a house in Ringwood and set to work paying it off as quickly as I could. I’m pretty much debt-free now and I’ll have tenants in the house while I’m in the US, which makes it a bit easier walking away from an AFL contract.
I’m fortunate that I have a goal to focus on post-footy. If I didn’t have one, leaving would be harder.
The only time I doubted myself about the move to USC was early this season – and it didn’t last long. I missed the camaraderie and I missed the Tigers and I found it difficult to watch footy for a little while there. I don’t think I’d be the first former footy player to feel that way. I’ve played the game for 20 years and walking away from it was a bit of a jolt at first.
By the time of the finals, though, I felt a sense of closure.
I knew the footy chapter of my life was over.
ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME
I’m part of the Prokick Australia program and, when you see how Aussie boys are going across the US, it certainly gives you confidence.
Michael Dickson, Cam Johnston and Jordan Berry are all killing it with the Seahawks, Eagles and Steelers respectively in the NFL and there are scores of others playing well across the college scene. It really is a credit to Nathan Chapman and all the people associated with the program. The results are there for everyone to see.
The guys already over in the States have been brilliant. They might be playing in the NFL but they’re not big heads at all. They’re happy to pick up the phone and talk you through what it’s like over there and answer any questions you might have. It’s honest feedback and it’s really helpful.
They tell me that so much of what we learn growing up playing footy in Australia is transferable to punting in the American game. It appears the word is getting around. I can’t remember a season where I’ve seen more coverage of Aussie punters in the States than this one.
Then the players arrived. The place went crazy! The band started playing, the cheerleaders were jumping around and the fans were delirious. I was a bit rattled, to be honest.
The balancing of football with study will be a new one for me.
My classes start January 7. I was looking to do a teaching degree, but they don’t have a specific course like that, so I’m going to do my undergraduate in psychology and then a masters of education, which will allow me to be a teacher.
You train early, go to class, come back for team meetings, then have study time in the evenings. It requires a certain level of self-discipline. I’m happy I’m doing this at the age of 27 instead of 19! I’m not sure how I would’ve handled it all back then.
I’ve been studying at home this year and that’s got me back into the swing of it. If I’d gone to USC cold on the academic front, I’m sure it would’ve been much harder. From everything I’ve learned this year, the key is to not procrastinate. There were a few times where I didn’t manage my time as well as I should have and it put me in a harder position than I needed to be. Lesson learned.
As for the lifestyle, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in all USC and LA has to offer. I’ve already driven down the coast through San Clemente on the way to San Diego and it was a lovely part of the world. That said, the LA traffic was on another level. I thought Melbourne was bad, but I clearly had no idea! I’m living pretty close to campus and I’m happy about that, because it’ll mean less time sitting in traffic jams.
I keep an eye on the news in the US to an extent. I think mum is more worried about it than me, especially with all the headlines about the fires, Trump and gun control at the moment. I guess I’ll have a better understanding of how it all works when I get there. California is a Democratic state, so I’m not expecting it to be hugely different to here.
More than anything, I can’t wait to get out on the field as a USC Trojan. I’ve had a year to think about it. I reckon it’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime.