What you may not know about the life of an AFL footballer - Jenkins

Nearly all AFL players live their lives in the media spotlight, and most fans would be of the belief that they know what makes players' tick.

But there's a lot that happens away from the public eye.

Here are three things that you might not know about what it's like being a footballer.


When you're a young player trying to carve out a career for yourself in the AFL, you are always asking, listening and enquiring about whether you are doing things right. However as you mature, you learn that 'right' is somewhat different for each individual.

Players are built differently. Some are energiser bunnies who are go-go-go from 8am until bedtime. Think Rory Sloane - he's a social netball cheering on his wife's team like he's at Adelaide Oval cheering on the Crows, then he's up early on his day off to go surfing. He's out to dinner just an hour after a gruelling game where he likely laid a dozen tackles.

I'm almost the opposite - to my partner Hannah's infrequent disgust! I like to be at home. Rory is always out and about, using every ounce of charge in his seemingly never-ending battery supply. I am almost exclusively at home, attached to my power source. My charger is my couch, and my TV remote, and my iPhone, and my iPad. I love being at home, watching my favourite U.S. sporting programs. It's how I escape the hurly-burly of AFL footy - especially the manic nature of finals footy.

Habits are formed by doing the same things over and over - that's loosely what the definition of a habit is.

I do not consider myself superstitious but when I peel back each layer I realise that perhaps I am subconsciously obsessive-compulsive. And many other players are the exact same - just in their own individual way.

For a few years now, my 11 home game weeks have looked almost identical: a hair cut at a local salon, massage on the day off, two or three strolls to the beach sometimes for my own extra recovery but often for the dog to have a run. I find the beach to be very relaxing, particularly throughout winter when almost no one is around.

I cook the same dish before each home game - well I usually demand Hannah cooks it! But that's nothing special. Even most country footballers eat the same food to prepare for a game. Many of my teammates rely on the same 'extras' before a game as well as a pasta or rice dish. Tommy Lynch sources a block of Crunch chocolate no matter where he is. We stood in a Perth supermarket for 10 minutes as he searched high and low for a block of Crunch. A found a smaller Crunch bar but it was not quite right. It had to be a full block. Often he will not even eat the entire block. But something inside his head tells him he must buy a full block. That particular game we got 'crunched' by West Coast. So the chocolate had no positive impact on his or our performance. Nor will it ever but preparation and feeling as though you've had a great preparation is something every athlete will stress to you just how important it is for any hope of positive performance.

Truth be told. Some of mine - and my teammates' - best individual games have come after less-than-desirable preps. No sleep, illness, children up all night, poor diet, family issues - whatever it is, more often than not it can be overcome. Remember the performance Michael Jordan put in during the 1997 NBA Finals after almost succumbing to illness in the days prior ? Almost 40 points and the game-clinching shot.

It's all in the mind, but it often feels like it's all in the detail. Training hard and getting yourself physically able is crucial to success. A specific chocolate or who cooks the pre-game meal is not. But they feel just as important as each other - it's just the way we're built!


Life in the AFL can be short. And in proportion with your adult working life - it's barely a blip on the radar!

When we are in the AFL system though we do get blessed with more than ample downtime to rest, recover, prepare and perform. There is also an expectation that each individual finds things of interest to pursue for life after footy. This leads players down very different paths but many of us are chasing the great Australian (or is it American) dream: Get rich quick!

Investments in pubs, clubs, shops, sunglasses, watches, jocks, socks, tee-shirts, hats, breeding puppies - I've heard it all. The share market is another industry that many players venture down. Done right, it's a smart way to diversify some money ... done wrong and bad things happen.

Every club has a handful of fellas completing -- or trying to complete -- a pseudo university degree through the AFL Players Association. Incentives are put in place for extra study but at the end of the day you still need to do the work, which is what catches a few out. Real estate agents' courses are popular among players after they see the potential being heavily involved in property can have. Buying property is a slow burn, a long-term investment that should reap its rewards when done intelligently - but long-terms gains are not what some are looking for!

This is not exclusive to AFL players - everyone wants an opportunity to create extra income without too much effort. Nor am I criticising anyone who has a go at making a buck. I am merely making a point.

Many of us are guilty of this: "I've done part of this course which means I get a degree then I can walk into a job after footy." Or, "I know heaps about the property markets everywhere" just because they've read a few books, use the real-estate.com app or have had a few coffees with experts in the field who are actual real estate gurus. We all think we know a touch more than we actually do.

I am as guilty as any. I thought I had this whole journalist thing worked out. Then I got sacked. I once wrote weekly for The Advertiser here in Adelaide and despite being told budgets were the reason I was being wound up, I am smart enough to know if you're any good, they'll find a way to keep you. Clearly I was not as good as I thought! But, luckily the great folk at ESPN Australia/New Zealand have given me a go.

We may be at the top of our chosen field and that, in any industry, is incredibly hard to do but the next time you bump into an AFL player, perhaps do not take their advice on which is the next stock to go through the roof!


This is not a self-annointing ceremony but it's sometimes easy to forget the positive things in life. And AFL players lead the way in the community. There are 800 of us aged between 18-35 so yes, there are mishaps and some are very serious but for the most part, the boys across the AFL do some remarkable things for other people.

Luke Hodge has been an ambassador for countless children's organisations, all players from the Crows engage in things ranging from feeding the homeless to visiting kids at the Women's and Children's Hospital. Taylor Walker raised a boatload of money for shaving off his famed mullet. Houston Texans superstar JJ Watt has this week raised almost $20 million to help aid those affected in the floods from Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

There are so many people who use their profile to ignite good and AFL players lead the charge. Think about how many programs you have heard about that involves players giving up their time to make someone else's life better. Indigenous programs, clinics, signatures, hospital visits, ambassadorial roles (which 9/10 times involve no money) are just a handful of ways.

I'm not looking for a collective pat on the back but occasionally it's worth recalling the good in people.