I was born in Springvale in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs and started my football career in the local junior competition when I was quite young. As I was tall and sporty as a youngster, I developed a good aptitude for football and was invited to join the Sandringham Dragons TAC Cup team. While playing in this competition, I earned a position in the Victorian Metro Teal Cup team in 2000. This is a field which has produced many AFL players.
As a result of my success in this competition, I was chosen by the Fremantle Dockers Football Club as its number 66 selection after I nominated for the AFL national draft in 2000. I made my AFL debut in the 2002 season.
In June 2003, some problems arose with my health. I began enduring significant symptoms including intestinal abscess, lethargy and blood loss, especially following lengthy periods of exercise such as training sessions. The cause of these symptoms was unidentified at the time.
With no immediate diagnosis, my health continued to deteriorate. In January 2004 I lost around 10kg in weight. During pre-season most AFL players are expected to gain kilos through weight training sessions, so this sudden loss was especially unexpected.
A diagnosis of Crohn’s disease was finally made in June 2004. Once correct treatment and medication to stabilise and monitor the condition began, I returned to my position in the team. However, it was not until halfway through the season that I made an excellent recovery and played every game in 2005, and placed 4th in the best and fairest competition for that year.
Like all sufferers of Crohn’s and colitis, there are many highs and lows to cope with during various stages. But understandingthe management of the condition, and my commitment to maintaining my fitness, resulted in a relatively stable period of health from 2006-2008.
Equal commitment on the part of the Fremantle Dockers Football Club to lend its support to me led a 2-year contract extension. I remained contracted until the end of the 2010 season, at which time I achieved a 10-year career with the Fremantle Dockers.
I chose to become an Ambassador of The Gutsy Group, Inc. as I wish to use my public profile as an AFL footballer to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease. I want to demonstrate to the many people who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) that with the right approach and plenty of dedication you can still achieve your goals.
I also want to share the positive results openly by speaking about my experiences, with the issue of mental health being crucial, and so I resolved to make myself available to contribute in any way possible around my football obligations.