Shilling­ton re­veals demons plagu­ing re­tired stars AF­TER FULL­TIME

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - SPORT - RIKKI-LEE ARNOLD @rikkileea

DAVID Shilling­ton was stand­ing in front of a room full of young kids, when one harm­less state­ment left his head spin­ning.

The for­mer Queens­land and Aus­tralian for­ward was do­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion as part of the NRL State of Mind pro­gram and he was in­tro­duced as “Gold Coast Ti­tans player David Shilling­ton”.

For a man who had re­tired four months be­fore­hand, in Fe­bru­ary this year, it was a sim­ple mis­take, but it was also a mo­ment when Shilling­ton re­alised how tough life could be post-foot­ball.

“It was only the weeks lead­ing into that (mo­ment) that I had just got my head around the fact that I worked for the NRL in the State of Mind pro­gram and I wasn’t a foot­ball player any­more,” he said.

“I had only just got my head around that and started de­vel­op­ing my new iden­tity and be­com­ing com­fort­able with that.

“(A woman) in­tro­duced me to every­one as this foot­ball player and it had my head in a spin try­ing to process all that. It re­ally hit home how much it af­fected me to try to change iden­ti­ties.”

The tran­si­tion to re­tire­ment is never easy for any ath­lete.

For Shilling­ton, he did not face any men­tal health bat­tles nor did he strug­gle to find work, even though his re­tire­ment came un­ex­pect­edly be­cause of a con­tin­ual bat­tle with in­juries.

The hard­est as­pects he faced was the loss of iden­tity, an ero­sion of con­fi­dence and a loss of pur­pose.

Like many rugby league play­ers, Shilling­ton started play­ing first grade at a young age and did not know a life any dif­fer­ent to the one he had spent play­ing for the Roost­ers, Raiders and Ti­tans.

While he did every­thing he could to set him­self up for life af­ter foot­ball, he said the strug­gles around his iden­tity were some­thing no one had warned him about as he went into re­tire­ment this year.

“I was go­ing to train­ing ev­ery day and would have my gear bag ready next to my bed,” he said.

“But then all of a sud­den my re­lease was sorted and I was of­fi­cially re­tired.

“The next morn­ing you wake up and you don’t need to grab your gear bag and go any­where.

“All of a sud­den I wasn’t part of a team any­more.

“I was mov­ing into a new job where I wasn’t a foot­ball player any­more, which I had been since I left school.

‘‘You’re used to be­ing con­fi­dent be­cause you’re pre­par­ing all week for games.

“You’re full of con­fi­dence and then all of a sud­den you’re hop­ing they don’t send you home from work be­cause you’ve been use­less all day.”

Shilling­ton said de­spite these bat­tles, he has been lucky to have the sup­port of his fam­ily and the NRL – who gave him his first job post­foot­ball – and now Men of League, who he works for as their Queens­land man­ager.

With his job now about sup­port­ing the men, women and chil­dren of league, he thought it was vi­tal to speak out about this one area that foot­ballers aren’t pre­pared for when their ca­reers end.

While the game is do­ing plenty to set play­ers up for re­tire­ment, he said the more peo­ple talk about it, the bet­ter it would be.

“Play­ers, in­clud­ing my­self, are ig­no­rant and self­ish when they play,” he said.

“We’re that well taken care of that you’re in a bit of a bub­ble and you try not to look at life af­ter foot­ball.’’

GO FOR­WARD: David Shilling­ton in re­tire­ment; and (above) play­ing for the Gold Coast Ti­tans and the Ma­roons. Main pic­ture: Mark Cran­itch

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.