Collingwood runner Alex Woodward has opened up about the infamous grand final moment that turned his life upside down and saw him subjected to death threats by rabid fans.
Woodward became the target of online abuse from Pies' fans after being accused of helping the Eagles kick a crucial goal in their five-point grand final victory.
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The runner found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as a kick came towards Collingwood's Jaidyn Stephenson in the third quarter of the contest.
Woodward had been sent out there to deliver a message from Pies' coach Nathan Buckley but inadvertently found himself getting in Stephenson's way of taking the mark.
While he managed to avoid contact with the youngster, Woodward's presence effected Stephenson's ability to contest the ball.
As things transpired, West Coast's Elliot Yeo ended up taking an easy interception, before going on to boot a momentum-shifting goal from outside 50.
The vital goal gave the Eagles a two-point lead at the time, and they eventually held on to seal a thrilling win.
Woodward insists he was just doing his job, but he told Fox Sports that the incident left him feeling "very guilty" after the match.
Although the Pies' runner never expected the level of hatred that came his way in the aftermath of the grand final disappointment.
“I probably wasn’t ready for the spotlight to be on me post-game. I usually think I’ve got fairly thick skin when it comes to that stuff, I’ve faced a lot of adversity in my time in the AFL system. But when it came to direct messages and comments on social media, that stuff’s quite accessible and there’s no real filtering.
“The worst of it was enough to bother me and put me in a bit of a hole. From death threats to suggestions of suicide to wishes of illness and further injury. I couldn’t help but let that get to me a little bit.
“I know it’s easy to say ‘don’t pay that no mind’, but when there’s an influx of it on such a big stage, I couldn’t help but feel even more guilty. No one else was going to make me feel as bad as I did in my mind about the situation.”
Runner struggles to overcome incident
Woodward says the ugly incident took him "a little bit longer than I would’ve liked to get over” but said the actions of his coach and a rival player were key.
Moving images after the Pies' grand final heartache showed the coach hugging his distraught runner, who he reassured was not to blame for the team's loss.
“He just wrapped his arms around me and told me not to blame myself." Collingwood runner Alex Woodward says he is extremely thankful for the support shown by coach Nathan Buckley following Saturday's Grand Final | https://t.co/xXZwybtdDw | #AFLGF pic.twitter.com/2kLKLr20G9— SEN 1116 (@1116sen) October 1, 2018
"He (Buckley) just wrapped his arms around me and said that I was a big part of why the club got (into a strong position) initially,” Woodward said.
“I, as a runner, really embraced that role. I absolutely loved it. I just felt like I let him down, (but) he just gave me a few words of comfort.”
Eagles star Nic Natanui also reached out to Woodward in the days after the grand final, in a classy show of support on social media.
“It speaks volumes about his character as well,” Woodward said.
“That meant a lot to me. He said he was thinking – and a lot of the Eagles boys were thinking – about me and felt fairly sorry for me, which was nice as well.”
Woodward's interview airs on Open Mike on Fox Footy this Tuesday at 8.30pm (AEST).