By Nick Haynes
The day before my first training session at the Dandenong Stingrays, I got pissed at our Frankston Bombers presentation night and decided I didn’t want to train the next day.
Local footy at the Bombers was pretty good fun, but I had a couple of wise heads telling me I’d regret not having a crack at the higher level.
One was my dad, the other was a bloke at the club named Brian O’Carroll, who was a gun footy player and told me how much he regretted not taking his chance at playing AFL.
Brian pulled me aside at the presentation night and said, ‘You’re a fool if you don’t go’.
I didn’t think I was good enough to play for the Stingrays, but I listened to Brian’s advice and gave it a crack so I wouldn’t have those regrets later in life.
As it turned out, I got selected, started playing some good footy, made the senior side and it all happened pretty quickly towards the end of the year.
I was working as an electrician when the AFL draft came around and was in a roof in one of the properties going up around Melbourne’s Cranbourne-Berwick area when I got a call telling me I was invited to the draft.
I told the boss I had to go to Sydney and ended up getting selected by the Giants. It was all a pretty big shock.
I later found out that my boss had been getting calls from clubs all year asking about me, what am I like, asking for character references. He knew what was going down, but I had no idea.
More seriously than that, another thing I later found out was that the reason I didn’t want to go down to the Stingrays in the first place was because I had a problem with anxiety.
People would see me as an easygoing, chilled kid. But, inside my head it was a different story. I was always overthinking things and worrying about the future.
Even back in my first year of under-18s, at the Bombers, the senior coach had wanted me to play senior footy but I said 'no'. Most kids would have jumped at it, but I didn’t want to play. I was just too nervous.