Ideal childhood didn't prepare Tom Boyd for AFL battles

Oliver Caffrey

A charmed childhood left Western Bulldogs premiership hero Tom Boyd struggling to stay on top of his mental health once he entered the AFL.

The 22-year-old has expanded about his battle with depression and anxiety after being named as the face of a headspace campaign in July.

Boyd has credited the club's psychologist Lisa Stevens for helping him get through the most difficult period of his life.

Despite starring in the Dogs' historic grand final win, Boyd was seeking help to deal with his mental health during the entire 2016 season.

He took time out of the game last year to deal with the challenges he was facing.

"I think a lack of challenging circumstances in my childhood, growing up in a good family, good school, good at sport, tall, led me to have a lack of things that require mental resilience as a child," Boyd told the Bulldogs' Freedom in a Cage podcast.

"Going from that straight into everything that requires mental resilience (in the AFL) - I had no skills, I thought I did, and I had very little self-awareness.

"I think the inertia of my life going well, I felt like it was going to keep happening.

Tom Boyd says his ideal childhood gave him a lack of self-awareness before arriving in the AFL. Pic: Getty

"I think that whole attitude and lack of resilience I had was a key contributing factor in my downhill slope and particularly when I accepted more and more responsibility."

Boyd experienced insomnia at his most severe point, revealing he barely slept for six weeks and it affected his performance at training.

"It's a strange sort of cycle you get caught in because you get up tired and then you struggle throughout the day.

"There were points where it'd take me an hour to do gym because I'd walk to my (program) sheet, think about the exercise I was doing and by the time I'd get back, I'd forget it.

"You get into this weird sort of zombie state where everything's the same and that was the worst part."

Fellow AFL players Lance Franklin, Alex Fasolo, Travis Cloke and Heath Grundy have all taken breaks from the game in recent years due to mental health.

Boyd says he felt obliged to share his struggles in the hope of helping others, although he never felt embarrassed to open up.

While the days are gone when players are simply told to harden up and push through the pain, Boyd feels more professional athletes could tell their stories.

"The actual story, particularly of current players and their struggles has been very minimal in that area," Boyd said.

"We do have a responsibility to share our stories in some regards."

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