Former Melbourne and Brisbane key forward Mitch Clark says he is feeling better after his decision to retire from the AFL because of health problems.
Mitch Clark has described his retirement from the AFL as a fork in the road decision.
The former Melbourne and Brisbane key forward has spoken publicly for the first time about his health problems.
The 26-year-old said he was feeling better, but added that earlier this year he was in a “dark place”.
Clark’s retirement was announced on April 8 and it was also revealed he was suffering depression.
“It got to a point where personal safety was at stake,” he told the Nine Network’s The Footy Show.
“It got to a fork in the road moment where I either keep going the way I’m going and who knows what’s going to happen? – it got pretty dark there.
“I’ve taken the different road and made a decision to get myself better.”
Clark played his 97th and final AFL game in round four last season, when he was sidelined with another foot problem.
After Christmas, he also had three successive hamstring injuries and then a calf muscle problem while training with the Demons.
“Part of me leaving was also the guilt of going in there and getting a pay cheque every day – it’s been well-documented I was getting paid quite well,” he said.
“It just got too much for me, to a point where I didn’t really see much being able to get back to be able to play footy.”
The final straw for Clark was what he referred to as a breakdown following a weights session at the club.
Clark said he was unwell and lightheaded.
“I never felt that way before and honestly wasn’t sleeping too well,” he said.
“That was probably the moment I realised I had to stand up and be a man, go and talk to my doctor and sort it out.”
For the first few weeks after retiring, Clark admitted he felt numb and unsure whether he had made the right decision.
While he missed his Demons teammates, he said part of him getting better was walking away from the AFL.
“The dust has settled a bit and I’m very happy with the decision I’ve made,” he said.
“I would have ruined a lot of relationships with close friends, family and teammates if I didn’t go and get help.
“I wasn’t a very nice person to be around.”
Clark is sure other AFL players have depression-related issues and urges anyone in a similar situation to seek professional help.
He said he is having more good days than bad.
“I feel like I’ve gone over the hump and getting better,” Clark said.
“I’m still a short way through a long process.”